Break into the Hidden Job Market: Ten How-Tos
In Bolder, CO people are drying out flooded basements (and in some
cases, living rooms and kitchens) this week. In the mountains just west
of us, whole neighborhoods got washed away. We've had a visceral
reminder that Mother Nature is stronger than any force ever devised by
men. Water goes where it wants to go.
The good news is that we
humans are part of nature, too. At the church where I sing, the pastor
said in his sermon that when new landscaping moved the church's front
sidewalk ten feet to the left, daffodil bulbs under the soil moved ten
feet to send up shoots through the grass beyond the sidewalk. Nature is
nimble. Luckily, so are we.
Mother nature finds a way around
broken systems. The Black Hole recruiting process has failed us
mightily, and resilient humans are abandoning it in droves. You know the
engine I mean: the mechanical, bureaucratic online application machine
that frustrates job-seekers and keeps talent-starved hiring managers
from meeting the smart and capable people outside the walls who could
solve their problems. Black Hole recruiting is an example of our
misplaced belief in technology to solve human problems.
better. We know that vibrant humans and their stories aren't easily
translated into keywords, and that left-brained skill-matching
algorithms are the worst possible way to evaluate people. Mother Nature
found a way around the Black Hole recruiting dam years ago, and that's
why analysts estimate that seventy percent or more of job openings never
get posted. The Black Hole machine never sees them, and neither do the
job applicants who are married to the Black Hole system. Nimbler
job-seekers get those jobs before the public ever knows they're
can enter the hidden job market yourself, any time you like. You need
an invitation to do it, and luckily there's an invitation included in
this column. Before you get your invitation to break into the hidden job
market, I want to give you instructions on how to use it.
the movie "The Wizard of Oz?" The wizard gives Dorothy, the Scarecrow,
the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man medals and awards for valor and
brilliance, but he tells them "you had to find it in yourself, first."
It's the same way with the hidden job market. I'm going to give you an
invitation, but in order to use it you'll need to tap resources in
yourself that may have been waiting under the ground to flower, like the
daffodil bulbs we spoke about before.
Here's what you'll need to
shift in yourself to step into the hidden job market and get the seventy
percent or more of jobs that never get posted to the public.
Shift Your View on Work
you believe that your work, your income and your professional
advancement must always come in a box labelled Full-time Job with
Benefits, you won't be able to enter the hidden job market where so many
self-actualized working people are making hay and having a blast right
now. If you can only imagine working for a company where the job, the
title, the role and the salary come from a chart in Human Resources, you
are shackled to the wall of the old-fashioned, Godzilla recruiting
If you can step out of that box, you can vault over the
wall into the hidden job market and thrive there. It isn't difficult,
but it requires you to step away from the false security that the
full-time salaried working world provides.
Shift Your View on Yourself
you've always described yourself as a bundle of Skills, Competencies
and Years of Experience, you're going to need to rethink what you bring
to the talent marketplace or stay stuck in the un-hidden, frustrating
traditional talent market. The insulting Skills Dogma that teaches us to
brand ourselves as shopping carts piled with Communication Skills,
Negotiation Skills and Administrative Skills springs directly from the
Black Hole recruiting system. People who are disempowered and dependent
on employers to save them from unemployment have been trained to
describe themselves in the most mewly and ineffectual way ever.
Dorothy's first approach to the Wizard, before she found her voice and
snagged the witch's broom? Dorothy was as supplicant as any job-seeker,
at first, full of "If it please your Majesty" and all that rot. You are
just as much in business as any corporation is. You have something
valuable to sell, and until you know what you've got, what it's worth to
employers and which organizations are most likely to need what you
bring, you're going to feel as though you have to beg for a job.
The hidden job market, of course, has nothing to do with begging.
Shift The Power Equation
long as you believe that you will be very lucky to get a job and that
that will be difficult because of the large number of other people who
are job-hunting, you will not be able to use your invitation to enter
the hidden job market. The hidden job market is all about the belief
that you have something special and valuable. You do have it, and until
you see what you have and why employers should value it, no one else
will see it either.
In the hidden job market, we don't ask
employers "Got any full-time jobs?" (that's our need talking) but rather
"Got any problems keeping you up at night?" When we can shift the power
equation to talk with hiring managers about their problems rather than
our own perceived need for the fake security we think a full-time job
brings, we can rule in the hidden job market.
Shift your Approach
are no Black Hole recruiting portals in the hidden job market. Instead,
there's a powerful network of people flowing in and out of
organizations like water, surging around impediments and carrying great
solutions from one to another. When you allow yourself to step off the
crumbling cliff call Full-Time Jobs Pursued in the Usual Way and dive
into the hidden job market stream, you'll see this for yourself.
of the hidden job market - we'l call them Ozians, after Dorothy and her
friends - don't fill out online job applications. They never think
about Skills and Competencies. They tell stories about crises they've
averted and big, expensive problems they've solved. They don't ask "Got
any job openings in your company?" because they couldn't care less about
that. They look for business pain, and luckily there is business pain
everywhere. When they see pain they could help to solve, they talk to
the person in pain.
how simple that is? Ozians think in terms of projects, not full-time
salaried jobs. We are all working on assignments at any moment, in any
case -- I worry about full-time people who can't tell me what they're
working on that's critical to their organizations - and Ozians know that
the more critical assignments they can rack up in their portfolios, the
more valuable they will be.
Ozians pick up projects at
neighborhood block parties and kids' soccer games. They know forty
people who could use their services at any time, so even if thirty-three
of them aren't hiring, there are still seven who are. They don't look
for employers to give them job security, because they know that
employers don't have the power to do that. We carry our job security
around with us.
You can break into the hidden job market any time -
the how-tos are below. Keep in mind that the how-tos are the easy part,
once your worldview shifts and your body says "Aha! I KNEW there was a
better way." There always is - Mother Nature is one clever lady.
Break into the Hidden Job Market: Ten How-Tos
- Understand what business problem you solve. Forget your skills and
years of experience: no one cares about those. Figure out what business
problem you solve, a la "I fix broken customer service systems" or "I
make local brands national brands." (See the exercise below for help
with that.) You can solve more than one type of business problem, of
- Get a business card
that brands you for the hidden job market -- that brands you as an
entrepreneur. You'll decide in each interaction whether to give out your
company business card, your own business card, or both.
- Learn to spot business pain around you. It is easy to do, once
you've been in the business world for awhile. You know what pain startup
founders have. You know what irks Production Managers and ails CFOs.
Learn to hear the difference between a job-search pitch ("You need PR?
I've done tons of that!") and a pain-solving conversation, which is
focused on the problem rather than any particular solution.
- Put a price on your services. Use salary,payscale and indeed to give you a bead on what your brilliance is worth to people in pain.
- Productize what you do. "I do bookkeeping" is wan, because millions
of people do the same thing. "I can take your receipts and invoices and
give you back a CPA-ready packet for your tax return" is a product. All
of us are product developers, and your next step is to think about your
clients' pain and the product bundles that will alleviate that pain
- Appreciate your network. I didn't say "Go get a network" or "Milk
your network." There's too much frantic network-building and
network-milking already. Start by thanking the people you know for being
your friends. Ozians network instinctively (water flowing around rocks
in the stream) and get a lot of business that way, but they don't
network to get business. Big difference. First step: go see
five good friends of yours, one at a time for lunch or coffee, and don't
talk about your job search or your business life. Just listen, and
advise your friends. Your mojo will grow, and that's what consultants
like you need most of all -- mojo!
- Reach out to hiring managers directly. This is the step that causes
dyed-in-the-wool good-boy/good-girl employee types to quail. Go ahead --
no one will come to your house and puncture your tires if they don't
like your pitch! Send a Pain Letter and a Human-Voiced Resume to any
hiring manager you like. There's no penalty. Only good things can
- If you're working full-time right now, you can cultivate your
network and grow your side business as a problem-solving consultant. If
you're not working, you can dive in all the way.
- Use LinkedIn to generate a list of target employers to contact in
your area. Conduct a simple People search on LinkedIn using just your
own postal code and keywords (terms closely related to the pain you
solve) to generate a list of LinkedIn profiles and from them, a list of
employers who should know about you.
- Look in the mirror and say to yourself "I am driving my own career
from now on." Write it on a piece of paper. Say it to your cat, and say
it to your friends. It's true. No employer will ever own your career
again, because it belongs to you.
- Hurrah for you! You are halfway to Oz already. Now go get yourself a nice gelato.
If you want to send Liz a LinkedIn invitation, please do! Use this email address: email@example.com. Thanks!