The hidden job market

Since most jobs aren’t even advertised, it’s important to know about networking and how it can help you find a job in the “hidden” job market. This page will show you how to use personal and professional relationships to open doors to unadvertised employment opportunities.

Why is there a hidden job market?

It’s often easier for an employer to hire a person connected to someone in their network.

If you’re referred to an employer by someone they know and trust, hiring you instead of a complete stranger is a lot less risky. They also don’t have to go through the hassle of advertising the job, sifting through résumés, interviewing people, and then hiring a complete stranger.

That’s why it’s so important to use your connections to find out if someone in your network knows about any potential employment opportunities.

What is networking?

Have you ever heard the expression, "It's not what you know, but who you know"? Well, that’s the idea behind networking.

A network is simply a group of people you’re connected to through family, friends, work, education, and community. This group of people is a valuable resource that can help you find a job. Really good networkers are comfortable having conversations with people, and they don’t come across as trying too hard to sell themselves.

Who’s in your network?

Make a list of people you know and trust who might have connections to places you’d like to work. To get you started, here’s a list of people you could consider as part of your network:

  • family members and close friends
  • neighbours and family friends
  • club members
  • teammates and classmates
  • teachers and coaches
  • employers and co-workers
  • community leaders
  • librarians
  • doctors/dentists

Using your network

Once you’ve identified people in your network, contact each one of them individually to let them know you’re looking for work and to ask if they know of any available jobs. They might not know of any opportunities right away, but it’s always helpful to put the fact that you’re looking for a job on their radar.

The beauty of networking is that the people in your network also have networks of their own. When you talk to the people in your network, it’s always a good idea to ask if they know of anyone else you could talk to about job opportunities.

This might seem obvious, but remember to be polite and professional. Good networkers share in the lives of others by giving and receiving information, advice, support, and commitment. It’s important to find a healthy balance between natural conversation and being clear and direct about what you’re looking for, without coming across too strong or pushy.

Expanding your network

Networking is all about leveraging relationships, so if you want to expand the network of people you’re currently connected to, all you need to do is get to know more people!

Here are some ways you can expand your professional networks:

Volunteer and join associations

A great way to learn new skills, gain work experience, and meet new people is through volunteering. Many groups and associations can help you meet people in a particular industry or area of interest. Check out the following page for more information on volunteering:

Contact potential employers

Make a list of places where you’d like to work or people you’d like to work for. Find their contact information online and, if they don’t have a job-posting section, you can phone the personnel department or a hiring manager to discuss any potential openings.

Even if they don’t have openings at the time, they might keep you in mind when an opening does become available, or they might know of someone else who is looking to hire.

Informational interviews

The information interview can be a useful way to find out more about the kind of industry or company you would like to work for. While this technique is not designed for finding a job, the contacts you make may lead you to job openings.

Top-eight tips for networking

  1. Know what you have to offer. Do a skills inventory to help you learn what you have to offer an employer.
  2. Make connections. Think about what kind of job you want, and identify people in your network who can help get you closer to your goal.
  3. Think about what you want to say. Before calling an employer, prepare a blurb you’re comfortable with. For example: "Hello, my name is (add your name here). I understand that your company does (add the field of activity of your business here), and that's my area of career interest. I was wondering if you had any current job openings."
  4. Refresh their memory. When contacting acquaintances you haven’t been in contact with for a while, help jog their memory by letting them know who you are and how they know you.
  5. Be yourself. Networking is all about building relationships. Don’t pretend to be someone else; your healthiest and strongest relationships are often the ones where you are completely yourself.
  6. Be humble. Focus on sharing what you have to offer, not bragging.
  7. Manners count. Be polite. People are more likely to do a favour for someone nice and tactful than someone who comes across as pushy.
  8. Follow up, but don’t be annoying. Following up on conversations or opportunities is a good idea. Nagging? Not so much.

Other helpful resources