Career Column: Tapping Into the 'Hidden Job Market'

Apr 26, 2002

CIO Update Staff

Executive career advice from Dave Opton, founder of ExecuNet.

Dear Dave:

I am currently a Senior Vice President of Infrastructure and Technical Planning in the financial services industry with annual compensation above $300,000. In recent weeks I've become increasingly concerned that more layoffs might be looming at my firm. Having watched too many colleagues be caught unprepared, I've started looking around for new opportunities in the industry, however, I'm not finding any openings at my level. Do you have any suggestions?



Dear Merlin:
As your note suggests, jobs at this level don't grow on trees, and when you stipulate a specific industry, you narrow your prospects even further. However, the concern you raise is legitimate and shared by many irrespective of compensation level.

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The process of making a job change is often about "linkages" - particularly at the most senior levels. Therefore, when you come across an opportunity for which you qualify and the job "content" is of interest, I would suggest you pursue it even if certain aspects of the position, such as location, compensation, or industry, would normally eliminate it from your consideration.

By expressing your interest in learning more about the job, the executive recruiter or hiring organization will learn about you and your qualifications and your network will expand. Always keep in mind that retained search firms are often working on other assignments and these positions could be a perfect match for you. The "hidden job market" is not a myth - you'll never learn about certain positions unless recruiters know you and your background.

For this reason, it is important start a search by casting a wide net - don't limit yourself by setting narrow parameters. Over a short period of time, you'll be able to identify the search firms that specialize in the financial services industry, and while they may only list mid-level positions, it's quite possible that they could be managing a very confidential search for a CIO.

Consider sending a note to these firms along the lines of: "In the course of exploring career options, I noted that you do searches in the financial services industry. Should you have an assignment that requires a senior executive with industry experience and an IT focus, I would have an interest in discussing the opportunity."

Don't expect a linkage with a recruiter to happen overnight, but the note should help to get you on their radar. And I can't tell you how many times one of our members made a this sort of contact with a recruiter or hiring organization that paid off many months (sometimes years) down the road with a position that was perfect.

There is an old saying that really applies to the notion of making linkages count - "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."

I hope this is helpful.


Dave Opton is CEO and Founder of ExecuNet, an online career services center for executives. For more information on executive career management visit Questions can be sent to Dave at, he can't answer each individually but look for yours in an upcoming column.


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