Is there a company in your area that you'd love to work for? Do you assume that, because you don't see them advertising in the classifieds or posting jobs on their website, they have no openings? That may or may not be the case. That truth is, only about one-fifth of job openings are actually advertised!
Here's how to tap into the huge "invisible" job market.
1. Make a list of companies you'd like to work for that are likely to have positions in your field. When composing your list, do some research and take notes about each company. You'll use that later.
2. Obtain the names of the people in those companies who have the power to offer you a job. Simply call each company's main number and ask for the name (ask them to spell it) and title of the manager in your field of expertise (or check to see if this information is available on their website). If possible, also get their email address and direct phone number. Don't let the receptionist give you the name of the Human Resources manager (unless that is the department where you are trying to get a job) because your first point of contact should be with the hiring manager in your field.
3. Write and send a attention-grabbing cover letter with your resume. Address it specifically to the hiring manager in your field. The saluation should include his/her name and title. (Using something like "Dear Hiring Manager" in an unsolicited letter will likely cause it to be tossed in the garbage.) Say something specific about the company (to show you have a genuine interest and did some research) and explain how your skills and qualifications would help them achieve their goals.
If you can refer to someone the addressee knows, this will give your letter a big boost. For instance, "Jim Jones in your accounting department mentioned that you might have a need for someone with a background in direct marketing" (or whatever your field is). Yes, this is name-dropping, and it works! If you don't yet have a name to drop, do some networking... talk to everyone you know and see if they know anyone who works at that company; join associations that may have members who work for that company; go to trade fairs in which they may participate... and so on and so forth.
Your cover letter is extremely important because it's your first contact with the hiring manager. It needs to make a powerful impression. If you need some tips, do an online search for "cover letter samples."
Enclose a customized copy of your resume with each letter.
The more letters and resumes you send out to different companies, the greater your chances are of finding an unadvertised opening and landing an interview.
4. Follow-up with the people you sent cover letters and resumes to. You can do this through email or by calling them. Here's a general idea of what you want to say: "My name is _________. I'm a direct marketer (or whatever your job title is) and I recently sent you a cover letter with my resume. I realize you are very busy, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could verify that you received it... I am very interested in working for your company and am eager to show you how I can be a contributing member of your team.... I'd love to speak with you in person (if doing this by email) or come in for an informational interview..."
If you're sending them an email or leaving a message on their voicemail, conclude with: "Please contact me at your convenience..." (leave your contact info... phone number and email address). Any other steps you take will depend on the success of this one. You might want to follow-up one more time after about 10 days if you don't get any response to your first contact. But don't continue pursuing it after that... focus your job search activities elsewhere.
Even if the majority of people you contact say there are no current openings, these are not necessarily wasted steps. You are demonstrating a proactive approach, and employers admire drive and ambition. You may make such a great impression that you'll be remembered as soon as a vacancy opens up!
Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System and free information-packed ezine, "Career-Life Times." Find those and other powerful career-building resources and tips at her website: http://www.best-interview-strategies.com.