Job search like a salesperson to get a job that doesn’t exist – yet.

You’ve heard it countless times: With the economic recovery crawling along in the slow lane job seekers need to prepare for a longer than expected search and consider new and innovative ways to differentiate. But how do you prepare for a longer than expected search when you don’t have any sense of how long it’s going to take in the first place, and how can you be innovative when there’s seemingly little room to be creative?

Learn how to predict the future.  Ok, yes, it sounds silly, but it’s not so far from the truth – it is possible, but it takes some serious creativity and smarts.

Like gold prospectors and oil exploration companies, job seekers need to plan, research, and take some calculated risks to find their payoff. Today, job seekers need to focus on looking for jobs that don’t yet exist, and yes, like making water from stone, it isn’t easy but it is entirely possible. In fact, this type of prospecting is something that sales people do all the time., so while it may not be commonplace for job seekers it is entirely possible and becoming more and more critical.

So, how does one find a job that doesn’t exist? It’s all about working your network to uncover "upcoming opportunities” – these are jobs that don't exist yet but soon will due to pending terminations, mat-leaves, expansions, and other organizational changes. Companies are like living organisms - things change constantly, people retire or quit and new projects are launched all the time, so new opportunities are always on the horizon.

To uncover "upcoming opportunities” one must be tapped into the pulse of the organizations and/or industries they are looking to penetrate, and continuously reengage and nurture the contacts in their network so they stay top-of-mind when a suitable opportunity arises. By nurturing your contacts, you put yourself ahead of the curve, and you’ll find out about opportunities in advance rather than after the fact. This is precisely how top salespeople beat out the competition and win new customers. Cultivating your network and staying top of mind (the way top salespeople do) is far more likely to lead to the kind of connections and discussions that result in getting hired.

Here are some tips on how to effectively cultivate your network and stay top of mind:

Become an expert:
Get to know your target industry (and the companies you are interested in working for) so well that when you communicate with people in it you're participating in a discussion, not asking for a favor. The more knowledgeable you are about their industry or company, the more interested your contacts will be in speaking with you, and the more likely you’ll be able to recognize potential future job opportunities.

Don’t ask for help:
Don’t ask your contacts about jobs or people who might be hiring. Instead, use your knowledge of the company or industry to share your perspective or offer information. By asking about your contact’s views on industry issues, you can then offer your perspective, and this sets up a completely different dynamic – one that makes you far more interesting and makes you appear far less needy.

Talk a little, listen a lot:
The more you listen, the more you’ll learn, and the better able you'll be to recognize opportunities when they are raised in conversation. Mat-leaves, expansions, and many types of organizational changes are what you’re looking for, so listen carefully and always be ready to probe a little deeper when these topics come up.

Be a consultant:
Top salespeople act like consultants; they look to solve customer problems rather than pitching the sale. By listening, you’ll hear about challenges your contacts and their companies are facing, and if you’ve done your homework you’ll be able to contribute your expertise by talking about what other companies have done in similar circumstances. For a dry-run, consider spending time on the Q&A section of Linkedin, where you’ll find all sort of questions from people looking for answers that you might be able to provide.

Establish next steps:
Have the confidence to end every meeting by establishing next steps – this may be a follow-up meeting or a touch-base over the phone a few months from now. What’s most important is ensuring that you can continue the dialogue at some point – and while you may not be able to firmly schedule a follow-up at the end of your first meeting, you need to open the door for the next one.

Manage your pipeline:
Top salespeople are fastidious about keeping track of every conversation with every potential customer. They know when they last spoke with them, what they talked about, what information they shared, and what’s important to them. Job seekers should do the same: Keep detailed records of everyone you've spoken with, when, and what you talked about, so that when something relevant appears in the news or on a blog you’ve got reason to follow-up with them.

Salespeople often get the sale because they are trusted and have built their credibility over time, not because they hit prospects over the head with a sales pitch. They predict the future by knowing about their target industry, listening for upcoming opportunities, and being able to position themselves as part of the solution. Job seekers can do the same, and the better you get at it the greater your odds of finding a job in a company and industry you are genuinely interested in.

Not everyone has the courage to try, but by learning how predict the future of the companies and industries you’re interested in you’ll be at a distinct advantage – at least for now. Just don’t tell too many people about how you do it.
Reprinted with permission from


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