Breaking into the Hidden Job Market

So now that you know a little bit about the hidden market for career opportunities, allow me to present some principles for piercing and leveraging this arena for your own professional prosperity: Don’t try to

So now that you know a little bit about the hidden market for career opportunities, allow me to present some principles for piercing and leveraging this arena for your own professional prosperity:

  • Don’t try to quantify it: I know you want to. I understand the urge (after all I studied math too) to attach a number to the hidden job market so that you can very carefully develop a statistics-based approach for pursuing and applying for jobs. But depending on which career expert you consult, each person will probably give you a different number as to how much of the job market is clandestine – it could be anything from 40–95% of jobs and other career opportunities. I personally believe the right number hovers around 90%, based on my own experiences and other factors (see below). Instead of spending valuable time trying to analyze exactly how much the hidden job market encompasses, I recommend looking at it as a binary issue. Recognize that it simply exists. It is a part of the job market, and if you are to advance you have to cover all avenues for finding and landing jobs. Therefore you have to look for hidden opportunities. It IS a black and white issue.
  • It is accessed only through networking and reputation management activities: If you want to find out about hidden career opportunities, you must make yourself and your brand (promise of value) known in your community or industry. Networking is the most powerful way to do this. It is designed to build win-win relationships between parties, and the more you know about each other, the more you will realize what hidden opportunities exist that can serve both of you. For example, you might meet someone at a conference and ask them out to lunch, and while chatting with them over tuna fish, he learns that you speak Spanish fluently. It turns out that he has a project in Buenos Aires and he is looking for someone with the technical talent and linguistic acuity that you possess. You have now uncovered a hidden career opportunity that you might never have known about had you not sought to network with this professional. As people get to know you, they will begin to present you with previously concealed opportunities – I call it the Hidden Platter of Opportunities, because it literally is offered to you. It happens like this every day.
  • Any opportunity can be massaged into a networking opportunity: This is yet another great example of how networking and opportunity procurement cycle back into each other. Via networking, I may unlock information pertaining to an open spot on a board of directors. I take advantage of this opportunity to serve on the board, which grants me the opportunity to network with the other members of the board and people in their networks. And on it goes and grows.
  • You contribute to it too: Just as other scientists and engineers have access to information, ideas, people, collaborations, and actual jobs, you do too. You just may not realize it. But since the core of networking is providing an exchange of value between parties, you can provide access to hidden career opportunities for the people in your network. Doing so will help establish your reputation as a thought leader in your field and will encourage others to want to network with you. I noticed this result recently after I learned about a number of fellowships for scientists and science writers, two of which included a $10 000 prize. I perused my groups on social media to see if anyone was promoting these and was surprised that others had not heard about them. (I had only accidentally discovered them myself while surfing the web.) So I shared them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and the responses I got were extremely positive: People expressed gratitude to me for communicating these hidden opportunities and as a result I was able to connect with people I might not have had access to otherwise, and demonstrate my commitment to my community, thus solidifying my brand. I am sure to learn of other opportunities, which will benefit both me and my colleagues, as a result of this one action.

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