Proactive Job Search Approaches
It is important that you do not rely solely on applying for positions via online vacancy listings, as you will potentially be competing against many other applicants. If you are unknown to the employer, you risk being overlooked due to the masses.
The Australian government National Skills Commission Survey of Recruitment Methods Used by Employers (2021) identifies a range of recruitment strategies adopted by employers. The surveyed employers often used more than one recruitment strategy to fill vacancies. Strategies included:
- Recruitment websites and job boards – 56%
- Word of mouth – 32%
- Social media – 24%
- Recruitment agency/Employment services – 12%
- Company website – 12%
- Approached by job seeker – 7%
- Promoted within business – 6%
- Sign in window/billboard- 5%
- Newspaper – 4%
To ensure you do not miss opportunities, you will need to undertake a number of proactive strategies, including, demonstrating your potential and building your networks, as well as approaching employers, recruiters and others working within your field of interest.
While many jobs are listed online, there are job opportunities that are not advertised. It is estimated that 1 in 5 jobs are not advertised. These opportunities are often referred to as the ‘hidden job market’. Positions are gained through word of mouth or referral, so what you see online does not represent all the opportunities that are available in the world of work.
Successful graduates look for opportunities to connect with employers and identify opportunities throughout their studies at JCU – rather than hoping that the perfect job will appear when they finish. The following proactive job search strategies are designed to help you stand out to employers and be successful in identifying and securing graduate employment.
Have a strong online presence
It is estimated that over 90% of recruiters are using social networking and online tools to source, attract and research job applicants. Therefore, it is essential that you ensure your online persona presents a consistent professional image which highlights your qualifications, skills, abilities, and experiences.
Gain the attention of employers
Be proactive on social media. Engage with your future industry area. Demonstrate that you are actively contributing and adding value to your future profession. Carefully manage your online footprint and only make posts that fit your professional image and job search strategy.
- Identify key employers and employees in your area and connect with them
- Post on topics relevant to your industry area
- Establish a blog or personal website and write on topics relevant to your industry
- Tweet carefully and to the point
- Follow employers and influencers of interest on social media
- Join and contribute to relevant online forums and groups where your target employers are participating.
Keep your privacy settings tight on all your social networks that you do not wish to be seen by employers. Most employers will research an applicants’ online presence during the recruitment process to determine their professionalism and if they are the right fit. Employers have changed their minds about hiring a candidate based on their social media profile. They particularly do not want to see illicit drugs, drunken photos, profanity, defamatory comments, bad spelling and grammar. Remember that what you put online stays there forever, even if you delete it – so always think twice before you post anything.
If you would like to further explore how to effectively gain the attention of employers, complete the Develop Your Professional Identity module within JCU Employability Edge.
Identify job opportunities through your networks
You are surrounded by connections that could lead to employment. You have access to a large network of people who you know from high school and university, part-time employment, professional associations, extracurricular activities, family relationships, and day-to-day social contacts. All of these contacts are potential sources of information and referrals, and are therefore valuable resources for your graduate job search and your ongoing career development. Let your networks know what you are up to professionally and that you are looking for work.
Employers are more likely to recruit someone who has been recommended by a trusted contact, than an unknown person through a job posting. When filling a vacancy, employers will often ask their staff or networks for recommendations of potential candidates. Let your networks know that you are actively seeking employment, so that they can put your name forward, connect you to potential job possibilities, and be your referees. LinkedIn Higher Education contends that 80% of positions are filled through a referral.
Sutton (2012) suggests five steps when leveraging your networks.
1. Review your contacts and identify those who will be helpful in your job search
- Talk to your family and friends about your job search
- Increase your scope by looking outside of your immediate circle
- Talk to your neighbours, classmates, academics
- Talk to your professional contacts, i.e. current and former employers, work colleagues, staff you have met on placements or work experience
- Talk to your online professional networks.
2. Prioritise your contacts and identify quality connections
- Firstly, approach contacts with whom you have stronger relationships and know you on a personal level. They will generally be more invested in your job search success.
- Next, approach your contacts who are well-connected and have demonstrated a willingness to connect you to potential employers.
- If a contact cannot help, always ask them if they know someone who could (referrals).
3. Set small goals approaching your contacts can be daunting. Aim to initially approach one contact per week, while you build your confidence.
4. Clearly articulate to your contacts your job areas of interest, and what you can do for an employer (your skills, knowledge and qualifications). This will help your contacts connect you with most appropriate employers and/or job opportunities. Be clear on what support you need from your contacts – it may be a job lead, a referral, an opinion, or advice.
5. Follow up with any leads provided by your contacts and always acknowledge their support by sending a thank you note or email. Keep in touch and let your contacts know of your progress. Consider setting a schedule to follow up with your priority contacts.
Continue to develop your professional networks
Learn to be proactive, and to take advantage of any opportunity to network and meet prospective employers face-to-face. Ensure you present yourself as someone who is positive, enthusiastic, competent, knowledgeable, and interested – a potential employee who is worth serious consideration.
Attend industry events and conferences, and join your industry’s professional association and actively participate. Network with the start up and entrepreneurial community, attend meetups, and register for start up weekends, workshops, and hackathons. Investigate Startup Townsville or the Cairns Startup & Entrepreneurs Meetup group.
Maximise LinkedIn’s networking functionality
Connect with friends, previous university or school classmates, and previous and current work colleagues on LinkedIn. Connect with professionals from a LinkedIn group, recruiters, employers or JCU alumni. LinkedIn Higher Education has connection request templates to help guide you through this process.
If you do not have any connection with an employer of interest, research the employer’s LinkedIn site to identify staff. You will be able to identify your first, second and third-degree connections at that company. Reach out to these connections for a possible introduction or advice about how to best approach the employer. In some industries, it is becoming increasingly important to have a presence on LinkedIn as more and more employers use it as a professional networking site to search for suitable candidates for their opportunities.
If you would like to further explore how to effectively network, complete the Develop Your Professional Identity module within JCU Employability Edge.
Demonstrate future potential
To stand out among the many online applicants, a very effective job search strategy is to demonstrate first-hand your potential to an employer. This may be through:
- Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities (such as a placement, practicum, fieldwork, internships and/or projects) as part of your university studies. Check your College’s work integrated learning or placement pages to identify opportunities.
- Internships, cadetships, vacation programs, work experiences, or student challenges/competitions independent to your degree requirements. These opportunities are advertised on the employers own websites, or through JCU CareerHub, Grad Connection, GradAustralia, Australian Public Service Cadetships, Scholarships and Work Experience, or Queensland Government Student Opportunities sites
- Short-term employment, a casual position, or gig jobs
- Volunteer to Gain Skills and Experience
- Alternative roles (entry level, limited term) with an employer of choice with the intention of progressing into a more preferred position when it became available.
You are potentially one of the first people that the employer considers as a suitable candidate if an opportunity arises within the organisation. If you have a clear idea of your career direction and the graduate employer you wish to work for, then it is strongly recommended you seek an opportunity/experience with that employer to showcase your potential.
In addition, evidence of relevant experience is a high priority for employers. Many employers prefer to hire people with previous experience as it demonstrates your capabilities. It is not guaranteed, but gaining relevant experience can help you stand out in the application process. For information on how to write an ‘Expression of Interest’ for a work experience, go to the Master Written Applications module within JCU Employability Edge.
Register with recruitment agencies
Employers may place vacancies directly with a recruitment agency or an independent recruiter. Good agencies or recruiters can open doors and be of great benefit in your job search.
Recruitment agencies provide different services to employers and job searchers. Some agencies specialise in an industry area, while others will specialise in several areas. Some agencies specialise in entry level positions or temping, while others specialise in executive recruitment. Temping is often a good way to get your foot in the door.
Research and identify the agencies that specialise in your career areas of interest. A simple online search will identify recruitment agencies relevant to your interests.
Attend employer events
Attend careers fairs, job expos and other employer events, either face-to-face or online, to connect with employers and learn about their organisations and current and future job opportunities. These events may be hosted online and present you with the ideal opportunity to connect with potential employers and impress them. After the event, follow up with any contacts via LinkedIn or email to ensure you stay connected and that they remember you.
- JCU coordinated employer events and industry panels.
- The Big Meet is held each year for university students and recent graduates. A wide range of employers participate from private and public sectors, professional associations, and not-for-profit organisations
- JCU Careers and Employability Events, Training and Workshops page, Facebook and Instagram posts advertise upcoming virtual employer events both virtual and face-to-face.
- JCU Connect - the innovation hub for the university, organises events, workshops and other opportunities to develop your creative skills and connect with the entrepreneurial sector.
Directly approach employers of interest
You may find that you have no leads to a job or employer that you are interested in. Do not wait for jobs to be advertised – consider approaching an employer of interest directly. This is often referred to as cold calling.
Before you approach an employer or send a speculative application, ensure you thoroughly research the organisation and the roles within the organisation. Look at their staff listing on their website or LinkedIn page, and check if any of your friends or networks work within the organisation. If so, they may be able to introduce you to the employer. This will greatly increase the chance of an employer responding to your enquiries.
Identify the right person to contact, which may be the Human Resource manager or staffing partner. Check employers’ websites to find out who this person is. Job listings posted on LinkedIn will show who posted the job and give you further information on who you can contact. Make contact and introduce yourself via LinkedIn message or email and express your keen interest in working for their organisation and detailing your relevant selling points. Ensure your message is targeted to each employer and not a generic message sent to hundreds of employers!
Employers are often interested in people who are proactive and make the effort to contact them. Follow up with a phone call or email and request a meeting to discuss possible opportunities. Keep in touch, so that they remember you.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 3
- The Student Job Hunting Handbook: Part 3. Interviewing for Students and Recent Graduates.
- ‘A Career Strategist’s Guide to Getting a Job’ - a training module offered through Linkedin Learning. For free access, login to LinkedIn Learning through the JCU website.