How to Find a Job Without Using Job Boards

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Wouldn't it be nice to wake up tomorrow morning and discover that the Powerball ticket you purchased made you instantly rich beyond your wildest dreams? Even knowing that the odds of winning big are infinitesimally small, the get-rich-quick dream continues to drive people to spend millions of dollars on lottery tickets every week.

That same mentality transfers to job seekers who fail to do much beyond apply to numerous jobs advertised on job boards. Every such online submission is simply a remote chance to win consideration for a job. The unfortunate reality is that only about 5 percent of job seekers obtain jobs through ads, according to Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers.

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Here are five job-search activities that will greatly improve your odds of successful career advancement:

1. Create a list of target companies. There are many ways to identify the kinds of companies you seek. Here are three examples:
  • Conduct a LinkedIn company search by choosing an industry type and location.
  • Look at industry associations to find member companies in your geographic area.
  • Search for companies on Google. For example, search for: [company type] NEAR [your zip code].

2. Conduct in-depth research on your target companies. Here's where a large LinkedIn network can really pay off: You can easily search for people who work at your target companies, see what positions they hold and how you are connected to them. Learn who among your connections can provide information about the company, its challenges and needs.

You'll also want to know which companies on your list are in the news and for what. Check them out on Google, Google News and Google Finance. You'll get an array of results and information from these different searches. Also check out the company's website employment sections to see if it's seeking people like yourself. However, hold off on applying if you can possibly get someone on the inside to make an employee referral on your behalf.

3. Network yourself into your target companies. Your odds of getting hired and receiving a higher salary dramatically improve when you are referred by a current employee. And, surprisingly, the salary boost is greatest when you are referred by someone who isn't in the department to which you are applying, according to research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York​.
  • Reach out to your connections. Talk about your interests, and rather than going for an immediate referral, take the time to see what the employees can tell you about possibly working there: the environment, employment practices, pressures and so on.
  • Wherever possible turn an online connection into a human relationship. Simply offering to buy someone a cup of coffee outside working hours can open up a floodgate of information and assistance.

4. Make yourself findable. No matter how much research you do, you'll never uncover all the job openings out there! That's why it is important to make yourself visible to those who are seeking people with your talents and experience.
  • If you don't already have personal website, build one. Include a copy of your résumé, and blog from time to time about things that interest you professionally. Write about articles you've read, news related to your field and so on. Create links to other sites of interest, such as networking groups and professional and alumni associations. Adding pictures, a portfolio of your work and anything else that demonstrates your knowledge and professionalism will make you more findable by search engines.
  • Craft a compelling LinkedIn profile. Make certain to have a professional quality headshot and fill in key accomplishments for each of the positions you've held. Take advantage of the Skills section to list up to 50 of your key talents. Join LinkedIn groups based on your industry, job function, skill set and location, as well as alumni groups. When your profile is complete, you'll be amazed at how often you'll be contacted by recruiters and hiring managers who seek people like you!

5. Turn off your computer, and get out of the house. Of course, your computer is an indispensable tool for everything from writing your résumé to online research and social networking. In the end, however, it is personal relationships that matter most. Use the information you gain online to propel you into new and ever deepening professional relationships.
  • Deepen your research efforts through in-person informational interviews.
  • Attend meetings of your professional organizations.
  • Take classes to increase your skills and knowledge.
  • Go to conventions and conferences where you can meet people with similar professional and personal interests.
The more you meet with people, the better you will become at telling your story. And the more you do your research, the better you'll be at interviewing once you get to that stage.

All this, of course, is labor intensive and time-consuming. But remember: Far more millionaires accumulated their wealth though steadily working for it rather than waiting for a miracle lottery ticket. And far more job searches end successfully when they begin with solid strategies and painstaking follow-through rather than blindly submitting a résumé online to one job opportunity after another.

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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