How do I find hidden job openings?
February 28, 2005 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I've been unemployed for a few months, and have been actively looking for work, with no luck. All I have to go on are classified ads and limited online resources. I have two sneaking suspicions: 1) there are lots of jobs that don't show up in those venues, so how do I find them? and 2) HR departments are generally an impediment to getting a foot in the door, so how do I get past them?

This is a sort of follow-up to a post from a while back, when I had a job:

I'm now living in the town where I want to work. I think I'm reasonably intelligent, and put together a decent resume (thanks, pomegranate!). I'm guessing that employers see me as underqualified for the more senior/management positions, yet overqualified for the entry-level jobs for which I've applied.

Employment agencies don't seem to know what to do with me, and don't call back.

It's been six months now, and my partner and I are both terribly frustrated. I'll be broke really, really soon.

I'll do just about anything at this point, with a few exceptions: I won't do sales of any kind, even retail; I won't work with children (in the literal sense of "child," that is!); I won't do ethically suspect or ethically ambiguous work (e.g. telemarketing), and I'm rather averse to shift work.

What am I doing wrong? What creative approaches have worked for you?

I'm losing it here, folks.
posted by yesster to Work & Money (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As a last tactic, have you tried cold-calling?

And what IS your profession, anyway? What do you have training in?
posted by slater at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2005

Bypass Human Resources altoghether. If you can, find out the name of the manager of the department you want to work in. Contact them directly. Even if they don't have any openings, they might know someone in another company who does.
posted by Apoch at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2005

My education is in philosophy and psychology.

My recent (~8 yrs) work experience is engineering project management, and computer systems administration (database, ERP, network). I have no certifications or education specific to either of those fields, which is apparently a big problem for me now.
posted by yesster at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2005

btw, yesster: You're right on your #1 sneaking suspicion: There's the other job market known as "word of mouth", but I guess you know that
posted by slater at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2005

I'd look for helpdesk/support type stuff to see you thru for a while...find the names of all the IT/Systems support managers in every biggish company near you, and email/fax/call them. Also look into any usergroups or networking events near you, and go to them.
posted by amberglow at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2005

Employment agencies don't seem to know what to do with me, and don't call back.

My apologies if you already know this, but in my experience unless there is an unusually low demand for jobs exployment agencies don't call back. You have to call them, all the time. In fact, it's a good idea to sign up with a lot of them and call them all a few times a week, in the morning, sounding as positive and non-desparate as you can. Even if they tell you that they will call you, give them a call unless they specifically tell you not to call.

Other tips are to join a local computer users group, show up and seem like someone who knows your stuff and let people know you're looking for work [again, not seeming desparate and not seeming bitter are important]. Look into taking short term or contract work [put up a sign, that sort of thing] since some money is better than no money.

If you want something that will keep the health insurance paid and you don't mind doing good work for little money, you might want to look into national service types of opportunities like AmeriCorps and VISTA. You'd have to screen pretty carefully to make sure you don't get kid-jobs, but there are more and more openings [in my area which is also very economically depressed] for people who know technology and live in the area. It doesn't have to be a career, but it can keep your head above water until you find something more to your liking.
posted by jessamyn at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2005

I don't know how well I can make suggestions, as I'd kind of like to be job hunting now myself and having a hard time.

Word of mouth, or personal networking, can work fairly well. The trick is to have friends who work places you would like to work and have them pass your resume around. How to make friends who work places you would like to work is an exercise left up to the reader.

If you're willing to start really far beneath yourself, you can try temporary agencies rather than employment agencies. Even a one or two week job answering phones can (a) magically transform into a more technical job as any nearby vacuum sucks up people with skills or (b) give you a chance to get in the door to meet hiring managers. If you do this, overdress and overperform - if you look like you belong at grunt-level, you're invisible.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:32 AM on February 28, 2005

Start Somewhere! Do not keep turning your back on jobs because they are not exactly what you want. There are at least two jobs in my history that were completely unrelated to what I wanted to eventually do but ended up giving me very necessary skills.

Be willing to work hard at grunt jobs to gain the respect of those that can help you move up.

and... NETWORK... talk to people... be honest.
posted by HuronBob at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2005

You are a perfect candidate for US Government employment. Not a snarky comment, either. My place of employment is filled with liberal arts graduates doing stuff completely unrelated to their undergraduate major.
Me: BA in MAss Communications, now software trainer, formerly purchasing specialist. Here goes 15,902 federal jobs.
posted by fixedgear at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2005

As said above, the "secret" job market is networking. Go to trade shows, participate in online discussions (in your case), put your work towards a project where you will have visibility. Mainly, put your back into connections that you can utilize when needed.

When people come to me looking for work in my field I'm usually able to speak of a few openings, some of which I have a personal inside with. If I have a history with that person I'll make a phone call and/or present their resume to the party over lunch. You need to get to this level with individuals that have these inside connections. It circles to the top paragraph.

Best of luck.
posted by sled at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2005

Informational interviews!!! Find companies that you would theoretically like to work for, and that might theoretically hire someone like you at some point, and then find the name of the person who would be your boss if you were to work there. Then, call them up, explain that you are interested in their company/their career/their product and did they have maybe ten or fifteen minutes to chat with you at some point soon? Then go in, and interview THEM. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), they will need to do some hiring, and that intelligent, well-spoken, pro-active person they spoke to a few months before will probably get the job over the anonymous resumes on their desk.

It's worked for several people I know!

Also: trade journals/websites will mention companies that are expanding or have just gotten new clients - that's a good lead that hiring is happening!
posted by Kololo at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2005

Just how big (or small) is this town, yesster?
posted by mischief at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2005

I was unemployed for 13 months, laid off from an Interaction Design job. Recruiters don't have any idea what that means, and neither did the employers that I cold-called. I was getting desparate. If I was going to find work, I'd have to find it myself.

I asked an ex-coworker for a contact at a web development company that seemed like a good match. She gave me the name of the President, who was someone I knew from the church I attended for a while. I called him. He had nothing for me, so I asked him for a contact at a company they partnered with (I found that info on their site). The person at this other company was someone else I knew from that church. They had nothing available at that time, but soon someone left and they called me to replace him. I started part-time, and eventually went to full-time. It was a disfunctional company, and I got out after a year, but that job got me back into the game.

The morale of the story: network! I hate networking, and hate making phone calls, but it worked for me. Well, that plus a fistful of luck.

Also, a mindless retail gig isn't such a bad thing, if you can still do your job search at the same time. It brings in a little money, might not be a big cognitive drain, and (more importantly) shows your partner that you're trying.
posted by booth at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2005

It's important to realize that there's a difference between recruiters (aka headhunters) and employment agencies.

Agencies generally farm out temp/clerical/low level jobs. They're great for filling in gaps while you find something career appropriate, but they're not likely to help you on your search.

Recruiters, on the other hand, make a lot of money by getting you placed at the highest salary possible. There are two types of recruiter: Employer paid and Personal Paid. Unless you have a PhD, and are looking for jobs in the upper 6 don't need the agent-type "you pay" recruiter. You want the employer paid kind. :)

You don't have a zip code listed on your user page, so I can't do a quick google to see which big recruiting houses are near you, but once you find a few, call and make an appointment to see one of their IT recruiters. Sell him on your skills. He/She will sell it to the employer. They're good at it. It's what they do.

Also, broadcasting your resume via Monster and the like never hurts. It doesn't do much good, other than to get you entered into a slew of employment databases...but it doesn't hurt.
posted by dejah420 at 12:40 PM on February 28, 2005

High schools are desperate for teachers, and a lot of them have ways getting around the fact you're not a teacher. Plus, teaching gives you a lot of time to search for a real job if you play your cards right. I say start looking for substitution possibilities (my mom got paid in cash for those, 10 years ago the going rate was $80 a day at a Catholic school). She did have teaching credentials but those are not needed for everything.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying it, but it's a paycheck you need and don't want a meaningless job -- teaching could be a very good way to get back on track. And I mean teaching for High School or older, otherwise there is too much babysitting to do.

I'm just assuming with your two somewhat intellectual degrees you'd do well in an academic environment.
posted by geoff. at 12:50 PM on February 28, 2005

Location: Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Pop. ~120K

I've applied at all the big employers in the area, but of course through the front door only (so far).

fixedgear: Federal Jobs Database lists 1 opening for this area, but thanks!

Sorry if I come across as pessimistic/negative. I'm not sure I'm thinking clearly today.
posted by yesster at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2005

geoff, you must live in a nice place for substitute teachers.

Where I live, starting pay in the public schools is $40/day for substitutes and slightly less at the catholic schools.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2005

I owe my career to one book, and I highly recommend you read it at this point in your life. Yes, it's cheesy, but it's incredibly effective at getting you a job you'll want. One of the main points it makes is that the best jobs are never advertised; then it tells you exactly how to get those kinds of jobs. And it works.
posted by Miko at 2:47 PM on February 28, 2005

All I have to go on are classified ads and limited online resources.

My sense is that a lot more jobs are posted online these days (and are therefore theoretically accessible to anyone) than used to be the case. But certainly some are best found via networking.

For the sake of completeness, I hope you're checking:

South Dakota Department of Labor listings for Sioux Falls. For example, there is a listing there for a Help Desk Coordinator., which aggregates job postings on various employer websites. (There were 37 listings for Sioux Falls; again, I didn't see anything directly applicable, but YMMV.)

Good luck -- looking for work is a tough job!
posted by WestCoaster at 3:22 PM on February 28, 2005

I recommend It searches Monster, Dice, and every other job site I know of, and returns the results quickly.

HR is definitely in the way of qualified applicants for many jobs. Networking is the way around HR.

If you see a job in the newspaper, and it lists a salary, don't bother applying. That ad is so the hiring company can say, "We couldn't find any qualified US citizens," and go ahead and hire the non-citizen they want. The salary listing is required by the gov't as part of the "proof".
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:55 PM on February 28, 2005

« Older iPod Liquid Disaster!   |   Boom! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.