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5 unconventional ways to find your dream job and get hired

Forget job boards and recruiters. These outside-the-box tactics will help you find a job you love.
Image: Casual business man moving into a new office
Sixty-three percent of jobs aren't filled through online listings: Networking with hiring managers ensures you have your foot in the door before jobs are even posted. andresr / Getty Images

The scenario is all too familiar: a layoff or a desire to leave your current company catapults you into the job hunt, which means stalking job boards and mass emailing your resume into cyberspace. If you’re lucky, you'll hear back from one or two and maybe snag an interview.

The odds aren't in your favor: According to Glassdoor only two percent of online applicants will be called in for an interview for the average job opening. So the cycle continues: Find job posting, send resume, wait.

As tedious as it is, the process is unavoidable: Most of us will find ourselves looking for a new job numerous times over the course of our careers.

“The graduate entering the workforce today will have 10-14 jobs by the time they’re 35,” says Marya Triandafellos, business consultant and author of “CareerX: Expert Advice on How to Cultivate Your Career.” And it's not just the current generation entering the workforce who will have ample experience job hunting: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, baby boomers born between 1957 to 1964 held an average of 11.9 jobs from ages 18 to 50. "We need to get comfortable with the job search process because we’ll spend one to three years of our career in the searching mode,” says Triandafellos.

We’ll spend 1 to 3 years of our career in job-searching mode.

Beginning her career as the owner of a boutique design firm, Triandafellos then worked as a consultant hired by hundreds of companies to build and lead in-house digital creative teams, where she also hired hundreds of freelance staff herself. This experience gave her a unique perspective on the career process — from both the applicants point of view and from the hiring managers perspective. And she observed that most people tend to follow a conventional job-searching process:

  • Responding to posts on job boards and company websites
  • Working with recruiters
  • Attending job fairs
  • Participating in networking events

The problem is, this is only one of the many routes to your next gig. So if your search stops at that, you're severely limiting the job opportunities that come your way. Instead of sending off that hundredth resume, Triandafellos suggests giving these five unconventional strategies a try — you may just snag your dream job.

Get the Job Before It’s Posted

WHY: “The reality is that only 37 percent of jobs are filled through online job boards. What about the other 63 percent?" says Triandafellos. According to some, these numbers are even bleaker: A 2014 survey conducted by CareerXroads revealed that a measly 15 percent of job positions were filled through job boards — the majority were filled internally or though referrals. "What frequently happens is that the hiring manager first considers who they can hire from their network. If they don’t know anyone, then the job is posted. That means your goal is to anticipate opportunities before they’re posted,” says Triandafellos.

HOW: “To snag that job before it goes live to the masses, schedule meetings with your network connections,” says Triandafellos. “Connect with colleagues to get their insights on what’s happening in their company: Is there an employee on the way out? Is a company reorganization scheduled? Will there be a merger with another company? Consider any opportunities that could result in a new role for you.”

Conduct “Intelligence Gathering,” Then Submit a Proposal

WHY: “I know of a creative director who was passionate about a company. He wanted to work there, but no roles were available. He conducted what I call 'intelligence gathering' because you almost have to be a spy to uncover some of this info,” says Triandafellos.

Intelligence gathering is extensively researching a company, which Triandafellos says means you:

  • Contact colleagues who work there or who are alumni (do that through LinkedIn)
  • Read news about the company, competitors and the industry
  • Follow their senior management on social media
  • And scour the company’s website

“From the intelligence this creative director gathered, he created an amazing infographic proposal that included his key accomplishments and other resume-based info, his understanding of the company’s challenges and a proposed high-level solution. The company was so impressed, they created a unique role for him,”

HOW: To create job proposals, Triandafellos says to start by creating your list of 3-5 favorite companies. Shoot for the top and work your way down; your odds of success will be best in companies where you have the most contacts and contacts in the highest positions.

Create a Networking Event

WHY: “I know, not everyone feels comfortable at networking events, let alone creating one! But I think it’s a matter of re-framing. It’s really about meeting people you like, helping each other, and building relationships. It’s not about selling yourself,” says Triandafellos.

HOW: If it’s your first event, Triandafellos says to ask a colleague to co-host a casual meet up for coffee or happy hour. Invite colleagues and ask them each to bring one guest to the event to give you exposure to a larger audience. “At the event, you’ll communicate your current job search goals and connect attendees with matching needs. Or consider moderating a panel discussion to highlight your expertise. Get creative and have fun thinking of event ideas!” she says.

Volunteer Your Way to a Job

WHY: Particularly for those interested in a career change, Triandafellos suggests volunteering for a nonprofit whose values align with yours. “I just heard of someone who volunteered for a children’s cancer organization who landed a paid job in a cancer research company. He was thrilled to find a company who shared his life’s mission,” she says.

HOW: “Offer your services as a volunteer for a specific project with a concrete deliverable and end date. For example, if you’re a journalist interested in becoming a copywriter, offer to review and update their website,” says Triandafellos. “While volunteering, you’ll meet others that share your passion and who may have contacts for paid positions in the same field.”

Demonstrate Your Expertise on Social Media

WHY: “Create a topical demonstration of your expertise and share it on social media, groups and blogs,” says Triandafellos. “As an added benefit, choose to hone your skills in a specific area of your expertise." While this strategy is not a direct path to a new job, Triandafellos says that it validates your expertise and provides exposure.

HOW: "For example, if you are a programmer, create a simple, cool app that displays local election results. If you’re an expert in data security, post a white paper about identity theft layman terms. If you’re a marketer, conduct a survey about the best pizza in your neighborhood,” says Triandafellos. After you post it, check back frequently for responses and engage in a dialogue.


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