Searching for a new job has never been an easy process and it’s become an increasingly competitive environment since the introduction of employment websites in the late 1990s. Now more people have the capability to apply for a position by simply clicking the "submit" button.
On average, over 500 meeting professionals respond to the same job posting online. In some cases, the positions are "phantom positions," meaning that the position doesn’t really exist and the only purpose of posting the job was to collect resumes.
While some great opportunities do appear on job boards, according to the Ninth Annual Source for Hire Study done by CareerXroads, a staffing consulting firm based in New Jersey, only 13 percent of external hires at Fortune 500 employers happened in 2009 because of candidates responding to postings on job boards. The study found that almost 50 percent of the hiring within these companies occurred because of two other factors: 27 percent happened because of employee referrals and 23 percent because individuals applied for the position through the career section of a company’s website.
If online job boards aren’t the most productive route to follow when searching for a job, then which path is the best one to follow? Rather then just one path, you need to become a career sleuth and explore a number of paths to find the jobs that don’t appear on employment websites—the hidden jobs. There are four important paths to explore: networking, referrals, research and direct contact with employers.
Networking and Referrals
Networking and referrals go hand in hand. Referrals happen based on the connections you make with people—both ones you already know as well as the people you meet at professional and personal events.
"You never know where opportunities lie," says Loretta Lowe, CMP, a meeting and special events planner based in San Francisco. "Tell people what you do and that you are looking for work."
The key to success with networking is to understand that it’s not about collecting business cards— it’s about establishing a rapport with people so they’ll feel comfortable about referring you for a job. Keep in mind that part of a person’s reputation is on the line when they refer someone they’ve met for a job, so you want them to feel comfortable about you as a person.
Most often, we think of networking based on the people we’ve known through our professional affiliations: industry associations where we’re a member, former co-workers, staff and managers, as well as vendors and suppliers we’ve dealt with over the years. The areas that people frequently overlook for networking include:
Individuals you’ve met through your volunteer activities, social clubs, your children’s school and sports activities, and/or your own outside activities
Family and friends
Former schoolmates, high school and college
Research is another path that’s important to follow because you need to learn everything you can about what’s happening in the industries where you’d like to work as well what’s going on in your targeted geographic locations. As a career sleuth, you’ll uncover hidden opportunities by reading the newspaper and searching the Internet to learn about businesses that are expanding and then find out what types of meetings, events and trade shows they’re currently involved with, and if these match with your background and experience. Be sure to check the company’s career section to see if they have any positions posted. Use your network to determine if you know someone who might be able to refer you to a key stakeholder of the company or organization.
Focus as well on identifying employers and jobs that match with your personal interests and professional goals. If, for example, you’re interested in cooking, then research associations, trade organizations and companies involved in the culinary industry. Look for manufacturers of cooking equipment, retail stores that sell cooking supplies and/or offer cooking classes, caterers, companies that produce food products, and restaurants. I recently ate at a restaurant where the chef organizes culinary adventures to France.
Investigate your online social networks to determine if you know someone who could be of assistance. That’s what Patti Shock, professor and director of Distance Learning, Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, did when she helped a student secure an internship in casino marketing. Shock found a former student on the university’s LinkedIn Alumni Group who was now the director of casino marketing. Although he had never taken an intern before, he took this kid and started him working on their social media program.
"After the internship, they hired the student full time, and he is now in charge of social media for the entire hotel," Shock says. "Without LinkedIn, I would not have even thought of the former student and I would not have known what his current position was."
Make Direct Contact
The last path requires you to blaze a trail on your own.
Instead of waiting for a position to pop up on a job board or for someone to refer you to a job with a company or organization that you’d like to work for, be proactive and figure out how you can introduce yourself and your qualifications to this potential employer. Identify the key individuals you want to contact and then explore sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to see if there’s someone who can assist you with an introduction.
If you choose this path, you’ll need to communicate to the targeted company or organization how your skills and experience will benefit them. You have to sell them on the fact that you’ll be a real asset to their organization.
Sheryl Sookman Schelter, CMP, is principal of The MeetingConnection, an executive placement company that works with corporations, associations and third-party meeting management companies nationwide to fill full-time positions, short-term and on-site assignments for meeting planners. You can reach her at 415.892.1394 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The MeetingConnection’s website is located at www.themeetingconnection.com.