How Networking Can Help You Find Hidden Jobs

Networking can have a reputation problem. Some of us hear “networking” and immediately envision a room full of sleazy people trying to give you their business card because they want something from you. All take, no give.

No doubt, at some stage during your job search, you will hear that cliché phrase: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Usually, someone will tell you this right after you’ve finished explaining that you missed out on the job you really wanted. And when you hear it, you probably feel like biting their head off because, “how are you supposed to meet these people?!” But, hold on for a second. They do have a point.

How Employers Use The Hidden Job Network

Most people are aware of the hidden job network. The jobs that aren’t openly advertised or promoted to the masses. They’re filled through word-of-mouth, direct referrals or a brief promotion through a select group of people like a sign in the window, an Instagram post or included in their company newsletter.

Some estimates put the number of hidden jobs as high as 70% to 95% of all jobs. While in reality the number might not be that high, there is definitely a big percentage of jobs that you may never know about because you’re not “in the know”.  And that percentage is growing because employers simply aren’t relying on traditional methods of advertising as much. So, how do they fill those positions?

Simple. They network.

Benefits of Networking

While the word “networking” or the idea of attending a “networking event” can give you the shivers, it really doesn’t have to be that way. Not all networking is bad. 

In fact, at it’s best, networking lets you meet people that can expand the opportunities available to you from jobs and referrals to customers and partnerships. Plus, networking within your industry can increase your chances of connecting with someone who genuinely wants to help you out.

Everyone Has a Network

You don’t have to be a member of a university alumni society or a rotary association to network. Believe it or not, it’s even possible to get ahead in your career without joining a secretive elite group like former presidents George H. W. Bush and his son, Dubya. The fact is, everyone you’ve met and exchanged conversations with could potentially be part of your network. It could even include your barber or barista if you’re on first name terms with them.

It can include your:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Partners
  • Colleagues
  • Ex-colleagues
  • Team mates
  • Members of clubs or associations
  • Neighbours
  • Parents of friends
  • Partner’s colleagues
  • Acquaintances
  • Customers
  • Social media acquaintances

You already actively use these networks all the time to learn out about the world around you. From working out what restaurants are good to which new film is best left unseen, they give you advice and inform your decision making. So, using them to find a job is no different.

They can tell you who is hiring, where might be a good place to look, and which companies have a bad reputation or a great culture. Just because you didn’t stand in a room with your name on a big goofy badge doesn’t mean you don’t have a network or that you aren’t networking all the time. In fact, I would think that the only people who can use the “no network” excuse are people that live under a rock.

But My Network Can’t Get Me a Job I Want!

I get it. It can be frustrating to know so many people and still feel like you have nobody to turn to in the industry you want.

If you’re thinking like that though, you’re not using your network to its full potential. For example, you might not know anyone involved in construction. However, your friend might. By using your friend’s network you can reach a lot further than you could otherwise. This is the real reason networking works – it lets you reach a much wider audience than you possibly could alone. 

If it’s not about what you know but who you know, using your own network’s connections to reach people will give you a huge list of people you can get to know.

11 Networking Tips To Help You Break Into the Hidden Job Market

Networking doesn't have to be scary.

You can network nearly everywhere – offices, bars, gatherings, parks, etc. Anywhere that gives you an opportunity to meet and talk to people could be an opportunity for you to meet someone new. Just follow these tips and watch your network grow.

1. Don’t Ask for a Job

When you network, you never really want to come out and just ask the people you’re talking to for a job. The aim is to connect with them and for them to enjoy your company and learn a bit about you. If they do have a position or know someone that’s hiring, they might mention it. Or, the more likely situation is that something suitable comes up later down the track in which case hopefully they remember you and reach out.

The key is to subtly mention that you’re looking and make it easy for them to re-connect with you. Join their job network, connect with them on LinkedIn, or get their business card and send them a “nice to meet you” follow up email referencing the event or how you met them so it’s easy for them to find it in their inbox. 

The other option is you apply for a role with their company and when your name comes up, your contact remembers you favourably and may reach out to you then. Alternatively, you can tell them that you are applying for a job with their company. Maybe they’ll be able to put in a good word for you. 

2. Be Yourself

No matter who you meet when networking, the important thing to remember is to be yourself. You want to start the relationship with honesty and win them over with your personality. After all – the goal of networking is to connect with new people that you can build a professional relationship with and reach out to when appropriate. If you’re dishonest, your façade will eventually be revealed and you might be thought of as dishonest or fake.

3. Be Interesting.

Although when it comes to networking while job searching the goal is to get a job, every conversation doesn’t have to revolve around just that. Nor, should it. Having something interesting about you to talk about can help get you into a conversation. Remember, it doesn’t necessarily have to be “interesting” interesting. Everyone else is probably going to say some variation of “Hi, I’m _____. I work at ABC as an X. What do you do?”

Against that competition, simply saying “Hi, I’m Matt. I like baking bread,” is conversation dynamite. At the very least it is probably different to everything else they have heard that night and gives you something to talk about before getting to work talk.

A good way to be engaging and interesting to the other person is to…

4. Ask Questions

When you go to a networking event or when you meet someone new – ask the other person questions. Most people are used to listening to others talk and love a chance to talk about something that’s important to them. By asking them questions it shows that you are interested in them as a person instead of trying to use them for something.

An important thing to remember is you don’t need to ask them about work. Ask them what they did on the weekend, where their favourite holiday spot is, what tv show they’ve been binging recently. Anything that lets them talk and open up to you.

Remember, when you’re listening to them – it’s not to pass time until it’s your turn to speak again. Listen to understand that person and to establish a connection. The other person is much more likely to remember you after your conversation finishes if you actually connected and had a two-way conversation.

5. Ask Not What Can You Do for Me? – Ask What Can I Do for You?

To paraphrase JFK, you want to network with the mindset of what does this person have to gain by talking to me? In a similar sense to a job interview, you don’t want to head into the conversation thinking, “how can you give me what I want?” (Even if that’s exactly what your goal is).

Rather, you want to sell yourself to them. If you are just starting out in the world of work this applies doubly. Show them why you’re passionate, or hardworking, or engaging, or tenacious. Don’t think – If I suck up to this CEO, she might give me a job. Ask yourself, what would make her want me as part of her team?

By giving without expecting in return you will be more open with people. Even if you can’t help them at all you might know someone who can. You can use your network to get them to where they want to go. Who knows? Someday someone may return the favour your way.

6. Be Wary of Overstaying Your Welcome

Whether you’re making your way through a networking room or just having a chat to someone you met at a party make sure you consider their time. While they’re probably happy to talk to you for a little while they are likely to have other places they want to go to and other people to meet. Talk to them, ask them questions, tell them a bit about yourself, and then let them go mingle.

It can be tempting to keep talking to someone for a long time, especially if they’re really interesting or if talking to everyone else has been like pushing a boulder up a hill. Don’t! Let them go and connect them at a later time. You want to be the friendly person they had a good chat with not the person who wouldn’t leave their side all night.

7. You Don’t Need to Stay the Whole Time

It can be daunting going to a networking event. Knowing you will be stuck there for two or three hours in a room of strangers. That’s the thing, you’re not stuck there. It’s often a good idea to set yourself a target like 45 minutes or an hour. That way if it’s truly awful you know that once the hour is up you can bail. You can also set yourself a target of meeting and connecting with two, five, or ten people. This can help you meet people and help you focus your time on actually networking. 

Telling yourself that you don’t need to stay the whole time can help relax you. When you’re more relaxed you might find yourself enjoying it more than you would otherwise. You might even get to the end of the hour and want to keep going!

8. Eyes on the Prize

If the thought of meeting new people and engaging in small talk is terrifying, keep this in mind; Networking is a key driver behind career advancement and higher earning potential.

You might not be having the best time of your life while you network but remember how useful it can be. This is one of the reasons that setting time or contact goals can be helpful. It can help remind you of the reason you are there.

It might feel a bit painful at the start if you don’t like talking to strangers. But, the more you do it, the easier it will become. Focus on the benefits and keep trying to reach your goals.

9. Thank Them

Whether you’re chatting to them at a family BBQ or at a networking event, thank the person you’re talking to when you finish the conversation. They might have given you some advice, told you a bit about their story or even just listened to your situation. You’ll want to thank them for chatting to you and for being a part of your networking journey. Don’t say it like that though! Just thank them for their time and how good it was to meet them (if you were just introduced).

This all comes back to connecting to people and letting them know you value their time. It’s just like asking questions of them shows that you”re interested in what they have to say; thanking them shows that you’re mindful of their time and grateful for the opportunity. A good conversation closer can be the difference between being remembered fondly and being remembered as rude or obnoxious.

10. Keep at It

Networking can be tough. Sometimes you are tired and don’t feel like reaching out and engaging people. Other times it can feel like a waste of time. Either you’re meeting people and not connecting or connecting and not seeing any results.

If you feel small talk is a barrier for you, you can practice that too. Whenever you get a chance to make small talk with someone – a cashier at the shops, a receptionist at the doctors, your hairdresser – make it. The more you practice conversation starters and interesting topics the better you get. Remember, small talk doesn’t really matter so if you flub it, it’s probably not going to come back to haunt you. Just make a note of what works and what doesn’t

The message here is to keep practicing. The more you practice networking, the more comfortable you’ll feel. When you feel comfortable you’ll come across as more confident. Confidence inspires others and you may find yourself suddenly with more networking connections that you can handle.

11. Keep in Touch

Networking isn’t just about meeting people, it’s about building relationships. If you meet someone interesting, find a way to stay connected. Touch base every now and then. Catch up for a coffee. Send them an email with an update. To build your own network of great contacts, you need to put consistent effort into staying connected.  

Tell Us

Have you had any success in networking? Was there a time that someone else helped you out? Have you been on the other side and helped someone get a job? Let me know below…


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