Job search strategies

Your efforts will equal your results

Even though today's job market may look the same, the nature of employment is vastly different. Globalization and technology have greatly impacted how employers fill positions. Consider these trends:

Change is constant and at the speed of the Internet.

  • Work has largely become temporary, contract-based, where workers are independent vendors.
  • Job security no longer comes from the employer; it comes from continuous adaptation to ever-changing demands.
  • Competition is relentless, while the consumption of innovative ideas is insatiable.
  • The average entry-level position for college graduates now requires 3-5 years of experience.
  • Many workers will need to utilize multiple sources of income to maintain a sustainable lifestyle.

These changes are significant to how business is conducted. Yet, no matter how complex, certain facts of the world of work will always remain constant.

Jobs are created from unmet needs.

  • All employers experience issues, challenges, and problems (ICPs).
  • Anyone can get hired, as long as the benefits outweigh the costs.
  • Personal connections provide a greater likelihood of obtaining employment opportunities.

Understanding these trends and truths, the most effective job search strategy in today's economy is to create a position for yourself. How you may ask? Here is your quick guide:

1) Adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.

Entrepreneurship is about using resources to add value. Whether you are going to work for yourself or someone else, value is the essential word for today's job market. Employers need workers who utilize timely, creative, and cost-effective ways to serve customers, solve problems and implement new ideas. Those who recognize that today's employer-employee contract is an exchange of talent for opportunity accept the responsibility of personal career development and will have more freedom and flexibility to engage in satisfying work.

2) Develop your campaign.

The first step to creating a position for yourself is to have a workable plan toward your career goal. That plan should be centered around a carefully thought-out decision based on what you want as it relates to the realities of the world of work.  Of course, the more these two factors overlap, the more options you will have. For example, a decision to pursue an extinct career like a lamplighter, is likely to limit your choices to historic districts within cities that still have gas lamps. Also, the best career plans are pursued proactively, with the deliberate promotion of all your qualifications that comprise you as a dynamic and unique person with characteristics and abilities obtained from your educational/learning achievements, work/volunteer experiences, and leisure activities. The more you work to develop this on-going plan prior to seeking employment, the easier the job market will be for you. That is because the job searching process mirrors the career planning process: clearly matching what you want (position) to the employers' needs (world of work).

3) Recognize the odds.

Common sense suggests that you should spend your job search doing things that are more likely to offer the desired result. Recognizing that job opportunities are developed from ICPs and then evolve to be defined by identified qualifications to solve those ICPs, the job market can be divided into three distinct phases. Let's consider an effectiveness ratio for each:

Advertised Job Market – This is the final phase of the job market and is what most people are familiar with; open and available positions. Often called the "post and pray" method of job searching, these positions comprise approximately 20% of the whole job market. Furthermore, these positions are usually well-defined with sometimes arbitrary qualifications.  The more defined any position, the more likely it is that the employer will utilize highly specific criteria for screening and hiring. Of course in this tough economy, you will have to match the laundry list of these qualifications to be considered.

The primary reason so few positions are advertised, however, is the associated costs to the organization. On average, an employer will spend twice what they will pay the new hire to bring him or her on board.Consequently, when an organization chooses to post a position, it usually represents an emergent need and the most cost-effective resources will be utilized to fill the position as quickly as possible. Since the Internet provides the biggest audience for the expense, you could expect your odds to be billions to one.2 Therefore, this phase of the job market may be a good resource for practicing your professionalism, but like the lottery, it is not statistically likely that these postings will result in satisfying employment.

Hidden Job Market – This is the middle phase of the job market that comprises 80% of unadvertised available positions. As mentioned above, costs can ensure that job opportunity remains in this phase indefinitely. It is during this time that an opportunity starts becoming defined in a position. Organizations will first attempt to solve an ICP internally, but if those strategies fail and the ICP remains, they will conduct an informal search to find how others resolved the same ICP.  In other words, employers begin networking to fill positions. Employers prefer this form recruiting as it is less expensive and more reliable. In fact, research and best practices have repeatedly demonstrated that employee referrals account for the majority of successful hiring.3 Simply put, people like to hire people they know. Therefore your odds in this phase of the job market are the number of employees (and their networks) to one. Much better than the advertised job market, but you still will have to effectively negotiate how your skills and abilities align with the organizations' needs.

Undefined Job Market – This is the first phase. Actual job positions as they are known in the other phases do not exist here; they are merely opportunities characterized by the ICPs any organization navigates as a result of doing business. In other words, a job opportunity will exist when an ICP becomes greater than the cost of doing business.  This is the point where you can create a position for yourself. The idea is that regardless of whether the organization is hiring, you can propose how employing you can add value. In order to do this, you will need a carefully planned presentation that demonstrates the financial need, presents yourself (backed by your personal credentials) as the solution to the ICP, and how you will benefit the organization. The odds of getting hired with an effective pitch that clearly saves time, money or provides innovative talent in today's competitive market are very favorable indeed.

4) Hone your skills.

Of course, you will need to master certain career skills in order to create a position for yourself. The two most essential skills needed for today's job market are research and networking. Regardless of which phase you are seeking employment, you must know what you need to know and connect to the appropriate people. For example, when you apply for and advertised position, it will be fitting for you to at least research the organization. Likewise, networking is the only way to tap into the hidden job market. Remember, networking is about developing mutually beneficial, personal relationships with others. To truly be effective in the undefined job market, however, you will need to utilize both skills to a higher degree. For example, rather than asking for job leads when networking, start listening for opportunities to solve ICPs. You will also need to conduct market research to better understand trends, industries, and the economy to which organizations operate within.

Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the employment market. To navigate it successfully, you will need to effectively invest your time, money and energy to achieve your desire results. You can start by asking yourself "how can I benefit an organization by saving time, money, or contributing my talent?", then use your career savvy to implement a strategic plan that clearly demonstrates how you add value to an organization's goals. Want to learn more about creating opportunities for yourself? Contact Career Services at (313) 577-3390, 1001 Faculty/Administration Building, or online at

1Bliss WG. Cost of employee turnover can be staggering. Fairfield County Business Journal. 2001;40(19):20. Accessed October 11, 2019.

2Mattiuzzi, C (May 13, 2009) "Does Work?"

3Haun, L. (March 22, 2013) Source of Hire: Referrals, Career Sites, Job Boards Dominate:

3Zappe, J. (January 31, 2012) Employee Referrals May Be Even More Effective Than We Think: