Weary job seekers, take heart: You probably haven’t come close to exhausting your search. Sure you’ve been diligent about going to networking events, spending hours each day working on cover letters and resumes, and applying to open positions that you think would be a perfect fit for you, but there still might be options you’re overlooking.
While not every plan of attack that you’ll see below is going to be right for you, one or two (or even more!) might be. And even though you shouldn’t abandon the tools you’ve come to value and trust, if you’ve been in a rut for some time now, it doesn’t hurt to think outside the box. For example, Muse Coach Anna Runyan’s suggestion is explicitly for those people who are ready to take their networking up a notch and are sick of the same old events. In fact, that’s what a lot of these are about—they’re ways for you to mix up the game and get ahead of the competition.
1. Focus First on Companies—Not Openings
Most people focus on defining the role they want and then looking for open positions across many companies. Instead, try finding a handful of companies that represent truly great places for you to work and develop your career (think about culture, opportunities, networking, and so on). Next, target developing relationships with people inside those companies and look for any opening that might get you in the door—even if it’s a step down. Plan to go in, crush it, and grow [into your desired role] from inside the company.
2. Meet the Moderators
Professional networking can expose you to amazing job opportunities, especially if you get creative. Here’s one uncommon, but high-impact hack to try at your next in-person event. Instead of focusing on talking to the speakers at a conference or event, choose to place your attention on the moderators. They’re often less mobbed than presenters and are hyper-connected. Tell them about what you’re interested in and ask them who at the event you should meet.
3. Check Out Offline Jobs
In today’s world, all the rave is about online searching. However, many jobs that are available aren’t posted. I recommend that clients go back to the days of the Yellow Pages. Locate small companies in your area, such as family-owned businesses or organizations that rely heavily on word of mouth. These companies are more likely to welcome you reaching out via a cold call email. If you don’t live in a big city, you can also try visiting the local Chamber of Commerce and speak to staff members who are knowledgeable about the needs of their members, have direct relationships with them, and will gladly make warm introductions.
4. Expand Your Network
Most job seekers focus on networking with colleagues and people in their industry, but neglect to talk to other people in their lives. This doesn’t mean that you should lead off every conversation with the news that you’re on the hunt, but you can strive to work it into conversation in a natural way. Neighbors, acquaintances from the dog park, people in your rec soccer league—any or all of these contacts may have knowledge or connections that could prove helpful.
5. Foster Your Relationships
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Well, I see this as ‘network is net worth.’ The more relationships you have, the better chance you have of getting referrals down the road. Friends like hiring friends; the days of blindly blasting your resume to every opening are over. Today, social media is the fastest way to grow your personal network; use it to leverage your professional community and get a personal introduction.
6. Attend Events Outside Your Industry
Enjoy a yoga retreat. Drop by a fundraising event. Instinct tells you to frequent industry conferences when you’re on the hunt, but shaking hands outside your usual circle can produce opportunities, too. Keep your network fresh by taking advantage of non-industry specific opportunities.
7. Make a Human Connection
Job searchers often forget to develop relationships with individuals before they submit their applications. Developing relationships with recruiters, hiring managers, and professionals on the teams that interest you will help make your resume stand out among the rest of the candidates who probably submitted the online application without making a human connection or getting a referral.
8. Build and Send a Newsletter
What will set you apart and allow you to get any job you want is your ability to prove that you create value on an ongoing basis. Find a problem that exists in your interest area, build a tribe around your existing contacts, and create an email newsletter and blog where you tell stories that provide ideas and solutions to those problems. You’ll be able to go into any interview and say, 'Look at the people I help, look at the problems I’m already solving, look at the value I create.' Boom, hired.
9. Bypass HR—if Possible
If you’ve identified a particular role or company that interests you, always try to find a way to bypass HR and get yourself noticed by someone in the department you’re applying to. If you don’t have any direct connections through friends, family, or former colleagues, start going to conferences, luncheons, and panel discussions where folks who work for the company are attending or speaking. Introduce yourself, get a business card, or connect on LinkedIn. Once you’ve established a connection, send a direct email outlining your interest in the company and inquire about the best person to follow up with.
10. Confirm That the Listing’s Active
One strategy that a lot of people overlook is making sure a posted job is still active. This is especially important if you’re finding a job that’s been posted for more than two or three weeks. The last thing you want to do is spend time and effort applying for a job that’s 'nearly filled,' so here’s what I recommend: Contact an internal recruiter, talent acquisition person, or (if the company is small) an HR leader and simply say, ‘I just came across your posting for a [name of position]. My background aligns well and I’m very interested, but I noticed that the ad has been up for a few weeks. I wanted to make sure you’re still actively interviewing for this role?’ Assuming he or she is, making this call gives you an advantage: You’ve just forged a soft connection with someone on the inside of the organization and, if you play it right, she may just suggest that you forward your materials directly to her, which is a very good thing.
11. Converse With Leaders
When a boss, CEO, or somebody else in a leadership position strikes up an impromptu conversation, turn the discussion back to him or her. Ask about initiatives, company performance and goals, or other work-related topics. The benefits of this are twofold: You don’t have the pressure to respond or make small talk, and it demonstrates an interest in your career and the company’s goals. Job seekers should always keep in mind that their primary goal is to sell their skills and experience. Now is not the time to be modest or downplay prior success. Find a way to sell yourself as a potential asset to desirable employers based on information they share with you.
12. Host a Job-Search Party
Instead of going to a networking event hoping to find the right people, why not host your own job searching party! Invite people who are in the career space you’re most interested in pursuing to come to a cocktail or dinner party. These people you invite will benefit by expanding their contacts and networking with other interesting people that can be of value to them. The key is to do your research and only invite six to eight of the people that you think would make an excellent and fun dinner party guest. At the end of the gathering, give a little presentation about who you are, and how you could potentially contribute to their companies. The emphasis here is on how you can help them. And before you rule this strategy out for being too expensive, consider that I once hosted a cocktail party for 15 people and only spent $60.
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Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author