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Cracking The Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economyby Donald Asher
Are you spending all your time applying to posted job openings-postings that draw hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of applications? No matter how perfect you are for the job, there is always someone else who's a little more qualified, more experienced. The key to success in the current job market is breaking through to the hidden job market. Over half of all
Are you spending all your time applying to posted job openings-postings that draw hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of applications? No matter how perfect you are for the job, there is always someone else who's a little more qualified, more experienced. The key to success in the current job market is breaking through to the hidden job market. Over half of all jobs go to someone who did not apply to a posted opening at all. What are they doing and how are they doing it? They're finding new jobs before the posting hits the Internet.
Career guru Donald Asher offers proven strategies for finding great opportunities in any industry. With Cracking the Hidden Job Market you'll stop wasting time and effort and beat the job-search odds by learning how to:
find jobs that are never posted anywhere
get complete strangers to help you find a job
convince potential employers to give you an interview-even when they're "not hiring"
find-and land-the new jobs in this, or any, economy
Every page of Cracking the Hidden Job Market is packed with no-frills fundamentals to change the way you look for a job, this time-and forever!
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—USA Today, 1/18/11
“Networking involves the ‘law of large numbers.’ Asher points out connection sources most of us already have and shows us how to manage 100 contacts.”
—Dallas Morning News, 1/16/11
"Cracking the Hidden Job Market offers tips and strategies for standing out in the crowd—and looking where the crowd’s not. ...a simple formula for job-hunting success."
—Washington Post Express, 1/10/11
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Read an Excerpt
Preface: How to Use This Book
I wrote this book with a particular reader in mind. If you are smart, hard working, a real contributor, and someone who is open to new things, great! We’re on the same page. My goal is to help good people find the employment that will advance their personal and professional objectives. I like to write for and advise intelligent people. Since most people don’t read books, and you’re reading this one, I’m just going to assume you’re one of the good people: a high performer who wants to be of value to others and make the world a better place for all.
Most job seekers look for work this way: they try things out, see what seems to work and what doesn’t, then revise their approach and go at the project again. In this book, important steps to the search are presented in the order in which you would normally begin doing them. But here’s the problem: you’ve probably already started your job search. You don’t have time to read this book from cover to cover before you get out there and try some of these approaches. So, recognizing that you’re already in the thick of things, I have crafted an organizational structure that supplies information in more than one spot, often introduced in one place and then more fully explicated in a later chapter. So, be aware that information is in more than one section. Use the table of contents, the index, and a little common sense to get the most out of this guide. Skip any parts that don’t apply to you, or that you find boring. Feel free to skip ahead. You can always return to these sections later if they become more relevant. In the real world, you learn as you go. You’re going to do some things right and some things wrong. You may eventually decide to go back and do some things over from scratch. You will definitely decide to do many things systematically that you had been doing haphazardly.
I will put my disclaimer right here: this book is not for everybody. I will ask you to do things that most people don’t like to do, such as contact strangers and ask for something. However, not liking something is relative. Do you dislike foreclosure? Do you dislike the idea of being unemployed for a long time? Do you disdain the idea of begging your parents and members of your family for just enough money to get through another month while you wait for a career miracle? If you can say to yourself, “Yes, some of the techniques make me feel uncomfortable, and feel a bit risky, but they definitely look like they’re going to work,” then this book is for you. If you look at some of the suggested approaches and say to yourself, “I’d rather beg on a street corner for my next meal,” then pursue that option. There is logic to the hidden job market, and it is presented in this book. If this logic makes sense to you, so will the book. One thing is certain, however: continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.
This may not be the only job book you need. You’ll probably need a resume book and an interview guide. You may need some reference works peculiar to your field. You should read a new career book about once a week during your job search. Check them out from the library or borrow them if you don’t want to buy them. This book should be, however, your central guide to getting a great new job.
Musical Chairs and Porridge
The Labor Economy
The labor market is like a cruel and heartless game of musical chairs. When the music stops, you’d better get your butt on a seat. The clever, the nimble, and the quick may find a chair. This book is about how to be clever, nimble, and quick.
In a good economy, about half of all jobs go to someone who did not respond to an advertisement of any kind. They had friends on the inside, or they walked up at the right time. In a bad economy, even more jobs go to insiders. Employers can have their choice of candidates—too much choice, in fact. I could post an ad for a redheaded, five-foot-tall, Australian trick pony rider, and get stacks of applicants. Almost all of them would be willing to ride a pony, and more than some of them would be redheaded, five feet tall, and Australian. Once a job is posted, you have to be perfect, you have to have friends on the inside, or you have to be the first in line. This book is about getting friends on the inside, or being at the head of the line.
I recently spoke with a Fortune 1000 HR manager who still gets a stack of paper resumes every day. He grabs a two-inch slice out of the pile every morning and throws away the rest. “I don’t want to hire anyone who is unlucky,” he says, “and there are only so many hours in the day.” This book is about how to create your own luck.
What most people believe about a job search is wrong. By using the wrong techniques, you could look for work forever without finding employment. Or you could decide to learn something new, something radically different.
That’s what this book is about. Something new and radically different. It’s about understanding the invisible part of the job market, and learning how to get into that invisible world and play it to your advantage. The hidden job market is all the jobs that change hands without being advertised, and jobs that may be advertised but go to insiders. This book is about how to be an insider. To manage your career today you must understand this world. Let’s start right now.
First, all industries are always hiring. Even when you read that an industry is imploding, it’s hiring at the same time. When you read that a large company is laying off thousands of workers, it is almost always hiring some new people at the same time.
Now, to be fair, not all organizations will be hiring, but in all industries at all times, there is hiring. People die on the job and they need to be replaced. People decide to retire. They get injured. They go on maternity leave. Too many people take vacations at the same time, yet the work still has to get done. A department is downsized but the remaining workers don’t have the exact right skill sets, so HR has to bring in a couple of people with specific talents. Even when a bankrupt government or company has a hiring freeze, it will have an exception process for “essential workers.” The smarter large organizations hire new college grads every year in any economy, otherwise their idea flow would come to a screeching halt.
You cannot be an effective job seeker until you get this: all industries are hiring, right now, all around you. We’ll talk later about how to identify growth, but that’s not nearly as important as understanding that hiring goes on everywhere, all the time, even when companies and industries are contracting. You can’t get lucky, or develop friends on the inside, or get there first, until you can believe that jobs are out there.
You get a job by talking to people. You don’t get a job by having a great resume, a good interview look, a firm handshake, or a solid education. You get a job because you get in front of somebody, and she decides to add you to the payroll. You get to talk to employers by talking to people. Most job seekers look for jobs by talking to computer software. It’s faster to talk to people. People are more likely to pass you along than computers are. Computers are picky. People are helpful.
Your biggest job as a job seeker is to talk to people. That includes the classic interviewing for a known opening, of course, but it also means talking to everyone about your search. It also includes all modalities of contact, face to face, over the phone, via email, even old-fashioned snail mail. It definitely means working your contacts on social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and others.
Once you get to the point where you talk to strangers about your job search, you’ll be close to getting a job. People in line to buy coffee. Cab drivers. Someone with a cute dog in the park. They’re the key. Social scientists have discovered that your first ring of contacts is actually not that useful to you. You have the same knowledge as all your close friends. It’s those peripheral people who can connect you to the information that can break open your search.
Most job seekers think you get a job by hiding in the dark, submitting resumes for openings posted on the Internet, and hoping for the best. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You get jobs by talking to people. This has to drive your strategy.
Let me be exceedingly clear: Talking to computers doesn’t count.
Most jobs are never advertised. More exactly, most people who are hired did not respond to an advertisement of any kind. A job might have been advertised all over the place, but the person who got hired did not apply for that posting. This is critical information for a job seeker who wants to crack the hidden job market.
Think about Internet dating. Wow, are some people liars. They say they’re wealthy and sane, when they’re broke and crazy. It’s the same with hiring. The national lie rate on resumes is about 25 percent. One in four job applicants has an outright lie on the resume. So what do you do about this? You favor candidates who have someone who will vouch for them.
Most people would rather date someone’s cousin or coworker than a complete stranger. It’s safer. Hiring works the same way. The hiring manager has a stack of 1,000 resumes, and a colleague walks in with a resume and places it on the desk and says, “I know this person. He’s sane and presentable.” That’s a fundamentally different applicant.
Here’s a point for you: hiring managers don’t need to know you very much. If they know you at all, you go to the top of the pile. A friend of an ex-husband’s tennis buddy’s dog walker’s accountant is a close enough connection.
Companies don’t make you work too hard to get a job in the hidden job market. For example, they strongly favor hiring candidates who are referred by current employees. One third of companies hire someone for every four people introduced to them by current employees, and another third hire someone for every ten people current employees will vouch for. The last third are more picky, but this is a profoundly important point: in many cases you will need only a handful of personal referrals to land a job! Compare that to the thousands of resumes floating around the Internet, and the thousands of applicants applying for posted openings! (To read about the latest research on the size and nature of the hidden job market, see my website, www.donaldasher.com/hiddenjobmarket.)
You may have to move to keep your career on track. Get over it. No place is so special it’s worth being homeless there!
The economy is not a smooth batter. It’s more like a big cauldron of porridge that’s not sitting on the center of the fire. Some places are hot; some places are cool; some are rising; others are in decline. And places that are hot today may be cooling off tomorrow. A welder in Michigan may be barely able to eke out a living, while welders in Wyoming or Louisiana are getting rich. Same skills, different place. An accountant in Cleveland may be treading water, while accountants in Houston have their pick of jobs. Tomorrow it may reverse.
Look around you. Do you see the future or the past? And don’t whine to me about your house. If you’re upside down on it, give it back to the bank. You’ll be a lot better off working in a career-enhancing role in a new locale. If you can’t sell it, fill it up with relatives or rent it out. Don’t hang on to a declining area until you’re flat, busted broke.
If you’re a young person without many possessions, couch surfing is a great way to look for work in a distant city. Go to where the opportunity is, if it isn’t near you.
Roberto Goizueta, former CEO of Coca-Cola, has this to say about ripples in the economy: “Bad things happen because of what we did in good times. Good things happen because of what we did in bad times.” Do something good and move away from bad times if that’s what it takes.
Big opportunity is in smaller organizations. Big companies are net destroyers of jobs. Big companies grow through acquisitions. Integrating acquisitions involves firing redundant workers and consolidating processes. Of course, you should look for jobs in big companies, but overlooking the rest of the market is a huge mistake.
The middle market creates permanent jobs. These are companies with $10 to $50 million in annual sales, one hundred to a few thousand employees. Under-the-radar, mid-size companies are the source for most job growth in this country. If you want to read the economic arguments supporting this fact, read the classic Job Creation in America (Free Press, 1987) or the more recent The Great American Jobs Scam (Berrett-Koehler, 2005).
Small businesses and family businesses with $1 million to $10 million in sales and under 100 employees churn a lot of jobs. They exist in a web of microeconomies. They staff up when they have a run of success, and they staff down when times are tough for them. But for any individual small business this sequence is often out of sync with the overall economy. So when times are bad in your industry or in your area, small and family businesses are great sources of continuing career opportunity.
For long-term career management, you may have to change employers more often than you would in a large organization that can provide a smorgasbord of continuing opportunities, but there is opportunity for real success in small and family businesses.
One more advantage to small and family businesses is that they often have trouble attracting talent, which means they’re not as picky as Fortune 1000 employers. So if you aren’t a perfect candidate for the type of job you want, you definitely need to look at smaller organizations for your next opportunity.
Very small businesses, brand-new startups, and microbusinesses with under a $1 million in annual sales and maybe a handful of employees can be exciting but volatile. You may find yourself promoted to marketing manager at the age of twenty-three, but you may also have to sweep up your own office and carry out your own trash. You can earn major bucks, but you may have to work on commission. And you may go to work one day and find the company shuttered, but these days that could happen even if you work for a hundred-year-old company, like Lehman Brothers.
Contingent jobs are great jobs. Contingent jobs are part-time, temporary, or contract assignments. Many job seekers shun these jobs (until they get desperate). Depending on which source you cite, though, somewhere around 10 percent of all jobs in the economy are contingent. That’s a lot of jobs! And here’s the clincher: about two-thirds of new jobs are contingent when they are created. When a contingent job becomes a permanent one, the incumbent is almost always offered the chance to become a permanent employee in the same role. The trend toward internships and job “tryouts” even for mid-career adults is in full swing. “I’ve had people who are horrible at interviewing but are awesome employees, and people who are great at interviews and horrible employees,” says Steve Newcomb, CEO of Virgance, which partially explains this trend.
This used to be a bottom-feeder area of the economy, but not anymore. There are agencies to help you find contingent jobs all the way up to CEO.
Meet the Author
DONALD ASHER is the author of eleven books on careers, job search, and higher education. He is a contributing writer for numerous publications and career sites and is a tireless speaker, making more than 150 appearances at college and corporate campuses across the United States each year. Recent teaching engagements have also taken him abroad to India, China, South Korea, and Germany. When he isn’t traveling, Donald Asher divides his time between northern Nevada and San Francisco, California.
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This is a great book for the job seeker, packed with various new and old job seeking methods. I plan to use them with my job search!