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Detective work

By: Robert Half

Identifying positions to be filled is an integral part of the job search process. The ubiquitous "Help Wanted" pages of local newspapers have always been a primary source, and specialized staffing firms have been matching good candidates to the right jobs for decades. And with the popularity of on-line job postings, job seekers have a wealth of additional resources available.

But there's yet another method of determining where the jobs are. While it involves some detective work, if successfully carried out this strategy can help you locate jobs that don't even exist yet. It involves following the business press to learn of companies whose future plans may involve augmenting their staff.

When a company receives a large new contract, signs up a new client, plans to expand geographically, is set to introduce a new or improved product, or intends to broaden the scope of its operations, that news usually reaches the trade and business press. Learning of these developments can give job seekers an advantage over those who wait until a company's expansion is completed and new jobs are formally advertised.

Other elements to consider in your job search efforts are changes in government regulations. As new laws and regulations are put into effect, certain industries are affected, often altering the way they do business. For instance, revisions in banking insurance regulation now allow insurance companies to offer services formerly restricted to banks only. An astute job-seeking accountant with some background in financial services will recognize, once those new regulations are announced, that insurance companies are going to need to staff their new financial services divisions. They can then target inquiries to those companies long before the competition has a chance to.

It is said that looking for a job is a job in and of itself; it should be approached that way. It isn't enough to simply read the business pages and trade periodicals and then toss them on the recycling pile. Instead, you should be using this information to focus your job search and uncover hidden job leads. Clipping relevant news articles is only the beginning. The most important step is to take action.

Setting up a filing system is helpful in this regard. Each time you read about a company that looks like it will need people with your credentials in the future, set up a file and place the clipping in it. Next, conduct some research into the company, referring to back issues of trade magazines and the broader business press available through your local library or on-line. At the same time, tap into your network of friends and professional colleagues to see what knowledge they might possess about the firm. As you do these things, the file on each targeted company will grow, along with your insight into how it functions, its history, the key management players, and its philosophy for future growth. Keep adding any additional information you can obtain about the organization to the file.

Once you feel you've done all you can to understand what the targeted company is all about, try to locate someone who may know a member of its management. Ask for an introduction, either in-person or through a well-written letter, citing your mutual friend as the reason for contacting the company. At the same time, tailor your resume based on what you know about the company from your detective work.

Using this approach doesn't replace the other time-honored means of seeking employment, but it can be a valuable adjunct to your search for a new and better job.


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