Last year, there were roughly 1,458 organizations vying for just more than 700 Harvard MBA grads.
The odds of one of those students landing a job with those companies is just about a sure thing. Nonetheless, the MBA program places a major emphasis on networking skills with their students and graduates. By reinforcing that skill, Harvard teaches its students to take advantage of the hidden job market.
So why don't you?
I have heard and read several times that up to 80 percent of available jobs are not advertised. These jobs are secured by word-of-mouth from people working within the company and through networking with outside contacts, who network with employees of the company. Can you imagine being connected to or being a friend of this network?
If finding a job was as simple as cracking an egg, there would not be long-term unemployed, which are those who are jobless for 27 weeks or longer. I'm convinced that one of the required skill sets for those who are seeking a new job or who experience long-term unemployment should be networking. If this is you, then tapping into the hidden job market is a must.
The hidden job market describes available jobs that are unadvertised or can't be readily found. Ironically, job resources such as the classified ads, online job postings, paper job boards in unique places, professional associations and the unemployment office are available, but reviewing them can become overwhelming.
The key to tapping into the hidden job market is having the knack to network. There are literally thousands of jobs that come open and have been filled before the public is aware of them. In most cases they go unadvertised. But you could have just overlooked them and missed that great job opportunity.
I believe that job seekers can crack the hidden job market by developing and embracing networking skills that will help them locate job openings. Conducting a job search singlehandedly leaves you isolated and frustrated, which might have forced many to leave the job hunt altogether or become under-employed.
In the worst case you end up working in an area that you have no interest.
Here are a few suggestions to get you on your road to becoming an effective networker:
■ First, always be prepared to provide your contact information and résumé to a new connection. You should keep a copy of your résumé on you, and I mean the good old-fashioned hard copy kind, either in your car or in a portfolio or on a flash drive. Create and share your résumé online so you can access your documents from anywhere. Also, you should have a business card with key information including your name, email address, phone number, Skype address, best time to contact you, online résumé address and your LinkedIn address. A nice touch is to include a sample of your skill set.
■ Secondly, the key to becoming an effective networker is to adopt the attitude that you will never meet a stranger. Be willing to say hello to someone whom you don't know in public places such as Coffea, Starbucks, Kroger or shopping malls.
Breaking into the hidden market is not about the good old boy network or asking for special favors. It's about having good interpersonal skills. Develop your self-promotion skills and brag about your skills, knowledge and experience. Keep it simple and don't overwhelm anyone, but provide enough to get their attention and watch what happens.
For example, I recently took a weekend fishing trip with my dad in Northern Michigan. I always greet and meet other fishermen along the rivers and lake because I've embraced the attitude to never meet a stranger, and I got a great job lead. The YMCA of Central Kentucky is hiring for a great position and it's in Lexington, and I found out about it fishing on the Pere Marquette River, which is more than 500 miles away.
■ Thirdly, networking should be a habit and not something you do only during a job search. I recommend increasing the number of LinkedIn contacts you have. Sending requests to connect and accepting new contacts should become part of your routine. Have more contacts increases your chances of hearing about opportunities, which lead to interviews. LinkedIn is a great tool to stay connected with former colleagues as well.
■ Fourthly, remember the cardinal rule of networking: Give before you get. Forward articles you think could be helpful to people you know and pass on job leads you've heard about.
Networking is about building genuine relationships, not asking for favors. I never asked the contact from the YMCA about opportunities that were with his organization. We were just talking about fishing and how wonderful Northern Michigan was this time of year. Once he heard about my background and availability, information was being shared about a job opportunity.