Out of Work: Networking and hidden job market

by Britt Aamodt
Contributing writer

In fairy tales, crucial pieces of information are often hidden, like Rumpelstiltskin’s name or the reason why the princess can’t get a good night’s sleep (someone snuck a pea under her mattress).

To many people, who grew up in an era in which a handshake provided an opening for a job and rubbing shoulders with the company crowd was the “thing” to do to launch a career, figuring out this new era of social media networking feels a little like standing at a magic door and forgetting the secret word.

Open ses…sesquicentennial? Nah. Shoot.

Kayla Stai of the Minnesota School of Business will help unlock the world of social networking for job hunting.

Kayla Stai, campus communications specialist at Elk River’s Minnesota School of Business (MSB), has the answer, or rather the word. It’s social.

A maven of the new school of social media, Stai will be presenting a free workshop, “Networking and the Hidden Job Market,” for ISD 728 Community Education’s Out of Work series. The Tuesday, Feb. 21 presentation begins 6:30 p.m. at Handke Center.

The one-hour session promises to demystify today’s job market and teach participants how to leverage both on-line and in-person networking to find and get jobs.

“Many companies aren’t posting job openings on monster.com or careerbuilder.com anymore,” says Stai, who regularly shares her knowledge with students at MSB. “They’ll get a thousand resumes from a single post. It’s overwhelming. I read a statistic that around 80 percent of applicants aren’t even qualified.”

So, if jobs aren’t posted at online job sites, where are they? Stai says companies are opting to list jobs on their own company websites or on a business-related social networking site like LinkedIn.

“They figure that if you’re going to their website, you already know something about their company. You’ve done research and you’re actually interested in the company. You’re not some Susie Q who’s applying for every job she finds,” says Stai.

The advantage of LinkedIn for a job seeker, she adds, is that it functions like an online resume. It allows you to apply for a job posted on LinkedIn by forwarding your profile, which you compile at the time you sign up.

“We have a student who found his job through LinkedIn. He had it on his profile that he was looking for an information technology job. A company saw his profile and out of the blue contacted him to see if he was interested in a job,” says Stai.

Online networking has its downside, though. She cautions against Facebook if you’re in the midst of a job search. Even if you limit your privacy settings to friends, companies can hire third-party agencies to do background checks and gain access to your blocked account.

If you’re more a face-to-face kind of person and freeze up at the thought of online networking, fear not. Social media has not made handshakes obsolete. The old chestnut “It’s who you know, not what you know” is still operational in 2012.

“But I tell students that if you’re going to attend a networking event, do something crazy. Wear your name tag upside down. I knew a woman who always left her sunglasses on her head, because it became a conversation starter,” says Stai. “You want to be friendly and visible, not the person standing in the corner.”