Prospecting and Networking to Uncover
the Hidden Job Market

While you have been searching for a new job (whether you are transitioning to the civilian sector or you are a military spouse or veteran), you should know how to prospect and network effectively in order to uncover the hidden job market.

One way to access the hidden job market is to conduct informational and referral interviews. These interviews can yield useful job search information and may lead to job interviews and offers.

Prospecting and networking techniques play an important role in finding people with whom you can conduct informational and referral interviews.

Networking is the process of purposefully developing relations with others.

Networking in the job search involves connecting and interacting with other people who can possibly help you.

The more you develop, maintain, and expand your networks, the more successful should be your job search.

Your Basic Network

This may encompass friends, acquaintances, spouse, family, distant relatives, professional colleagues, supervisor, co-workers, and local businesspeople and professionals, such as your banker, lawyer, doctor, dentist, pastor, accountant, and insurance agent. All of these people can be contacted for advice relating to your job search.

Expanding Your Basic Network

Expand the above list to include people you know and have interacted with over the past 10 years or more. Include people on your Christmas card list, former classmates and military buddies, politicians, businesspeople, previous employers, professional associates, anyone who is not already part of your basic network.

You should then try to link this network to others' networks. Ask people in your basic network for referrals to individuals in their networks.

Approaching Strangers as Part of Your Prospecting Campaign

On occasion you may need to approach strangers without prior contacts. An example is writing a letter to someone you feel may be useful to your job search. Research this individual first so you are acquainted with his/her background and accomplishments. In your letter, refer to their accomplishments, mention your need for job information, and specify a date and time you will call to schedule a meeting.

You can also call and introduce yourself to the stranger by phone and request a meeting and/or job information.

The best way to initiate a contact with a prospect is to send an approach letter and follow it up with a phone call.

Your Prospecting Campaign

The key to successful networking is an active and routine prospecting campaign. Salespeople understand the art of prospecting. Like sales situations, the job search is a highly ego-involved activity often characterized by numerous rejections accompanied by a few acceptances.

A good prospecting pace as you start your search for information is to make two new contacts each day. Emphasize to them that you are only seeking information and advice at this time, NOT a job.

Hopefully each contact will refer you to two or three others, who in turn will refer you to still others. Consequently, your contacts should multiply considerably within only a few weeks.

When people whom you contact understand that you are seeking information, advice, and referrals, most of them will gladly volunteer such information. They like to talk about themselves, their careers, and others, and enjoy giving advice.

This approach should yield a great deal of information, advice, and referrals from your prospects. In addition, those whom you interviewed will remember you as the person who made them feel at ease and who sought and received their valuable advice.

After contacting 100 prospects, you will have 100 sets of eyes and ears to help you in your job search!

Whom to Contact Within an Organization
for an Informational Interview

You want to contact people who are busy, who have the power to hire, and who are knowledgeable about an organization.

The least likely candidate is someone in the human resources department.

Secretaries, receptionists, and the person you want to meet may refer you to others.

Practice the 5 R's of Informational Interviewing

The guiding principle behind prospecting, networking, and informational interviewing is this: The best way to get a job is to ask for job information, advice, and referrals; never ask for a job.

You want those whom you interview to do the following:

REVEAL useful information and advice
REFER you to others
READ your resume
REVISE your resume
REMEMBER you for future reference

SOURCE: Adapted from Military Transition to Civilian Success (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 339-356. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.