The ‘hidden graduate job market’ sounds very mystical, but I prefer to think of it as a ‘path of least resistance’ for employers, particularly for more junior positions. That is, if employers are able to avoid the time and cost of a formal recruitment process, and instead hire someone whose work they already know, or who has been recommended by someone they trust, they will be likely to take advantage of these indicators and their associated efficiencies.
If you as a potential employee can strategically position yourself in spaces where this hidden graduate job market is accessible, it can also represent a ‘path of least resistance’ to getting you employed. So here are five ways you can do so.
1. Go out. You can’t expect to have dynamic conversations with professional networks you aspire to be a part of if you’re at home scanning job sites in your pyjamas. Module 4 of The Successful Graduate Course provides ideas about events you can research and simply attend. There’s an adage that simply says ‘Show up’, and it’s about being willing to make an effort. People will notice. They understand that to enter the graduate job market you need to put yourself out there.
2. Intern or volunteer. A highly structured internship can be challenging to secure outside industry partnerships set up by your college, but a day of work shadowing, a week of work experience, or a semester of regular volunteering can at the very least help you gain practical experience and workplace awareness – plus you’ll automatically have more organisational knowledge than any other external candidate if a position comes up.
3. Schedule follow ups. If someone gives you their business card, follow up (Again, Module 4 of The Successful Graduate Course walks you through exactly how). If you’ve had a mentoring meeting with someone over a coffee, schedule another one a couple of months later. It’s that old advertising rule that says you need to see an add seven times to retain it. Don’t hassle professionals in your field of course, but keep yourself at the top of their minds – if they hear of a position, even in another company, they’re more likely to flick you an email.
4. Ask for referrals and introductions. Your network opens up other networks. Someone may not have time to mentor you regularly, but they may be willing to connect you with a relevant colleague over email, and your circle immediately widens. If you don’t ask specifically for links, they may not be offered. Be polite but proactive.
5. Tell people your immediate aspirations. What kind of work are you looking for right now? Tell your friends’ parents next time you see them. Tell the former teacher you run into at the shops. Be able to briefly tell anyone in a professional space what you are seeking (we talk at length about how to do this in Module 3 of The Successful Graduate Course), because you never know who knows whom. I can identify numerous contemporaries who gained their first roles through seemingly coincidental personal referrals, and they’ve never looked back.
Importantly, you’ll notice all the points above have something in common – they require you to liaise with professionals in person, not online. While electronic channels like LinkedIn are great tools to support your job search efforts (Module 7 of The Successful Graduate course is all about this), I’m sure you’d agree it’s becoming too easy to ignore all those electronic pings across all facets of our lives. Instead, the flexibility and nuance of a human-to-human conversation has the potential to uncover opportunities that may not emerge in more transactional written communications. The graduate job market can be accessed in a variety of ways so make sure you follow every avenue you can.
Does it take a bit more confidence and resilience – certainly. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.
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