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There are two job markets: formal, consisting of jobs advertised online or in newspapers. Then there is the informal job market made up of unadvertised job opportunities which you must dig out through your own initiative.

The Informal Job Market

The informal job market is a needle in the haystack but the best way of managing your career and giving you the chance to have a choice between jobs. Applying for advertised positions leaves you at the mercy of someone else's timing.

Pros of informal job market

  • Non-competitive - you are often the only candidate for the job.
  • Discussions with potential employers are more informal and relaxed.
  • Greater chance of changing industries.
  • Focus of interview is on what you can offer not on how you compare with other candidates.
  • An employer may fit you in somewhere if they like you, hence creating a job for you.
  • You are in control of your own momentum - waiting to be called for a formal interview is depressing.
  • Momentum is psychologically advantageous as it builds your confidence.
  • Some say that 80% of the total jobs available in any one year change hands informally.

Cons of informal job market

  • Hard work obtaining informal interviews as they are obviously not advertised.
  • Intimidating at first having to dig out opportunities at your own initiative.

Where to start?

  • Networking with contacts to beat the competition.
  • Direct approaches to prospective employers.

Direct approaches

  • Identify likely target companies and who your boss would be.
  • Avoid the Personnel Department.
  • Write letters with your CV or Resume and follow up with a phone call, but don't ask for a job in the letter. Ask for a meeting for a no-obligation discussion.
  • When changing industries, emphasize your desire to learn about their industry as a reason for meeting.
  • If it is the same industry, emphasize a mutual exchange of views on how the industry is likely to develop and meeting for future reference, i.e. mutual networking benefits.
  • Position the purpose of the meeting as an exploratory chat to give the employer a chance to assess you on face saving basis without having to acknowledge that they have a definite need for your services at this time.
  • Be prepared to ask networking questions as well as to be interviewed, i.e. who else they can think of that you could talk to in similar companies.
  • Only ask networking questions if there appears to be no interest with the employer you are meeting.

The Formal Job Market

All advertised positions and all opportunities pursued through recruitment consultants or head hunters.

What makes it formal is that it is competitive and the selection process will be formally structured.

Pros

  • Visibility, little effort is needed to locate them
  • There is a definite opening

Cons

  • Virtual lottery, too competitive
  • You must fit the job spec exactly...no changing industries here
  • Demotivating, because you will lose out most of the time no matter how much you have to offer

Applying for advertised jobs

  • Do your homework. Make them feel special, that you are genuinely interested in them.
  • That means emphasizing their attractive qualities not just your own. Otherwise your application is too impersonal. Just like junk mail!
  • Phone in advance or do other research to help you learn what the employer's goals are and to help you think about how to tailor what you have to offer them.
  • Ask questions of contacts who can tell you what's going on in the company. Phone for more information in advance of your interview.
  • Specifically, find out what are their current burning issues and how they affect the prospective position.
  • Don't rely on the job advertisement alone as it is usually no more than a condensed job description which tells you little about what is really going on in the company.
  • Try to speak to the manager to whom the position reports. This is before you even apply.
  • Don't spend more than 10 to 20% of your weekly job search efforts on formal job applications. You should be spending 80 to 90% of your time on direct approaches and networking.

Career Management Tips