Creative Job Search – Uncovering the Hidden Job Market

Guest post by career consultant Sinead English

Closing dates for many of the graduate training programmes have come… and gone. Your great intentions to apply to lots of companies got lost in a haze of assignments and exams. Now what?

Don’t despair – there are more opportunities than you think

Here’s a scoop – just because companies are not advertising doesn’t mean they are not hiring. Up to 70 per cent of available positions never get advertised since recommendations from trusted colleagues and contacts will usually uncover as many good candidates as a company will need… and it won’t cost them a cent in pricey agency fees or adverts.

The ‘Hidden’ Job Market? Give me a clue

The vacancies filled without advertising are often referred to as the Hidden Job Market – which can conjure up images of an impenetrable maze of people ‘in the know’ with you most definitely on the outside wondering how to get in! The good news is there is one step you can take today to start finding out what job opportunities exist for you on the Hidden Job Market. How? By starting to tell people what you want to do – if you can’t tell people where you want to go with your career, how can anyone help you get there?

How to hear about what’s going on in the Hidden Job Market

Find someone working in the industry you would like to work in and ask them for advice. Don’t know anyone working in the industry? Get creative. Use LinkedIn to search by industry, company, or your college. That will generate a list of names and LinkedIn will give you suggestions as to the best way to approach them, ie who you know that they know.

Target three people to start with – ask for 15 minutes of their time and be ready with your questions. Here are some to get you started:

  • ‘How did you get your job with the company?’
  • ‘Do you think my particular degree would be a useful qualification for a job in the industry?’
  • ‘Are there any good trade publications I should be reading/websites I should be following/industry conferences I should be attending to improve my knowledge of the industry?’
  • ‘What advice would you give a graduate trying to get into this industry?’

Never ask them for a job – ask them something they can deliver on there and then.

No guts… no glory

OF COURSE it is easier to keep sending CVs in response to job adverts, cross your fingers and hope that (a) no-one else spotted the job advert (b) all other applicants will have CVs riddled with spelling errors and lacking the required skills and/or (c) the advertised job isn’t actually already filled – a favourite tactic of some unscrupulous employers. OR you can go about creating your own opportunities and start to weave your way into the Hidden Job Market by letting contacts and, by extension, potential employers know you exist and what you can do for them.

The second option may appear daunting initially but the rewards in the form of you landing your ideal job will make this excursion out of your comfort zone well worth it. Go on – give it a go.

Graduate job market trends

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The current trends in the graduate jobs market mirror the uncertainty in the overall economy. Earlier in the year there was a definite pick-up in activity. This coincided with Ireland’s bail-out, the general election, and a cautious feeling that the worst may be behind us. Now that it is evident that the light at the end of the tunnel was merely a very large truck hurtling towards us, and that the problems in the Irish economy were an indicator of much wider and systemic economic travails across Europe, any recovery in the graduate jobs market has stalled.

Statistical analysis of graduate job trends as reflected in the opportunities on the website, September to November 2011:

The average number of jobs and graduate programmes listed each day on during this period has been 157. This is the same as the same period last year, but down from the average in April-June which was 202.

Which sectors are recruiting in Ireland?
Some sectors of the economy have been decimated by the recession – others are leading the domestic recovery. The top ten job sectors on during this period were:

  1. IT & technology (including telecoms)
  2. Engineering
  3. Accountancy & financial management
  4. Financial services (including banking & insurance)
  5. Marketing, advertising & PR
  6. Management, business & administration
  7. Retail, sales & customer services
  8. Science, research & development
  9. Manufacturing & processing
  10. Management consultancy.

Many of the opportunities in these sectors would entail the recruitment of multiple graduates into large graduate programmes during the ‘milkround’ month of October, as evidenced by the 3,900 jobs on view at the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair in October.

Which sectors are targeting Ireland’s graduates to work abroad?

Many of the largest graduate recruiters in Ireland are multinationals, and recruit Irish graduates to work within their organisations across the world. Irish graduates are also perceived to be well educated, good communicators and to have strong language skills, and so are often targeted by employers from other countries. 16 per cent of the jobs advertised on during this period were based outside Ireland. The top ten sectors promoting opportunities abroad are:

  1. IT & technology (including telecoms)
  2. Financial services (including banking & insurance)
  3. Engineering
  4. Accountancy & financial management
  5. Management, business & administration
  6. Retail, sales & customer services
  7. Science, research & development
  8. Teaching & education
  9. Marketing, advertising & PR
  10. Management consulting.

Two things are noticeable here – the demand from the ‘professional services’ sector, who look for Irish graduates with sharp minds, commercial awareness and communication skills, often for large, international graduate programmes; and the inclusion of opportunities for teaching abroad, which is fuelled largely by TEFL companies targeting young Irish graduates as they have a proven willingness to travel and teach abroad.

What about opportunities for work experience and internships?
Interestingly the number of work experience and internships advertised on has halved since the Spring, and now comprise just 7.5 per cent of the opportunities on the site. Spring and Summer are always the main time to promote graduate internships, so some fall-off is anticipated, although it seems that some companies who might have promoted a graduate placement in previous years may be using the government’s JobBridge scheme. The sectors in which internships are promoted are quite different from the top sectors for jobs or working abroad:

  1. Marketing, advertising & PR
  2. IT & technology (including telecoms)
  3. Media & publishing
  4. Social, community & youth
  5. Engineering
  6. Financial services (including banking & insurance)
  7. Retail, sales & customer services
  8. Accountancy & financial management
  9. Charities & voluntary sector
  10. Hospitality, sport, leisure & tourism.

Work experience vs postgraduate study – which will get me a job?

If, post-graduation, you don’t have the security of a job in hand, deciding whether to embark on postgraduate study or whether to try and secure work experience related to the career you aspire to instead, can feel like a gamble. Both are sensible options, but neither come with a guaranteed job at the end and neither come cheap; with rumblings in the press this week about the potential slashing of state support for all students entering fourth-level education in the Republic as of next year, the issue is a pertinent one.

There is no set answer, and both postgraduate study and work experience can undoubtedly be extremely valuable and enriching. But whether one is more useful than the other at this juncture will depend on the job, or the sector, you ultimately aspire to.

As a general rule, it’s unwise to embark on postgraduate study if you really don’t have a clue where it could take you when you’ve finished. Similarly, working as an intern in the area in which you ultimately want to forge your career is great – but doing something completely unrelated is unlikely to score you many brownie points with a potential employer.

If you are converting from one discipline to another, then a postgraduate conversion course is usually a prerequisite. In some sectors – engineering, for example – postgraduate study will form an integral part of your professional development. In others, such as publishing, fourth-level education may be attractive to employers, but it won’t necessarily impress them any more than bags of related work experience.

Talk to employers in the industry you want to move into about what sort of experience they look for in graduates, and what significance they place on postgraduate study. Will it make your application stand out? Will it give you a head start when you begin your career? Is work experience as valuable? Finding the answers to these questions could help you make the right decision.

Business etiquette and the job interview

chairs in a meeting roomThere is a lot of advice around that’s intended to make you feel more relaxed about job interviews. Many people say you should just treat an interview as a business meeting. But what if you’ve never been in a business meeting?

As a student or recent graduate, it’s likely that you don’t have much, or any, experience of business meetings, so what should you expect?

Business etiquette

Most business etiquette is based on common sense and good manners – which means that some of these tips will sound obvious. There’s no mystique about this: generally, it’s about behaviour that shows you respect the other people and want to make them feel comfortable.

  • Dress professionally.
  • Be punctual: turn up on time or a bit earlier.
  • Shake hands when invited to do so.
  • Expect some small talk before getting down to business. This helps create rapport between people who have not met before.
  • Business meetings generally have a chair – someone who leads the discussion, ensures that the agenda is covered, and signals when the meeting is over. At a job interview, this may not be explicit but you will notice the HR manager or someone else on the interview panel take this role. Be particularly aware of what this person is saying.
  • Wait for someone to stop speaking before you reply; don’t interrupt. Answer thoughtfully and make eye contact with the person who’s talking.
  • Don’t swear, and avoid slang as much as possible: it may not be understood by all present and can sound unprofessional.
  • Avoid making jokes: these are best avoided with people you don’t know as they can misfire. They may also suggest that you are not taking the meeting seriously.
  • Give your full attention to the meeting. Turn your phone off (and if you’ve forgotten, don’t answer it in the middle of the interview!). It’s acceptable to take a drink of water, though, if it is offered, and it’s also OK to take notes.
  • At the end of the meeting, thank people for their time.

An agenda

A productive meeting always needs an agenda. In a business meeting, this might be a formal document circulated in advance. For a job interview, it’s possible that you may be sent a note about what to expect. More often, you are likely to be given a summary at the beginning of the interview. This could be along the lines of: ‘We will give you some information about the job and then ask you some questions. There will be time for you to ask questions at the end of the interview, but feel free to do so as we go along.’

A meeting of equals

At a job interview there is, of course, also an unspoken agenda. You may think that the interviewers’ agenda is ‘Choosing who to hire’ and yours is ‘I want them to give me a job.’ In fact, both sides should have the same underlying agenda: to find out whether you are a good fit for the job. It’s in your own interest, as much as theirs, that you come out of the meeting knowing the answer to this question.

So the best approach is not to treat the interview as a one-sided interrogation but as a meeting of professionals with a shared aim. Yes, you still need to present your case persuasively – as happens in many business meetings – but it’s also a two-sided conversation where listening and learning can take place.

This may not stop you being nervous, but it will help you to come across as considered, confident – and businesslike.