With companies advertising fewer job vacancies, it's time to network like never before, says Caroline Tolond

With companies advertising fewer job vacancies, it’s time to network like never before, says Caroline Tolond


Caroline Toland is the RSC’s careers adviser

Q I have been in my current post for more than three years and am keen to find a new opportunity. The challenge I’m having is finding positions. The job market has been very quiet for a while and it is frustrating but I’ve heard that there is a ’hidden’ job market out there. Do you have any advice for me at this time? 

One of my colleagues recently recounted a story about a university careers event she attended. She commented that many of the speakers, when describing how they got their first break in their career, talked about how chance had been important. The stand out message for the event was that random connections can have a significant impact in the direction of careers.  

Looking back at my own career I know this to be true as all the positions I have held, both part-time and full-time, have either been found through personal contacts or I’ve managed to glean useful information from a contact before an interview. 

None of these ’chance’ events happen by accident though. There is a lot of truth in the saying that ’the harder you work, the luckier you get,’ but if you are struggling with your job search it is probably not the message you want to hear. 

You may be sending out many applications and not getting very far in the recruitment process, or maybe you are simply not seeing suitable opportunities in the job market. It is true that there are fewer vacancies being advertised and the market is more competitive; however employers still need new staff. Many organisations are moving away from advertising in newspapers and magazines and are increasingly using low-cost media to recruit people, such as LinkedIn, MyRSC, Twitter and web message boards. This shift in practices requires job seekers to be even more creative in their search, working smarter to create more opportunities for chance events to occur. 

How do you start? Well, the creative job search involves more than looking at advertised positions. It is about building relationships and contacts with those who may be able to help you, either by suggesting positions that may be available or by providing a useful piece of information when going through the recruitment process.

You might develop these contacts through informal groups at work, by keeping in touch with past colleagues either from work or your university days (many universities now have active alumni networks) or through friends and family; remember that all these people will have their own networks which you can tap into. As an RSC member you also have access to many other specialist members via the interest groups you are able to join. There are 75 groups covering diverse areas from solid state chemistry, to environmental chemistry, law and consultancy, so there should be one that reflects your interests. By joining groups and (more importantly) attending events and meetings you can meet others in your field that might be useful, either in the long or short term. 

When building your networks remember that providing information and helping out others strengthens contacts, so share insights and opportunities with these in your networks. Keeping these contacts warm when you don’t need to call on them should also make them more responsive when you need to call in favours or ask for advice, so think about sending an update email or, if they are local, go for a coffee and catch up. 

Finally, as hard as it is, just keep going. Focus on the positives of having a job and consider setting yourself a short term goal, such as developing a new skill or learning about a new area. This should help you remain positive and open to new opportunities - both of which are crucial to make the most of chance events in the job market. 

If you’re looking for more inspiration regarding your job seeking and career options then a useful, free careers tool is Windmills Interactive