The job search is challenging enough sifting through websites searching for the perfect prospect.  Add to that the fact that often employers don’t advertise many of their openings in a traditional way. This can make for an even slimmer pool of prospective career opportunities.  In the Forbes article “6 Ways To Crack The ‘Hidden’ Job Market”, ways to discover these unadvertised listings are discussed.  Here are three points I found extremely beneficial:

Be consistent.

Networking is king.  Not only networking, but consistent networking.  We already knew this, but like many obvious things in life, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to overemphasize.

Let’s take for example my colleague, Jill.  I invited Jill to a happy hour once, where I knew there would be lots of professionals from all different companies for her to meet.  She had expressed an interest in expanding her career aspirations.  I knew that this would be a great opportunity for her to meet some people who may be able to help her reach her goals.  When I asked, she looked at me stone-faced, and said, “I don’t hang out with people from work, and I don’t drink.”

First of all, I completely respect those who do not drink.  Whether it’s for health, religious or personal reasons, that is completely respectable and understood.  However, professional happy hours are absolutely not about drinking.  Secondly, the furthest thing from your mind should be the beer specials.  Yes, there are drinks there.  Yes, there will be “that guy” that has way too many and makes a fool of himself.  Yes, for some a drink may make it easier to approach someone you normally wouldn’t.  As a rule of thumb, I always keep it to a two-drink maximum, and often stick to club soda if I really mean business.  Patti Stanger (Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker) would be proud.

What Jill failed to recognize was what we all have heard many times before: The personal and unofficial relationships we make while networking outside of work can be more beneficial than those made sitting in our cubicle.  Making networking a habit is the best way to incorporate it into your schedule.  By all means this does not always include happy hour, but professional development seminars and conferences offer exceptional chances to network too.  Set a goal to go to one seminar a year, or a month.  Whatever works for you.

Be genuine.

We’ve all seen that guy.  The one who walks around networking events hawking the most prestigious guests and snubbing us “underlings”.   Newsflash: You do not know anyone’s story unless you ask.  My nametag may say “associate”, but sometime soon it could say “vice president”.  By limiting your interactions with the biggest fish, you could be missing the greatest opportunity of all.

A genuine interaction with someone on your level could be incredibly beneficial and mutually rewarding.  They could offer insight into a new career field, or know about one of these hidden opportunities that we’ve heard so much about.  Another factor of being genuine is having an actual conversation with people, using actual conversational skills. This means looking people in the eyes when you’re talking to them.  This means asking questions.  This means learning one small detail about everyone you speak with at the event.  Most importantly, this means following up the next day and solidifying your connection either by professional networking site (ahem, or by email.  Be cautious though, as too many invites from multiple sites can be off-putting.  You don’t need to reach out on every social media platform, by email and phone call.  Balancing interaction with a new contact is a good thing.

Be giving.

This is last, but most critical.  You are a resource for others.  Just like the old adage from Christmas past says, in networking “it is better to give than to receive”.   Pass along opportunities to those you know are searching for a new job.  Mentor a newbie in your career field.  Drag Jill to that happy hour! The kindness you show to others is what you can expect when you’re in need.  The hidden jobs aren’t so secret to those who network smartly.

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Erika Wonn is a communications analyst and proud veteran in Washington, DC.