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Hide and Seek

Jobs are out there if you know how to look.

The job search process sometimes seems similar to a game we all use to play as children. You must remember closing your eyes and counting to 10 while your friend went and hid; well, during the job search process, it seems as if the search can go on forever. What are the best ways to uncover where those jobs are hiding?

According to some estimates, 80 percent of jobs are in the hidden job market. They are in hiding, and it is your job to uncover them. The key to uncovering these positions depends on your ability to network–and the double meaning of that word is used intentionally.

Whether dealing with a LAN or a WAN, you are setting up a network of computers that are linked so they can communicate directly with other devices on the network, and share resources. The only difference is the size of the area, in which the network is linked. In career networking–linking with people who can help connect you to a job that is a good fit for you–you will be in control of the number of people with whom you network.

Not yet convinced that networking works? The U.S. Department of Labor reports the following on how people get jobs:

* 24 percent get them from direct contact with potential employers;

* 23 percent get them from school or alumni career services, employment firms, temporary agencies;

* 5 percent get them by responding to classified advertising; and finally,

* 48 percent get them from referrals from friends or relatives

Lots of people are fearful of networking because they don’t know what to say or how to approach potential contacts. In short, they’re unaware of how to make their networking effective. Here are a few strategies:

Strategy #1: Determine your strengths. This helps people get over the timidity of marketing themselves, especially if they’re not great at blowing their own horns. Think about what you’re good at. Ask friends, family, and coworkers what they see as your strengths, and begin to do some self-analysis of what makes you stand out.

Strategy #2: Brainstorm the who and where. Think about people and places that hold strong networking potential for you. Consider professional association meetings, acquaintances employed by the company you’re interested in, volunteering opportunities, past employers, friends, and relatives. Even your next-door neighbor can be a networking contact.

Strategy #3: Informational interviews. An informational interview can help you connect with your contacts by asking questions that will help you gain better insight into the determined career path, job responsibilities, the skill sets you need, good and bad points of the job and industry you’re looking at, and so on. The important part is to be clear that you are not asking for a job, but rather for information that can give you insight into opportunities in the industry or company of choice.

Strategy #4: Develop your self-promotion campaign. Create a 30-second sound bite and a two-minute elevator speech. Think of this as your verbal business card. Learn how to market yourself by delivering a concise message that highlights your strengths, your unique background, your achievements, and what makes you stand out from the crowd. By creating your own career brand, you remain in control of what people most remember about you. Remember: It’s all about conveying your professional value.

By equipping yourself with the tools you need to effectively network, you’ll begin to feel more confident. Networking is good for career advancement, not just for finding a job.

As you continue in your career, you will still need this vital skill to get prime assignments or advantageous training opportunities, to seek promotions, to develop working alliances with vendors, coworkers, and management. Networking is a vital tool that should be used over the course of a career lifetime. Keep in touch with your contacts, and remember when someone needs to network with you, share your resources and give back.

Felicia H. Vaughn, M.Ed., is a certified career management coach. E-mail her at [email protected]

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