Advice and Tips
Job seeking in the informal job market
Generally speaking, there are two markets for job seekers to consider – the formal and the informal. In the formal market, the first you hear of an available position is through a job posting, while in the informal market, networking is key – along with being at the right place at the right time.
Having a strategy that involves only looking at advertised positions can be a bit passive. Instead, actively working in the informal job market is more creative, interesting and, in many cases, effective. But what is the informal market, and how do you look for a job there?
Read: Where can I find job openings?
The hidden informal job market
Although many people think it’s difficult to get into the informal market, a lot of jobs do actually get filled through networking and relationships. It’s been claimed that out of all the open jobs currently on the market, only 30-40 percent of these are advertised publicly, while the remaining 60-70 percent are filled without being advertised at all. So even though these are general figures, there’s still a large number of jobs that are filled through other channels than job ads.
The main question here is: How should you connect with this kind of professional or branch-oriented network? How should you position yourself to come in contact with employers you want to work for? How can you find a market that hasn’t been publicized through job postings? Nothing happens by itself, which includes succeeding in the informal job market. Working your way into this market will take systematic and hard work over time.
What are your goals and alternative career paths?
Before you can jump into the informal job market, you have to know what it is you’re looking for. What are your short- and long-term career goals? Have you defined something – a job, organization and/or professional challenge – that interests you? Do you know what your skills are? What motivates you?
Read: Competency mapping - Find your career path
When friends and family members ask you what kind of job you’re looking for, can you answer them quickly and concisely? Your friends and network need to have this information so they can send relevant contacts from their own network your way.
After you’ve defined some alternative career paths, you have to gather and analyze information about these careers’ needs, trends, challenges, opportunities, etc. This phase is NOT job seeking, but merely information gathering, both to find out if you find a certain career path interesting and if you have updated and relevant skills in this field.
One extremely important information source is of course the internet, where you can find a lot of relevant information about organizations, industries, etc. Once this is done, forming networks and relationships is what counts. Feel free to make a list of “network contacts”, which includes all the names of people you know/know of who can help you. Examples include:
- People working in the type of job you’re looking for
- People who hire people in similar roles and functions
- People who collaborate with, sell to, train, or otherwise have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, branch, role/function or organization you’re interested in
- Branch associations, member organizations, trade unions or employer organizations
Remember that almost everyone likes to help others, as long as doing so doesn’t take up too much time or effort.
Your network contacts are your potential helpers; they’re people who might know about the organizations you’re looking into, relevant decision-makers, or other people who can give you useful information.
Remember that almost everyone likes to help others, as long as doing so doesn’t take up too much time or effort. You can feel free to ask someone for advice, information or a greeting. If appropriate, you can ask about contacting them again if you have additional questions or need further information. Take the initiative in all relationship-building. Don’t passively sit and wait for people to contact you; instead, contact them to schedule a follow-up meeting or conversation.
Use your network to find out who can give you information that might be important with respect to one or more of your career paths.
Tips on how to move forward
- Contact people you think might have information about the job, branch, or field you’re looking into. Tell them that you’re thinking about changing jobs or are looking for work and that you’re now looking into what possibilities are out there.
- Assure your contact person that it’s only their information, insight and opinions you’re after.
- Most people think it’s perfectly okay to talk about themselves, including what they work with and are maybe passionate about doing.
- Ask them when it’d be best for them to speak with you.
- Always send an e-mail to/call and thank this person for taking the time to speak with you.
From information gathering to actual job seeking in the informal market
The process so far has been about information gathering and evaluating yourself, including your work skills and motivation with regard to market needs. What can happen in the course of this process is that you might experience being in the right place at the right time. This is because, in many cases, your showing interest can solve an employer’s recruitment challenges. They meet a candidate who is from the start clearly interested in the industry and organization and who’s also looked at their own skills, strengths and abilities in relation to working for their organization. So it could be a win-win situation for both you and the employer. At the same time, job seekers who’ve gone through this process know that it can take a long time to land a job. That’s why it’s important to keep a positive attitude and be prepared for going through both ups and downs while looking for work.
Some general tips:
- Write an open cover letter and CV that’s targeted to a specific organization and shows that you understand their needs and have the background and skills to meet those needs.
- Don’t hesitate to contact a decision-maker directly and find out if it’s possible to have a meeting with them; or, if you’d rather, ask them if you can submit an open application.
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What happens when the formal and informal job markets meet
While we’ve made a distinction between the informal and formal markets, the best thing for you to do is to actively work in both of them at the same time.
By being active in the informal market, you get a lot of useful knowledge and understanding of industries and organizations; you also expand your personal network. This in turn will make it easier for you to write high-quality applications and perform better at job interviews.
Being active also gets your name out there to employers and recruiters. And if you’ve made a good impression, the chances are greater that your application will land in the «yes» pile the next time they’re looking for someone to fill an available position.
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