The ‘Golden Ticket’ of job searching is having a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager. This means that you know the hiring manager before the hiring manager is hiring. In fact, he or she may have you, or someone like you, in mind before they even sit down with HR to describe the position they want to fill. If they really want someone like you, they may have asked you for a resume before working with HR to review or write the job description. This is the situation that people mean when they say “most jobs aren’t advertised.” Eventually this job will actually be advertised, but the front-runner will be known. If that front-runner is you, then that’s a ‘Golden Ticket.’
The power of having a large network of relationships (not just connections on LinkedIn, but real pre-existing relationships) is that you have more ‘Golden Ticket’ opportunities.
Now let’s talk about the ‘Paper Ticket:’ A job at ABC company has been advertised for a couple weeks and someone I don’t have much relationship with contacts me and says “do you know anybody at ABC company? They are advertising a perfect job for me!” I can connect them with someone I know there, but the reality is, this is way late in the process. I give them the “Paper Ticket,” but it will be quickly torn in half, and they will be directed to queue up with all the other unknown applicants.
There is something in between – not as good as a ‘Golden Ticket,’ but not as flimsy as the ‘Paper Ticket.’ Let’s call it a ‘Silver Ticket.’ That’s when you learn of a vacancy before the job has been advertised, and hopefully before the job description has been reviewed. You don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager, and if someone else does, then their Golden Ticket is going to trump your Silver Ticket. But if the hiring manager doesn’t have someone in mind, connecting with them at this critical juncture may allow your resume to influence their thought process in reviewing the job description. Certainly, in the back of their mind, you could become the standard against which they evaluate other candidates who respond to the ad.
So how do you find out about these vacancies before the job ad to fill them is shared with the market. LinkedIn is a great source of this type information. First, LinkedIn will inform you when your connections update their profiles with a new position (unless they have changed the default setting). If they have a new position, that usually means they left an old position, and there is a vacancy. Sometimes the change is a promotion in title, and there is no vacancy; sometimes the “new job” is a part-time activity in addition to their job, which they still have. In some cases they have updated their profile so tardily that the job was probably filled months ago. You need to review their profile closely to better understand the situation, and then it may be worth reaching out to them to fully understand.
There are also times when your connections will update their profile, but because they’ve changed the default settings, the change won’t show up on your notification feed. It’s always a good idea as you network and job search to take note of anyone’s profile who appears to have recently changed positions.
Finally, if you are a member of the Opt for Change group on LinkedIn, you may see that I post from time to time “New Job Vacancy?” when I see someone in my network has left a position. In all of these cases, it’s important to remember that just because someone left, doesn’t mean there is a vacancy. The position may have been eliminated, or there may have been an internal succession candidate who was moved into the role (which may create a lower level opportunity).