If you’re one of those people who only applies for jobs that are advertised, here’s something you should know: employers are increasingly bypassing the conventional channels and going directly to referrals and social media to find ideal candidates.
Whether you’re actively looking for a job or not, you should always be putting yourself out there as a brand. An active candidate is somebody who has an active presence – both online and off. Somebody who stays in touch with colleagues and friends, posts relevant articles and comments, and attends networking events.
These days, it’s not only about you being drawn to a company; it’s also about a company being drawn to you. You need to be the kind of worker and person who others will want to help and refer. You need to make yourself indispensable at your current job, so that former supervisors and colleagues will have nothing but amazing things to say about you. And you need to have a clearly defined social media identity.
There are two scenarios when it comes to applying for jobs that aren’t advertised. One is to list all the places where you’d like to work and send resumes and cover letters to each of them. The more effective approach would be to narrow it down to one or two companies–the ones where you feel you’d have the most to contribute and the most to gain both personally and professionally.
The more you feel a genuine kinship with the company (its culture, mission and work ethic), the more you’ll be able to convince them that you belong there. Keep in mind however, that at some of the more sought after places, competition for jobs – or even a moment of attention – can be pretty fierce. For instance, some 2 million people around the world apply for jobs at Google every year, but only 5000 are hired.
In other words, your odds for getting a job at Google are about 400/1; probably less if there’s no open position. A company’s popularity shouldn’t necessarily dissuade you from seeking employment there any more than a college’s selectivity might dissuade you from applying to it. It’s just good to know what you’re up against.
But the college analogy is a good one. It’s not enough to show them you’re qualified; you also need to convince them that you’re the right fit. To do that, it helps to really believe you are, to instinctively understand how you’ll benefit the company and to be able to effectively express that. But if a company’s not hiring, how can you get your foot in the door?
The time-honored advice is still the best advice. If you want to advance in your career, it helps to have lots of friends. The more people you know, the better when it comes to getting recommendations and referrals, having contacts in desirable companies and hearing about opportunities. And the more you help others, the more they’ll be willing to help you.
You have to put in the time. Sometimes that means simply keeping in touch with friends and former colleagues, sometimes that means going to professional events, sometimes that means actually reaching out to people you’d like to know. The most important thing in all cases is to always be genuine.
Reach Out to the Company
Often a company will post listings directly to their website or LinkedIn page. There, you can also get valuable information regarding hiring managers or any contacts you may have in the company. It doesn’t hurt to send a note expressing your interest and inquiring about professional opportunities.
Another great way to get some face time is through informational interviews. But don’t treat them simply as a device to get your foot in the door. Think about what you can learn and really listen to the advice you’re given. Ask them what they’re looking for in a candidate. Afterwards, don’t forget to send a thank you note and stay in touch.
Offer to Work for Free
If it’s financially feasible, you could also offer to work for free on a preliminary basis. This could mean offering your services on a specific project or coming in to help on a temporary basis. Maybe you’ve identified an area in which the company can use some help, such as in social media marketing or web site redesign. Use your skills in ways that make you indispensable.
Even if you’re hired as an intern, you should make the most of it by learning as many skills as you can and even creating projects for yourself that help the company. To stand out, you need to go above and beyond.
The point is to demonstrate a real sense of ownership, identification and loyalty to the company’s brand. Even if nothing’s available, if they like you enough, they might be willing to create a role for you.