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How to get a hidden job

(MoneyWatch) Do you ever get those LinkedIn update emails which proclaim that yet another of your contacts has landed a great new job? A job that you would have been qualified for, and would have applied for if only you'd known it existed?

It's not surprising that the jobs they are landing are those you didn't know about -- hidden or unadvertised jobs are where you find the best opportunities. What exactly are hidden jobs? Executive talent agent Debra Feldman says that hidden jobs are those that only come into being when the right candidate presents himself.

That may seem like an odd method of hiring. We all know how the hiring process goes. Employee Jane resigns, then manager Karen calls up the recruiter, who helps write a job description and then the job is posted internally and externally. Right? Well, yes, that happens. And it's not a bad way to find a job. The only problem is that you're competing with numerous other candidates for each one of these jobs. And furthermore, you're trying to change your resume to fit the qualifications that Jane had, regardless of whether those qualities are what the company really needs.

Feldman says:

When a hiring authority has an opportunity to restructure and can bring in people and or can promote or have a way to replace a resource, they are happy to know about a candidate in advance. There can also be a situation when there is no vacancy now, but the boss knows there will be one in the future. Additionally, it can be when a company hasn't gotten around to advertising a vacancy for many reasons -- don't have a budget to advertise, budget isn't available for 6 months, or don't want a thousand applicants and prefer to find talent through referrals. These are the hidden jobs.

And these hidden jobs are the difference between finding a job that you can do and landing a job that was made for you. Have you ever been on an interview where it was clear that they already had a candidate in mind and that candidate wasn't you? That's because this person found the hidden job, presented herself to the hiring manager and the manager decided to write the job description around this person's qualifications. It's a losing game for everyone else. (They interview you because the company has policies requiring it, even though it's a thoughtless waste of time for everyone involved, but especially for a candidate who busts her buns for a job she can never have.)

You have to get people to know you and know your skills. This is why networking is so critical. It's not about just keeping up with old coworkers (although that is valuable), it's about taking the time and making the effort to always be job hunting by making new targeted contacts according to Feldman. Who are these connections? Individuals who have the ability to hire you, appreciate you and importantly, will remember you and contact you and recommend you to their connections. "It's not just what you know or even who you know, but who knows, likes, and trusts you and will share job leads with you," Feldman explained.

If you are well-connected, your conacts are like your "career insurance." Instead of having to establish new connections, you will have a jump-start as a trusted contact and be among the first to learn about potential leads from insiders before you need or want a new job.

While that sounds terribly unpleasant, if you are making contacts at the office, at conventions, with vendors and with suppliers, your name will come up when managers are still in the "thinking about making some changes" stage of the recruitment process.

Feldman says, "Individuals who are looking to make a change have to dig their wells before they are thirsty. They have to know these people before they need a job." Hidden jobs often take a long time to materialize. You essentially have to market yourself to someone who has no vacancies with the knowledge that a vacancy can open in the future. If you wait until you're unemployed, contacts are harder to come by and you have much more at stake in the process, making new targeted contacts, according to Feldman.

And don't stop seeking out those hidden jobs once you land one. Networking and building relationships take time. Years, even. You cannot expect a company to direct your career. Gone are the days where you could land a job at 22 and stay there until retirement, with HR mapping out your next job. The only person who is truly looking out for your career is you.

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