About 80% of jobs are filled through the "Hidden Job Market." At first glance, this statistic can sound kind of alarming, conjuring images of power brokering in the back rooms of exclusive clubs. However, when you look carefully at your contacts and their contacts, it turns out you, yourself, are a member of or have access to elite clubs that in turn have access to the hidden job market. For example, Hanover College alumni often contact the Career Center to let us know about an opening at their organizations that they wanted to fill with a Hanoverian.
So how do you get started?
First, identify your network pool:
Brainstorm an exhaustive list of people you know in the categories below (aim for about 75 different names). Don't worry about whether they have expertise in the field you're targeting.
- Family and Friends: Friends/ close colleagues of parents, parents of friends, etc.
- Work Ties: Internship/ job supervisors, volunteer coordinators, co-workers, etc.
- Professional associations: Young professionals, local chapters of national organizations, Chambers of Commerce, etc.
- College Connections: Faculty, staff, alumni, Greek alumni/ae, coaches, etc.
- Community/Extracurricular Ties: Campus clubs, activities, church, hobbies, etc.
Narrow the list down:
Using the list above, highlight your top 10 -15 contacts based on those whose advice you respect most, then star the highlighted ones with whom you feel most comfortable.
Do your background work:
- Research the people you've starred, finding their contact information, business or organization website, family connections with you, etc.
- Make sure your résumé is up-to-date and ready to share (they often request it!) For help, go to the Career Center's Résumé Guide (PDF).
- Prepare your elevator pitch.
Make initial contact:
When you call, begin by explaining your connection with them and your reason for calling. Request 10 -15 minutes to talk with them. They may agree that now is a good time or may suggest a time for you to call back. At the appointed time, remind them that you are in a job search and request their advice, giving your short elevator speech.
Consider asking them:
- To provide leads on where jobs in this field are typically posted;
- To suggest people whom you might contact about openings;
- To let you know if they hear of an opening;
- To share their expertise as you begin the job search;
- To read and offer advice on your résumé;
- For their permission to use their names when contacting those whom they had suggested.
Remember your etiquette:
- Don't ask them for a job! Remember the old adage: "If you want advice, ask for a job; if you want a job, ask for advice."
- Ask for a specific length of time (15 - 20 minutes, typically). Stay in that time limit.
- Send a thank you note. Email is fine, if they've given you their address, but proofread it twice, and don't use texting shortcuts.
- Keep a careful log of all contacts you make. (Download the Career Center's Networking Contact Log [Excel]. For tips, also download our Step-by-Step Networking .)
- Follow up on the steps your contacts recommend.
What to do next:
Continue to expand your network. Stay in touch with Hanover friends, faculty and staff. Join organizations or begin volunteering in your community. You can request alumni contacts through the Career Center (give us the specific field and geographical location you're searching for). Be sure to join Hanover Career Alumni Network on LinkedIn: Contact the Career Center for an invitation.