Network Because of the Hidden Job Market

Hidden Job MarketThis is a true story. It happened to me just within the last two days. But, it has been happening with others every single day.

There’s this unicorny mythical concept called “the hidden job market.” It’s the Narnia of job search. If you are lucky enough, if you are chosen, then you get to be the protagonist and find this hidden job market. It’s probably something out of a Skittles commercial… lots of bright colors and sugary sweet goodness.

Wait. It’s not unicorny, nor is it mythical, and you don’t have to be special to find it. Here’s the story:

Sunday I was chatting with a family friend who is exceptionally talented and, while figuring out his next step, has been working at as a janitor at the local university. We were talking about his talents and skills and where he is heading, and I thought “this guy would be perfect at XYZ Company, and they would totally love him and his skills.” I mentioned this and said he should reach out to me, and I’d make an introduction.

So, he actually follows-up. Amazing, right? For every 10 people I say to send me an email or reminder or something, I probably get two people who actually do it.

As soon as he emails me (on Monday, so within 24 hours) I chat with an old colleague I have’t talked to for months who works in the department that this guy should work in. He happens to mention that yes, they actually will be looking for someone soon because of some changes coming up. Have this person, he says, send him and his boss (the department head) his resume.

I thought the team was fully staffed, having been kind of big and having recently brought some people on… but I just learned something that perhaps no one else in the company new. There was no posting or official opening… I doubt HR or the recruiting team even new about this opening. This is the epitome, the very definition, of the hidden job market. And the way to access it is through someone who knows about it.

This is why job coaches talk about networking so much.

If your network doesn’t know what you are looking for, or where you are looking, or that you are even looking, how in the world could they help you get into the hidden job market?

Here are some elements that made this story successful, so far:

  1. Even though this guy and I aren’t besties, we had the right conversation about his career and direction. Don’t think that you have to have a certain kind of relationship to have the right conversation that can lead to the next right conversation.
  2. When we had the conversation, he was vulnerable enough to let me know where he was at and what he was looking for. He could have just said he was good, and not anything more… but I learned enough to be able to help him.
  3. He sent me an email and text within 24 hours. This is called follow-up, and instead of second guessing himself and wondering if he really should do it, he just did it.
  4. He sent me some links to his stuff (his portfolio, if you will). He had branded and branding material that I was able to look at and have more confidence that he indeed had the right skills.
  5. I reached out to my network contact, at the right company, in the exact department, to a person who was in a position of authority. I guarantee that you know someone (who knows someone) who knows the right contact, at the right company, in the right department, with the right authority to make a hiring decision. But until you talk to people with the right message, you’ll never know.

The story is still unfolding. But I wanted to share this with you because too often we don’t have those conversations. Our messaging is off, or we second-guess whether we should even talk to another person, or we think we should apply to one more job posting online instead of getting out and talking to people… but the power of the hidden job market is that instead of being one of a hundred applications, this guy will be one of one applicants because no one else knows to even apply.

You want to be one of one, not one of a hundred. And that is the unicorny, skittley goodness of the hidden job market.

3 thoughts on “Network Because of the Hidden Job Market”

  1. Amen.

    Looking back over my career, past getting to my first real job out of college, almost all of my positions were found this way.

    Plus, I’ve helped many people get to at least an interview because they reached out to me about what they were looking for in work.

    The job market is hidden if you’re not attempting to look for it.

  2. Thanks for this story because it provided some context. Until now, I have never heard an anecdote of someone successfully finding a hidden job. Most of the stories I’ve heard involved a company creating a job for a person that just fit in with culture. More specifically, a friend made a job for a friend. Although, I do believe in a hidden job market, I still don’t see a way I can connect to it, other than simply being in the right place at the right time. When I inform my friends of my employment situation, they “help me out” by sending me to the company employment web site.

  3. @Mark, thank you for the comment. I would have never found the hidden job market early in my search because I spent 10 hours a day watching job postings and applying online… like the job search version of whack-a-mole. No one knew about me, and I didn’t know many people. When people know (a) that you are looking, (b) what they are looking for, and (c) that you want their help, then you can help you better.

    I, too, got people who would actually print off a page of openings and bring that to me. Crazy. The thing that I was doing wrong was not helping them know how to help me.

    Try helping them help you with this dialog (it’s a bit of a long post, but it should provide all the context you need, and give you a very quick way of helping others help you):

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