Be the word that comes out of the right mouth

Q: I’m told that most jobs don’t get advertised at all. That sounds so unfair to me. I’m 52 years of age, born and bred in the UK, and I moved to Ireland with my husband four years ago. We didn’t really know many people here but wanted a change of lifestyle from London. It hasn’t gone as well as we would like – we’ve got some work, but mainly part-time or contract, and nowhere near the level we were working at in London. How can we improve our situation? (LK, email).

A: You are right that most jobs don’t get advertised. In the USA, for example, it is estimated that as many as 80 per cent of jobs are what they call unlisted. In fact, one of the leading players over there – Fred Coon of Stewart, Cooper & Coon – reckons the figure is rising due to the fact that recruiters are now pro-actively trawling LinkedIn for the right candidate.

Armed with a job spec and a vision of the ideal candidate, they go on the search, and the deal might be done without the job ever being publicly listed.

I believe the answer lies in networking. This is a term that bugs some people: it carries connotations of forced gatherings, unnatural camaraderie, and so on. But, in reality, it need not be that formal – you can network at your local football club, in your drama group, and virtually everywhere else you meet people.

Ireland is a fraternal society. It’s an ‘everyone knows everyone’ kind of place, and, consequently, word-of-mouth referrals are a critical component of the jobs market.

Rather than curse the darkness, I believe you need to immerse yourself in the local networking stream. Get to know people. Work on committees. Create real relationships, be they friendships or professional acquaintances. Show your reliability and your ability so that one day, when somebody has got to know you is asked would they know somebody who might do this or that, your name is the answer.

Fred Coon writes about this too: “Join associations, Chambers of Commerce, groups, meet-up groups, Toastmasters, etc. and start building contacts before you need them – consider volunteering to give a talk at a meeting of one of these entities as this is a great way to get noticed.

It’s slow work, and you will question why. But if openings are being filled by word-of-mouth referrals – and have no doubt they are – you just need your name to be the words that come out of the right mouths at the appropriate time.