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Discovering the hidden job market.

The employment prospects for 1993 college graduates are not as healthy as one might wish. Although the election of President Bill Clinton signaled an upturn of the economy, the reality is that most companies have not appreciably accelerated their hiring projections for the calendar year.

In such a tight job market, it's imperative for graduates to be extra creative and resourceful in their job-search efforts. Otherwise, they may be disappointed in not finding gainful employment right away even with earning a good degree.

Employment Outlook

According to leading economists, our country is finally pulling out of a long, despairing recession. This is reflected in increased consumer confidence, more household spending, and widespread optimism in most sectors of the business community.

The problem is, generally speaking, companies that are struggling to rebound from a deep recession are not in a position to plan any massive hiring campaigns. Instead, their concern is to stabilize the work force, rehire some of the employees who were laid off, and incrementally add to their staffs only as business significantly improves.

What does this specifically mean for 1993 college graduates? Three hiring trends are apparent.

1) Expect less campus recruiting. According to Michael Forrest, executive director of the College Placement Council, "Placement offices are seeing somewhat of an improvement over last year, but campus recruiting overall is below acceptable norms."

The fact is, many corporate recruiting staffs are operating under tighter budgets than ever before. For this reason, they are being more selective in choosing campuses to visit. Also, they are restricting recruitment trips to areas closer to home.

This trend relates to a broader business practice. "Companies are becoming more decentralized in their hiring programs," says Forrest. "As corporations become more 'flattened' in their organizational structure, more emphasis is placed on operating employment units on a regional, rather than national, basis."

As companies reduce campus recruiting, they adopt other means to attract talented young professionals. Such means include more employment advertising in collegiate publications, using nationwide applicant data bases, and sourcing prospective hires through student chapters of professional associations.

2) Competition will increase from more seasoned workers willing to settle for entry-level positions. The recession resulted in a million American workers "displaced," discouraged, and often desperate to take any job they could get.

As a result, companies have found themselves in a prime position to hire highly credentialed and experienced workers for the same compensation ordinarily paid to junior-level employees.

Many human resource directors report receiving resumes from applicants with graduate degrees for positions that require only a bachelor's degree. It's not uncommon, furthermore, for executive recruiters to see multi-degreed job hunters willing to take almost any suitable position to get on someone's payroll.

For those who've pounded the pavement for a considerable length of time, even an entry-level job with decent benefits is appealing.

3) Retrenchment among major corporations signals less outside hiring across the board. A good example of this is IBM. For decades, the company took pride in hiring top talent for jobs that tended to be more secure than most in the for-profit sector.

Given its nosedive in market share--and mixed forecasts by industry analysts--IBM can no longer boast of its virtual "no lay-off" policy. The company's announcement in late 1992 of reducing its workforce by 25,000 sent shivers throughout the fast-tech industry.

On a broader scale, IBM's woes symbolize the end of the "good old days" when talented graduates could assume that joining a leading Fortune 500 employer assured a long-term career with predictable advancement.

The trend that is developing is for companies to spend more money on retraining proven, loyal employees than to hire new workers who require substantial training. As a result, internal reshuffling, or "recycling," of human resources is becoming a more practical solution to manpower needs.

All things considered, it becomes increasingly important for graduates to investigate the "hidden job market." What is it? How can graduates benefit from it?

The Hidden Job Market

Who's Hiding What? Let's dispel a few myths upfront. A certain mystique surrounds discussion of the hidden job market--as though there are hundreds of jobs just waiting for every bright-eyed Sherlock Holmes to discover.

That's not the case. The fact is, there is no overabundance of jobs in any city in America or within any industry sector. However, there are good jobs that are not announced to the public at large.

The other myth is that a select group of people has the inside track on identifying the hidden job market. Mistakenly, some folks believe that professionals in the employment industry--such as executive recruiters or career counselors--have some esoteric knowledge of how to identify these unannounced jobs.

Point of fact: Anyone with good research and people skills, sophisticated networking capability, and persistence can more readily identify employment opportunities than individuals who lack such resourcefulness.

The key is to discover what companies are in a growth mode, will be hiring, and have a need for the skills that a given job seeker can offer.

How Companies Fill Job Vacancies. The most common approach is to advertise current openings. This is the crux of the "open job market."

Any qualified person who reads the employment want ads can apply for a given advertised position. The problem is, with so many people answering want ads, the competition is keen even for entry-level positions.

Fresh college grads, with limited work experience, are not in an advantageous position when confining their job-search campaign to answering want ads.

Another approach is for companies to post job openings internally. The logic is that current employees may fit the specifications of the job to be filled. Or, current employees might know of someone else whom they can recommend for the position. As such, these jobs are "hidden" from the general public, but known to company insiders.

Similarly, companies sometimes announce job vacancies to other firms in their industries. Under a reciprocal arrangement, human resource managers refer to one another applicants who are worthy of hiring consideration. Similarly, the public at large is generally unaware of such job openings.

Another facet of the hidden job market concerns positions that are "created" for individuals whom companies want to hire. There may, in fact, be no specific job requisition at the time the hire is made.

Illustration: A start-up, high tech company experiences rapid growth and wants to hire the best available talent to meet its staffing requirements. The company's hiring procedures are rather informal. In fact, personnel policy permits line managers to hire exceptionally qualified employees who will essentially write their own job descriptions.

Such hiring procedures occur behind the veil of public awareness of what is taking place.

Creative Job Hunting

Four years of college can well prepare a student to be a good employee--but may not equip him or her to land that all-important first job after graduation.

Students need to go beyond standard job hunting strategies and be more innovative and proactive in their search efforts. Here are some specific suggestions.

* Learn to network effectively. In general, the best jobs are not advertised, but are filled through word-of-mouth referral.

Networking that pays off involves more than casual name dropping and follow through. Several helpful resources explain the methodical approach that must be taken for serious networking.

The book, Is Your "Net" Working?, discusses the different types of influential people who should be a part of one's ever-expanding network. These include: "keystones," "mentors," "propellers," "role models," "challengers," "promoters," and "recommenders."

You may think that as a college student, you really don't know that many people who can help you launch your career. Think again. With some forethought, you can, no doubt, identify scores of people who can assist your job-search efforts. Such persons may know of current or upcoming job openings. Or, they may refer you to other people who can pass along some valuable job leads.

In formulating your list, begin with the obvious, and move to less obvious, influential contacts. Examples:

College professors. Many of them serve on boards and academic advisory groups to big business. Also, they have contacts with companies where they worked previously or perhaps consult with now.

Former students. College friends who have now "made their mark" in the corporate world are often eager to help those who are starting out. They may know of job openings at their places of employment and provide a personal referral that leads to an interview.

Campus recruiters. Stay in touch with recruiters with whom you've recently interviewed. Even if you didn't get the job you interviewed for, you may qualify for some other position.

Likewise, keep in touch with campus recruiters whom you've met in previous years. They might appreciate hearing from you and learning of your current availability.

Professional societies. It's helpful being an active member of professional associations at the student level. Quite often, officers receive information on job openings from corporate staffing specialists. The more active, "visible" members of these organizations are likely to be recommended for hiring consideration.

Fraternity/sorority colleagues. The benefit of belonging to a Greek-letter society goes beyond inclusion in various social events. Through such association, smart collegians develop contacts with influential people in many diverse occupations and professional fields. Using this networking source wisely can be highly advantageous throughout one's career.

Family members and their circle of acquaintances. Often, students feel a little embarrassed at approaching relatives for job leads, especially those who did not attend college. Some see this as an admission that they really need help in job hunting, despite having earned an enviable sheepskin.

Why be embarrassed? Casting out a "net" of communication and personal contacts should be far-ranging. A sister, cousin, or uncle may know of someone who knows of someone who is looking to fill a job that you are qualified for.

Employment network groups. Most cities have church-sponsored job hunters' support groups. It doesn't hurt to make your presence known. The job-search techniques shared will benefit you, as will any specific employment leads you may garner from attending these sessions.

There are, also, networking directories designed to link professionals across the country. SuccessGuide is a group of publications spotlighting influential African Americans in seven major metropolitan cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati-Dayton, Cleveland, Detroit, New York City, and Washington, DC.

Thousands of professionals are listed by occupational categories. Students can glean from the Guide ideas on career enhancement and possible job contacts. For more information about the publications, call 1-800-872-7691.

* Proactively source job openings. One way is to make contact with college relations managers at companies you would have an interest in working for. Publications such as THE BLACK COLLEGIAN provide many contact names and company affiliations.

Even though spring recruitment programs are well under way, it's not too late to submit your credentials to companies of interest that do not recruit on your campus.

Timing is important. Your credentials might arrive at just the right time for the right person to review.

When interviewing, don't be bashful about sourcing the interviewer for other job leads. For example, the company may have other divisions or subsidiaries looking to hire new college graduates. It's beneficial to explore all possible employment options.

Another proactive approach is to source former employers. Who have you worked for as an intern or co-op employee? If you proved yourself as a capable, conscientious worker, supervisors will remember you. They may have an opening for which you are suited--or perhaps refer you to some other potential employer.

Leave No Stone Unturned

In today's tight economy, students should "look under every rock and behind every wall," says Georgia B. Jones, director of Career Planning and Placement at Clark Atlanta University.

She advises students to consider non-traditional careers, such as manager trainee positions with retail companies that offer rapid advancement and profit sharing. A further option would be to investigate opportunities in the non-profit sector.

"Jobs with local, state, and federal government deserve serious consideration. Such jobs may not be as 'glamorous' as those with private corporations, but they represent viable employment options for ambitious young professionals," Jones remarks.

The key is to thoroughly research what is available. Visits to the public library, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local government Office of Personnel Management can pay off.

Aggressive job hunting demands constant digging for information: people contacts, company referrals, and bona fide job leads. The pay-off comes with discovery of a "golden opportunity" that materializes into an employment offer.

"Seek and ye shall find."

Calvin Bruce is vice president with Toar Consulting in Atlanta, an executive search firm. He writes regularly for THE BLACK COLLEGIAN.
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Title Annotation:Annual Jobs Issue
Author:Bruce, Calvin E.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Networking your way to the best job opportunities.
Next Article:Making the transition from college to the world of work.

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