Finding job openings can seem fairly easy, but it's more complicated than it appears. And there are more places to look than you think.
Head for a huge job website and it looks as though half the companies in the United States have openings.
When you submit an application or resume you will find in many cases the competition numbers hundreds of people who also are using popular job websites.
Still, an argument can be made that keeping an eye on those sites is not a bad idea since they will indicate which fields are growing and what companies are hiring.
Let's look at the most common sources of jobs and the pluses and minuses for job seekers.
Job openings can be found in trade journals, job boards, company websites, social networking services, newspapers, grocery stores, libraries and store windows. The most common of these are Internet job boards.
There are drawbacks to seeking advertised jobs. They often result in competition with hundreds of applicants. Not all jobs are advertised as companies move to posting jobs on their own websites and not on large job boards.
Paul Sears, an employment counselor at the Minneapolis WorkForce Center, says he firmly believes the job seekers who crowd the computer terminals in his building's lobby "should spend more time on other job-hunting activities. I wish I could tell them to stop surfing the Web for jobs and start talking to people and networking. That's how you find a job."
Still, advertised jobs should not be overlooked. Here's a strategy for spending just enough but not too much time on positions listed in publications or on the Internet.
Look at all the jobs listed, not just those that fit your goal, because you may find an employer you want to pursue. If they have an opening in one field, they may have one in your area of expertise, too, that isn't advertised. Follow up your application with a phone call to the employer.
Employment experts agree that most job openings are never advertised. Only by knocking do doors open. Creative job searching demands a lot of calling, handshaking, chatting, explaining and conversing.
Improving on your networking skills can help get you through the door to employers. The hidden job market, defined as positions that go unadvertised, cannot really be pursued by you without a strong effort at networking.
A formal networking campaign is a good idea, but try not to make the folks you meet feel as though you're using them in any way. Start by speaking to people you know well, such as friends, family, neighbors and current and former coworkers. These people have the most interest in your success and are excellent networking contacts.
Now, contact people who pop up only occasionally in your life and career. More than 25 percent of the people who find jobs through networking received the referral from someone they see once a year or less.
Ask this group for ideas and referrals, remind them of who you are and ask if they might be willing to meet for a 15-minute chat. Remember, honor that time limitation unless they insist on having you stay longer (a likely scenario since most people don't time conversations).
Next, join job seeking networking groups in your industry, city or church. Minnesota WorkForce Centers sponsor a host of networking groups around the state. You may get a tip or two from other participants in the group, along with solace, advice, conversation and camaraderie.
Take those referrals and begin contacting them. These are the individuals you do not know, so you need to call and formally introduce yourself while highlighting the people who gave you their names. It's not an easy task and not everyone will call back or agree to meet. Still, these are the people who may have the responsibility for hiring or know the appropriate individual in their companies for you to contact.
Finally, we suggest cold-calling. This is picking out companies where you would like to work and cold-calling managers or employees, asking them for informational interviews or ideas for finding a job where they work.
They may avoid returning your call or tell you they have little to offer in the way of open positions. Still like that company? Try another division, or move down the list to the next prospective company in your sights.
Use our Networking Log to keep track of people you speak with about potential job leads. Write down the people you contacted, their phone numbers and any leads they offered. If someone doesn't return your inquiry after a couple of calls, move on. Don't be a pest because that reputation could come back to haunt you.
Take notes during interviews, and afterward write an email and a personal handwritten thank you to people who took the time to speak to you. Do not overstay your welcome, and focus on getting the information you require in an informational interview. Always ask for more contacts, too, to broaden your list.
Networking is not begging. The idea is not to ask for jobs but to ask for information that may lead to a job. Usually your networking contacts will not be potential employers. They will be people who know about potential jobs or individuals in an industry who can help. If you discover contacts are potential employers with job openings that fit your skills, change gears and begin to sell yourself.
Many different organizations have job fairs featuring employers willing to speak to potential employees. Ideally, job seekers have a chance to actually meet company representatives who can help them find employment.
It's a great networking opportunity because job seekers have a chance to speak directly to employers. And in a perfect world, those employers have jobs to offer.
Job fairs can be a mixed experience. Attend them with the hope of making a few connections. You may find them worth your time or you may find your efforts are better spent pursuing other avenues of employment.