Q. I have been unemployed for the past year and a half. It seems like every time I apply for a job, I never hear back. It is like my résumé gets lost in a black hole.
I am at my wit’s end and don’t really know what to do next. I wait for job postings to appear online and they are few and far between. What can I do to step up my job search?
JH, Washington D.C.
A. I often speak with candidates who are frustrated because they apply for online jobs and never hear back. They run out of ways to find a job and simply give up, or wait until the next potentially suitable job posting appears and send yet another résumé into the “black hole.”
You may be surprised to know the U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 10-15% of available American jobs are what is termed “visible.” This means that a whopping 85-90% of the jobs are “invisible.” So how do you get an invisible job? More importantly, would an invisible job put visible food on your table? Probably not.
The answer lies in networking, reaching out to those you know and those you don’t know. No matter what size company you have worked for in the past, if you have been out of work for a while it is likely you have lost touch with some (if not all) of your former colleagues. Many of those people have moved on by now, too. Finding them is one piece of the networking puzzle.
1. If you are able to search for those people on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, you can ask them the following questions:
- What company are you working for now and can you provide me with the names of any hiring managers or HR personnel?
- Do you know of any other companies that are hiring that you would be able to refer me to?
- Can you make any suggestions of who might have information that could lead to a potential opportunity?
Once you have this information, follow up! Ask the friends of friends the same questions. Expand your network and knock on many more doors. Getting a new job is a numbers game. Assuming you have a killer résumé and cover letter, are making a good presentation during the interview, and have updated your public profiles (LinkedIn Bio, Facebook page, and VisualCV), eventually you will get hired.
2. Join and participate in networking groups and associations both locally and online.
I know I have said this before in many blog postings, but I can’t stress this enough. It is not what you know, it is whom you know and who knows you! Be willing to help others whenever possible and actively involve yourself.
If you are not using LinkedIn Groups regularly, go to the Groups section to learn more about how you can join niche groups and enter into discussions. Consider alumni associations, trade groups, business conferences, and even sports related organizations.
3. Select targeted volunteer activities, but only commit to the amount of time you realistically think you can provide while still following up diligently on job leads.
Many of the same organizations mentioned above may provide opportunities for volunteer work. Brainstorm and make a list of any and all agencies, associations, and businesses that you think might welcome you as a volunteer on a part-time basis. Once you are in the door, use the same approach as in step 1 to identify prospective leads from everyone you meet.
I realize it sounds like a lot of work, but answering blind ads on the web is like looking for a job with one hand tied behind your back and a blindfold on. Becoming proactive, while scary, will open up the door to the other 85-90% of the career opportunities that are out there.
I hope this has helped answer your question. If you would like information about our career coaching, VisualCV’s, or any of our other career services, please let me know.
For those of you who have additional questions, the Ask Deb column appears weekly on the Careers Done Write Blog and you may email me questions directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.