Finding and Utilizing Job Leads

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Job leads—information about job openings, either in the form of ads, postings, information from your network, or even rumors or news items—are a crucial part of establishing a career. No job lead is a lousy job lead, even if it does not pan out for you. It’s important to be diligent, patient, and prepared throughout the process.

Finding Job Leads

The methods most people use to find jobs can be divided into three categories: networking, cold calls, and intermediary. Networking is typically used by people who have more experience, while cold calling is commonly associated with positions with lower and/or hourly wages. An intermediary is the method most commonly thought about when doing a job search. The intermediary method goes back to searching newspaper classified sections or, now, searching online.

Below we explore some of the methods for finding or creating job leads.

Your Network

The majority of jobs acquired by job seekers are found via contacts and personal networking. If you have expanded your network and kept your contacts “fresh” by staying in touch with the people you identified as potentially helpful to your job search, it will be much easier to contact them about job leads or possible connections. When searching for job leads, reach out to your network in an organized and appropriate manner.

  • Be tactful and professional.
  • Make contact with a phone call, email, letter, or by meeting in person.
  • Keep good records of who you have contacted and the information each contact provided. If you told someone you would follow up with them later, make sure you do so.

Social Networking

You can post on social networking sites to see if your friends know of any job openings in your field of interest.

Appreciate your Network

Remember to thank the people who help you find job leads, whether or not their advice led to a job or not. This is important etiquette and will pay off in keeping your network ready and willing to help you whenever they hear something relevant to your career. If you end up getting a job from one of these leads then you should do something more than a thank you, such as a sending a gift or taking them out to lunch.

Remember: It is important to put in the effort researching and developing your job leads, particularly if you’re looking for a job in a tight or highly competitive job market.

Professional Organizations and Associations

Many fields have professional organizations you can join to access job postings and employment information specific to that field or industry. Companies may pay these professional organizations to post jobs on their site or list. These organizations also may have email list services (or listservs) specific to professionals working in the field. Often, organizations and companies will send announcements of job openings to these lists because they know that the recipients are people working in—or interested in working in—the field.

Conferences, Workshops, and Meetings

You might find announcements for conferences, meetings, workshops, or networking events. These types of gatherings are great places to network, find job leads, and learn more about the current state of the field you’re interested in. When attending these events, be prepared, creative, professional, and outgoing. Dress professionally and attend with a game plan to network. Have several copies of your resume, along with a business card or something that you can give to the people you meet so they will remember you.

Career Centers and Job Fairs

Find out if you can access career centers and job fairs through local colleges or universities and take advantage of these resources.

Employment Centers

Employment Centers are often underutilized resources when it comes to job leads. Employment centers offer a variety of services that can be useful to a job seeker, such as vocational evaluation, skill training, resume review, or possible employment connections.

Employment Websites

There are many employment search websites out there. Some are more specialized (by industry or experience level, for example) than others. The effectiveness of these sites is debated, but since many businesses post jobs, it is important to at least do some research there.

It’s a good idea to be skeptical of jobs posted online that sound too good to be true. There are a number of “work from home” and other scams commonly found online on all of the major lob listing sites. Another way to find out if something is fraudulent is to do a search for “scam” plus some of the information from the listing and see what you can find in the results.

Accessing Federal Jobs

Federal agencies have two job application methods available for people with disabilities: competitive and non-competitive placements. Job applicants must meet the specified qualifications and be able to perform the essential job duties with or without reasonable accommodations.

Jobs that are filled competitively are advertised on USAJOBS. USAJOBS is the official job-posting site used by the U.S. federal government. Registering on the website allows you to apply for the federal jobs. This takes some time, but is worth the effort. The website lets you select notifications of job advertisements related to keywords. USAJOBS is a tremendous resource that all people with disabilities seeking competitive employment should explore.

Jobs filled non-competitively are offered to those who with mental, severe physical, or psychiatric disabilities and who have appropriate documentation as specified under the provisions. For more details on these processes, please visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website offers useful connections to resources for self-employment, youth employment, employer advisement, the latest disability policies, and more. This office advises the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies on employment issues regarding people with disabilities.

Libraries

Libraries are extremely good sources for job research, and they’re often under-utilized and under-appreciated sources for job leads. You can go to your local library and find out if they have any resources for an employment search or use their computers for Internet access. It would be helpful to have someone with you to help use printed resources, but otherwise, libraries do have staff members who can assist you.

Recruitment Companies

Recruitment companies can specialize in finding high-quality candidates for specific jobs in specific fields, and they can also specialize in employment training/placement of people with disabilities.

Create Your Leads: Cold Calling

Creating your own job leads is usually done by “cold calling.” Cold calling involves calling organizations you’re interested in working at or that offer the type of position you are interested in holding, with no introduction or prior connection, and without responding to a specific job listing. Cold calling is probably the toughest method of job lead because you must build a relationship quickly—from nothing but your personality and interest in the company—in order to convert the call into a meaningful contact.

Keep Aware When Out and About

If you are interested in working in a small business or store, check the windows by the entry door to see if there is a “Help Wanted” or “Now Hiring” sign hanging. If there is, go inside to inquire about the positions they are looking to fill, or call them when you get home to find out more.

Utilizing Job Leads

Following job leads takes tact, poise, patience, and persistence. During this process, you may feel like you are traveling through a maze where you have to explore many paths until you find the one that leads you to the other side. It might take some time, but remember: the right path could be the start of a career!

Preparation

Preparation is the key to success. It’s time to research each job lead you have. The idea is to have as much information as possible before contacting the employer so that you can make a good first impression. Take good notes and keep these notes organized. All of this information can be useful if you get an interview.

If you found the lead through a contact, gather as much information from the contact as possible while still being polite. Remember to thank your contacts!

Once you know which business has the lead, research the business before you contact them:

  • Explore the business website.
  • Find out about the products or services they offer.
  • Do a general search for the business on the Web—you will likely find various information available on the Internet.
  • Find any current news articles that mention the business and read them. It’s important to be up-to-date with the business’ current issues.
  • Find out who the business’ major competitors are and a little about them. You just want to know some basics.
  • Search the Internet to see if there are any current trends or major happenings in the field or market in which the business operates.
  • Practice what you will say by role-playing with a friend, sibling, or parent.

Contact

Once you have researched, contact the business and follow up on the job lead.

  • Always note the people who you meet at an organization whether via phone, email, or in person (this is a skill that translates to many parts of your life).
  • Write thank you notes to anyone who helps you with this process.
  • Be polite when speaking to anyone. Proper manners go a long way when trying to create new opportunities.
  • Be persistent when pursuing a job lead, but not overly aggressive. You want them to know you are eager to work for them, but you don’t want them to feel harassed.
  • Find out who their human resources/personnel contact is.
  • Find out how or where they post their job openings and how their postings can be accessed.
  • Find out how often they post their job openings.
  • Ask about their application process.
  • Find out if they keep applications on file for the future.
  • Find out how long they keep applications on file before tossing them.

Most people, no matter their experience, are a little nervous when contacting potential employers. Following up on job leads can be an intimidating process, but you will become more confident with practice.

The Job Seeker’s Toolkit

This article is based on the APH Job Seeker’s Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process. Set up a My CareerConnect account to get started with the Toolkit—it’s an easy and fast process that will give you access to many helpful job-hunting resources!

This article and The Job Seeker’s Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).

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