For any job search, the closest source of opportunity is generally through your industry and professional network. In a downturn this is where you need to look first.
This makes logical sense to most people, but often the first step job seekers take is to look at job advertisements, and they can quickly become disheartened. To truly understand why you should always start your job search by talking with your network, it’s useful to understand how a typical organisation recruits.
As a general rule, job vacancies move along a continuum dependant on the market conditions and the supply/demand for a skillset. At one end is the hidden job market, internal promotion, industry connections, referrals and direct applicants. For an organisation, the hidden job market is less risky as there is proven history or a credible referral source that provides more certainty. These hiring sources take time to instigate but don’t incur a tangible cost.
On the other side of the continuum, is the public domain involving recruiters and job boards. This opens up vacancies to the general public and has the tangible cost of advertising or recruitment fees, not to mention increased time managing applications.
In a downturn, organisations become more risk averse and cost sensitive in their hiring decisions. This results in more vacancies filled within the hidden job market, never making it to the public domain. The experience for people looking for work is that there is more people competing for a significantly lower number of job vacancies.
Two things happen in a downturn – more vacancies are filled via the hidden job market and there are more skilled individuals are looking for work. As a result, organisations can often find skilled candidates directly from their employees, competitors or suppliers. The greater the market uncertainty, the more these networks become tightly focused. We’ve seen this during the lockdown period, people have gravitated to building even stronger ties to those they already know and trust. It is near impossible to meet new connections during this period as we look for certainty and comfort.
The hidden job market is based on active networks and credible referral, and is the first place organisations will look in the recruitment process. If you are looking for a job now or over the coming months, keep yourself motivated by actively networking and give yourself the best chance of finding your next role.
- Make sure your resume and Linkedin profile are up to date
- Draft your BBQ pitch – be able to clearly explains what role you’re looking for and the experience you bring
- If your industry has been impacted across the board, think about which related industries may be less impacted or even benefiting.
- Review your network – who do you know professionally that is in a decision making or position of influence within your industry.
- Get in touch, check in with your network and let people know you’re available.
- Be open to applying your skills in a different role or being employed as a contractor, casual, project as well as permanent. In a downturn, short term opportunities are more plentiful than permanent roles.
- Do something every day. Call an old colleague, do some research. Many elements are out of your control so focus on what’s within your control.
- Keep going, you only need one opportunity to say yes and sometimes it can come from surprising sources.
- Everyone is impacted, there is no shame in telling your story.