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Find the Jobs No One Else Knows About

Here's how to get ahead of the competition

A blue button on a white keyboard with the word new job

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En español | When you're searching for a new position, you probably regularly check online job boards for leads, but those platforms certainly shouldn't be the only places you look. Many vacancies, in fact, are filled through networking or are publicized in places that older adults might not have previously used to look for jobs. Notably, in Jobvite's “2020 Job Seeker Nation” survey, 42 percent of respondents said they learned of job openings on social media.

Making use of every available avenue to find a job is important now.

“Every time you apply online for a job, you are hoping that you're one of the handful out of hundreds to apply that they pick to interview,” says senior career consultant Steve Dalton, the program director for daytime career services at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina, and author of The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster. And because so many positions are filled through internal hires and referrals, you're also hoping that you're not applying for a role that's no longer available, he says.

Fortunately, there are ways to give yourself an edge by finding the jobs that others may not have heard about. To put the odds in your favor, try these strategies.

Volunteer visibly

Take stock of your “communities.” You likely belong to some combination of business and industry groups, alumni associations, or other organizations related to your career. And though belonging to these kind of groups is a start, getting involved strategically can raise your visibility in important ways, advises Jodi Standke, CEO of Talon Performance Group, a Minneapolis-based performance management consulting firm.

You might write a piece for the group's newsletter showcasing your expertise or thought leadership. Or, perhaps, a role on the membership committee would help you get to know more colleagues in a shorter time (they may be holding meetings virtually, as many professional and social activities are done now because of the COVID-19 pandemic). One way to get noticed in online groups is to share relevant articles and other information. Look for ways you can highlight your skills in front of the group and get your name out there, Standke says. Once people are aware of your specific skills, they will be more able to connect you with job opportunities before they are posted online.

Spend more time on social media

LinkedIn, the widely used networking site for professionals, has many tools to help you find jobs and let recruiters know you're looking. Seek out groups related to your occupation. Check out the Who's Hiring Now section to find companies that are actively looking for talent, and publish your own articles or share those you find interesting. “With LinkedIn, there's not one approach,” Standke says.

Job-search expert Mark Anthony Dyson, host of The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, warns never to underestimate the power of conversations that start on social media. “You start by commenting on and sharing others’ work, which can lead to real conversations,” he says.

Tailor your networking

While it's a good idea to let people know when you're looking for a job, it's best to prioritize how you will do so, says Eric Mochnacz, a management and human resources consultant at Fairfield, New Jersey–based HR services firm Red Clover. First, identify the people you know who are influencers and well connected in your field and who may be able to put you in touch with hiring decision-makers. Then, in an appropriate manner, release the news to your network that you're looking for a new opportunity. If you're being careful about disclosing that you're doing this, play it close to the vest and confide only in trusted contacts. “There's nothing wrong with being focused on who you choose to reach out to,” he says.

Your networking strategy should be focused, but also keep your eyes open for new connections who may be able to help. If you have the opportunity to chat with someone at a social event or through an introduction, do so. You never know when you'll meet someone who could be a good contact, Standke says.

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Stay on top of industry news

Mochnacz says that keeping informed can help you spot opportunities before they're public. If a company is doing very well, enjoying a period of publicity or outsize sales, that may be an indicator that it will be looking for more people soon. That's a good time to work on networking with people in the organization and getting your résumé to them. Along with reading industry publications and websites, regularly check the news-release sections on the websites of companies you're considering. That will also help you be prepared if you ultimately land an interview.

Try a little temp work

Whether you're freelancing or approaching temporary work through an agency, showing employers what you can do is a good way to get your foot in the door, Mochnacz points out. Today, a variety of staffing firms can place professionals regardless of their career orientation, from administrative to executive. Just be aware that if you're collecting unemployment benefits, the income you receive through this work could affect them. Check with your state's unemployment office to find out more.

Create your own position

If you've done your homework and networked well enough, you may even be able to persuade an employer to create a job just for you, Dyson says. He's seen people study a company and its needs and create proposals for jobs that didn't exist. It may be a long shot, but it's possible, he says.

If you're going to land a job in any market, it helps to get a head start. So instead of poring over job boards for hours, use these tips to focus on the hidden opportunities out there.

Editor’s note: This article originally was published on August 7, 2020. It has been updated with more recent information.