Job seekers at all levels are challenged with keeping their job search pipeline full. Recently, I got the same question from a current student and a professional with over 20 years of experience: how do I find more leads to job openings?
Usually when I probe more deeply into why a job seeker is stuck, I find one of two problems:
- They only look for leads in a few places; or
- They look in many places but only sporadically.
You need both multiple sources for job leads and the consistency to tap those sources on a regular basis. Here are 10 sources for job leads that you can and should tap again and again to keep your job search pipeline full:
1 - Company websites and social media
Make a list of the companies you are interested in and visit their career sites regularly. In addition, follow them on social media since jobs might be posted there first. You should also follow the key executives in your areas of interest (e.g., Chief Marketing Officer if you are interested in marketing). These people may post job openings in their groups to their personal social media handles, or they might talk about an initiative that gives you an opening to introduce yourself and try to create an opportunity. Finally, once you have your target list of companies, find the competitors for each company on your list to make sure you’re covering as many relevant companies as possible.
2 - Job posting sites
Companies post to their individual websites and social media, but also to job posting sites. I am not a big fan of job postings since many are outdated or wrong to begin with. However, I do recommend job postings as a research tool—to learn about new companies, to give you language that is relevant to your market, to give you ideas about roles and requirements. Find specialty sites for what you are interested in, such as AngelList for startup jobs or FlexJobs for flexible work arrangements or Idealist for non-profit work. Many sites allow you to save search filters so you can easily rerun your search and catch new listings.
3 - Recruiter relationships
Recruiters work for the employer, not the job seeker so they are not going to keep you updated with leads. That said, if you have recruiter relationships—genuine connections built over time—you should keep these connections fresh and let recruiters know you are available and interested in hearing about things. You can also tap recruiters for which roles are in demand. If you don’t have recruiter relationships, the best way to start is to get introduced by someone they have placed or someone at an employer they are working for. Then, nurture the relationship over time and show your marketability when a recruiter does call for that quick interview.
4 - Former colleagues (even ones you didn’t work with directly)
Do not rely on your memory to find your former colleagues. Go line-by-line through your resume, and think about short-term projects, even internships, where you might have worked with people who might now be in a very different place. That junior colleague from 10 years ago might be running a department now (or an entire company). Use LinkedIn to find colleagues from your same company—even if you didn’t work directly together, they may still be helpful. Management consulting firms often have tight alumni networks, where former colleagues help each other simply because they both worked at the same firm at some point.
5 - Former clients
In addition to colleagues, reconnect with former clients. If you are currently working somewhere, you have to be careful telling a current client about your job search, especially if you would be going to a competitor. Your employer may view this as poaching a client. However, if you’re making a career change or otherwise not jeopardizing your client’s business with your employer, then you may be in the clear. Previous clients of previous employers are fair game and should not be overlooked.
6 – Former classmates
Like the camaraderie of former colleagues, former classmates may be helpful out of school pride, even if you didn’t know each other well during school. Even small schools should have hundreds, if not thousands, of alumni, so you should look at the broader pool and not just your years of attendance. In addition, consider all schooling—graduate studies, undergraduate, high school, elementary, even after-school activities and summer school/camp. Just recently I reconnected unexpectedly with an alum from a summer program I attended (on a bleisure trip to Costa Rica no less!) and that unexpected connection may lead to working together.
7 - Alma mater
In addition to former classmates, your alma mater overall should be considered a resource for your job search. Career services, former professors, and the current program directors in your field are all possible sources of job leads. Career services offices typically accept postings, and they may hear about positions from alums. Professors often consult outside the university and can be closer to your market than you expect. Program directors in your field may organize conferences or other events that attract key decision-makers and put them in a position where they hear about what’s trending and who’s hiring.
8 - Professional associations
In addition to industry groups related to your target area, look to affinity groups which can give you access to people across many fields and at all levels. You can also look to conferences and Meetups to find ad hoc gatherings relevant to your job search.
9 - Social associations
Your gym, your children’s schools, and your religious or community center are all places that you regularly frequent and where you probably have relationships with people who know, like and trust you (great for job lead sharing!). Unless you take the time and effort to ask, you may not realize that your aerobics classmate or the parent of your kid’s classmate works at your dream company. Review all of your regular social hangouts and make sure that you have let people know you’re in job search mode. If their eyes glaze over, then they’re not interested in helping you on this particular issue and you can move on. But most people will be helpful.
10 - Personal network
Many of the above suggestions are part of your personal network—recruiter relationships, colleagues, clients, classmates, professional contacts, social contacts. However, you still know even more people—former bosses, mentors, professional references, friends and family. It does take time to sift through everyone you know (again, don’t do this from memory but use your resume and go line-by-line). However, the point is that you want more leads than fewer. Make a comprehensive list of everyone you know, and reach out. You won’t hear from everyone right away so follow up consistently. You don’t want to only talk about your job search (too desperate and too demanding) so that means even more follow up to develop a genuine connection.
Track your outreach so you know how much you are working to keep your job search pipeline full
As I mentioned earlier, some job seekers tap too few sources and some tap enough sources but not enough times. Track your outreach by type of contact and how much you follow up. Then you can see if you are using all the sources at your disposal to find leads, as well as going back to these sources regularly enough that you keep adding to your pipeline. An effective job search is a numbers game—not every lead will yield a job or even an interview, so you need as many leads as possible.