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It's estimated that only around 10 to 20 per cent of job vacancies are advertised to the public. This means that whenever you see an advertisement you're likely to be up against stiff competition.
However, there you do have alternatives. The key is to find out about job vacancies before they are advertised.
When a vacancy arises an employer has several options of how to fill it.
In almost all these cases, the employer is hiring someone who they know personally or is known to someone they trust. It's usually only after these options have been exhausted that jobs are advertised (unless it is company policy to do so or there is a legal requirement).
So often it’s a case of “it's not what you know, but who you know”. With this in mind how do you get to know the people who make the hiring decisions?
Be clear about the companies you'd like to work for. It's much easier if you say to friends and family, “I'd love to meet someone who works in HR for RBS or John Menzies” than “I'd like to meet someone who's hiring in Edinburgh”. They are then able to think about who they know who might know someone there.
Get your social networking profiles up to date, especially your profile on LinkedIn. It's one of the most popular work-related networking sites and lots of recruiters use it to find candidates. One of the things they look for is who you know and what people say about working with you, so get back in touch with your contacts and get linked in.
Depending on the line of work you're in, there may be organised networking events where you can meet your peers. Many professional bodies and associations run them as social events where you can chat, have a drink and meet new people. It's quite usual to exchange cards with people and to stay in touch after the event.
When you see friends and family, don't avoid talking about work. Tell them you're looking for a new challenge and explain the kind of work you'd like to do. There might even be vacancies where they work.
With all of these options it's important to follow up on any conversations. People are busy and tend to forget what you've told them. They might need reminding a few times.
When you've met new people or been introduced to someone, contact them quickly – ideally within one working day. Again, people forget and where someone might have been expecting your call and would have been willing to talk to you, if you leave it too long they won't recognise your name and ignore you.
Networking your way into a job is a very effective way of developing your career. As time goes on, you might find you never have to apply via an advert again because people put you forward for roles.
Managing director of HRM Coaching Ltd, Hannah McNamara is an experienced career coach. She is currently offering STV readers 10 per cent off her coaching services – go to www.hannahmcnamara.com/stv for more details.