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Job searching: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (truth)

Jennifer O’Toole -

If you are considering changing jobs, thinking about switching careers, or reentering the workforce, the following information will provide you with the first steps to get started.

The Good:
Right now unemployment rates are the lowest they have been in decades, which means it is a job-seeker market. Employers are more creative than ever in how they market and promote their brand and careers — with a large emphasis on using social media and recruiting the “passive” or “tip-toe” individuals who are currently working and not actively job searching.

The Bad:
10,970,000,000. That is the number of job search websites from a recent Google search. Do you have time to sort through 10 billion websites? Of course not, and many of those posted opportunities are not attached to currently open jobs.

The Ugly (Truth):
Eighty percent of all jobs are filled through networking. Networking is an ugly word that causes most people to cringe when they hear it. They immediately picture wearing a “Hello. My name is ________” sticker at an event with forced conversations with strangers who make even the most extroverted person run or hide. Or they envision awkward phone calls with distant relatives, colleagues or bosses from long ago to “reconnect.” Aside from being unpleasant, who has the time to spend doing this without the guarantee of results? We want a quick return on our investment, or, better yet, our dream job to fall right into our lap.

Although it may not fall into your lap, the next job of your dreams can be found when using these three effective job search strategies:

1. Do your research. You may be thinking, “If 80% of all jobs are found through networking, and there are over 10 billion job search websites, why should I even bother looking online?” The answer is: do your research. It is important to know the type of work you want, what title employers are using for that position, the typical experience and education requirements, and who is hiring. Taking some real time at the very beginning of your job search to think about what you want to do and where you want to do it will save you time in the long run and put you in the right direction.

Beginning your research with a job search aggregate website such as Indeed is a great place to start. When searching, type in a keyword and keep all other fields blank (such as salary, job type, experience.) Only use the location radius if you need to stay in a defined area. Don’t be alarmed when you see hundreds of hits. Set up a job alert to receive daily emails on these keywords and use the findings as a starting point to begin sorting through positions. Become comfortable with the job titles, company names and position requirements. If you find a company that sounds interesting, go to its website to learn more. If you see a position that sounds great with a new job title, create another job alert on Indeed with those keywords. It is not unusual to receive several emails per day. This enables you to quickly scan content to see what is new, what is trending and what interests you. The purpose is not for you to immediately apply to a job, but to use your findings for how you will plan out your next steps.

2. The Hidden Job Market. Data numbers vary, but anywhere from 70% to 80% of jobs are not posted online. If there are billions of websites, each with thousands of jobs, how can that make any sense? There are several reasons for this. Some positions are already filled but not removed; other positions are filled internally; and others are used to create applicant pools without current openings. It is enough to drive any job seeker bonkers —and is also another reason why not to apply on job websites.

For some organizations, filling out an application can take upwards of 30-60 minutes, not including any assessments that are part of the process. Wouldn’t it be better to find out first if the position is: a) still open, b) something you want to do and c) with an organization that you like before spending your time preparing application materials to go into a bottomless pit? The information you gathered from the job websites is not to be used to apply for the job at this point, but to lead you to connecting with the decision makers within the organization to learn more about the position. For some organizations, you will eventually need to complete an online application, but can do so once you have done your research and made a decision.

3. Networking. After you know what you want to do and where, networking becomes a very intentional plan of how to get closer to that goal. If you are familiar with the idea of six degrees of separation, then you understand the influence networking has on your career. People hire people they know. If they don’t know them directly, a referral is the next best thing, and so on. When referring individuals to a potential employer, people are putting their professional reputations on the line and could have more to lose if the experience does not go well.

Start by analyzing your circles of networks for potential connections. These include friends, family, coworkers, teachers, customers, vendors, community partners and so on. Each of these individuals have their own network and, if leveraged wisely, could gain you access to them all. A helpful tool to establish these connections is LinkedIn. Make it a priority to update or create an account with your most recent work experience and education. Not only does LinkedIn make it easy to connect or reestablish with others, 87% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to search for their next hire. Simply by being on LinkedIn and using the keywords in your summary statement, recruiters can find you.

But in order to be most effective, you need to reach out individually to others. Let them know what you are looking for and the organizations for which you are considering. Ask if they know anyone who has connections at the company you’re considering. Your main goal is to find a decision maker in that organization who can provide insight on the opportunity as well as showcase your interest in the company. Now, repeat, repeat, repeat — keeping in mind that the work you put into the search on this end will pay off far more than applying to 50, 100 or 500 jobs. Your ability to find your next opportunity through networking is a valuable skill that is prized by employers and, regardless of the outcome, will leave you with a more enhanced and robust network than ever before.

Learn more about ways to grow professionally in your career with Carlow University's College of Professional Studies

About the Author: O’Toole, who has a master’s degree in higher education, serves as the Director of Career Development at Carlow University and has worked in the field of career development for more than 12 years. Working with organizations such as PA CareerLink, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and the Community College of Allegheny County, she recently completed her term as President of the Western Pennsylvania Career Services Association and is a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Contact: Jennifer O’Toole