You can find jobs for graduates and entry-level roles advertised in all sorts of places. But many jobs aren’t advertised at all. In some fields, such as PR and journalism, employers actually expect applicants to be proactive and seek out the jobs they want. In addition, smaller employers may also not publicise their jobs widely or in obvious places.
This situation calls for a bit of creativity, and some persistence and research on your part. Arm yourself with access to the internet, the opening hours of your university careers service, your address book and phone, plus a notebook or word processing document to help you keep up to date with your progress.
Talk your way into a job
Networking is using people you know to gather information. That doesn’t just apply to the fortunate few whose well-connected parents can pull strings in the right places: most of us know people who could help us find a job, and it all begins by talking.
Start by making a simple list of who you know and how they might be able to help you. People are usually happy to talk about their work and suggest further contacts, and family, family friends and friends’ families are all already part of your network.
Once you've decided to make contact with someone, consider what you want from them. The odds are that you won't be offered a job straight away, but a chat about their job or organisation over a coffee, and a promise to get in touch if a suitable job comes up, would be a promising result.
Keep in touch with your contacts, too. Follow them up from time to time to let them know that you are still actively seeking work. When you get in touch, you can also let them know about any work experience you've gained or other activities you've undertaken to develop your skills.
You may also find social networking tools such as LinkedIn helpful for this kind of professional networking.
Sometimes you have to apply 'on spec'
Speculative applications (sending a CV and covering letter to organisations that interest you in the hope that they will have a suitable vacancy or that they will keep your details on file) is a recognised job-hunting method, particularly in sectors in which jobs are not widely advertised.
Popular organisations receive hundreds of speculative letters, however, so improve your chances of success by following some simple steps:
- Ensure your CV and covering letter are word perfect.
- Telephone your chosen organisation before you send your letter and establish the name of the person to whom you should write.
- In your letter, clearly state the role you are interested in and why you are suitable for it.
- Follow up your letter with a phone call one or two weeks after you have sent it to show your continued interest.
- Be flexible: if the organisation can’t offer you a job they may be willing to provide a work placement, shadowing opportunity or some careers advice.
Work your way in to a job through work experience
In some industries, such as the arts and the voluntary sector, work experience is a standard way to get a foot in the door. Voluntary work or a work placement can help you make contacts and find out if the work is really for you, and you may be in the right place at the right time if a role becomes vacant while you’re there. If it doesn’t, and you’re still interested in the organisation, add colleagues to your contact list and ask if they’d be willing to let you know if another job becomes available.
Top up your job opportunities through temporary work
Temping can lead to further work. Many agencies have permanent jobs on their books, and if you impress them while you’re temping they’re likely to put you forward for these roles in the future. In addition, while you’re temping with an organisation you may be able to approach the HR department to find out about jobs or speak to colleagues about roles they envisage opening up.
Give yourself the best chance
If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment with your careers service to talk your ideas through. Careers services have loads of information on employers and hundreds of industry contacts. Also use your careers service to explore job listings and the kinds of jobs on offer to graduates, even if you can’t find the exact role you’re looking for at first.
These steps will help you find hidden jobs:
- Use our career sector advice and employer hubs to find out about employers in the areas that interest you. Your university careers service will also be able to help you with this. Do some research into organisations that catch your eye and consider getting in touch via a speculative application.
- Use job listings on your careers service website to investigate which employers are advertising currently, and which have previously advertised. Their interest in your university means that they’re more likely to be interested in you, so consider sending a speculative letter expressing your interest in them.
- Ask academic staff if they have links with local organisations or former students.
- Consider asking for work experience: you can often get a foot in the door this way – albeit possibly working at a lower level in an organisation or volunteering. You’ll gain experience and make contacts and be in the right place if any opportunities arise.
Look in the right places
Don’t forget that hidden jobs can usually only be found in certain sectors. Industries such as law, banking and management consulting will generally only recruit at entry level via graduate schemes, and a speculative letter to a recruiter in one of these sectors is likely to result in a terse email directing you to their graduate scheme website.
This doesn’t prevent you from asking your contacts for advice about getting into the sector or suggesting organisations that might suit you, however – finding hidden jobs is all a matter of ‘to those that have initiative shall be given’.