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How to capitalise on Alberta’s worker shortage

Look beyond the obvious when searching for a job, even in the booming Alberta labour market.

When seeking employment, there are two job markets for you to access: the “visible job market” and the “hidden job market”. It is generally accepted in Canada that the visible job market represents about 15-20% of all available jobs, yet this is the market that most newcomers access.

A good metaphor for the Canadian job market would be to describe it as an iceberg. The visible job market represents the tip, which is above the water. However, most of the jobs – like most of the iceberg – are hidden from view.

For every 100 jobs available, at least 80 will be hidden. Only 20 will be advertised. However, for every 100 job seekers, only 10 people will look in the hidden job market. The other 90 will rely on the visible job market!

These hidden jobs come about in several ways. The most common way is as a result of an upcoming change in a company – expansion, new technology, reorganisation, promotions, relocations, transfers, retirements etc. A new position will be created. It hasn’t been advertised yet. It may not be clearly defined but it is coming, and there is someone in the company who knows it’s coming.

Advertising these jobs in newspapers and on the internet is both time consuming and expensive for companies and the results are often slow in coming. So, many companies opt for cheaper and faster methods first. For example, many post their job openings in-house. To spread the word about these jobs, employers will sometimes offer incentives or cash rewards to their employees, if the people they recommend from the outside are hired. Word of mouth is a major way these hidden jobs get filled, and cash incentives certainly get people talking!

Hidden jobs also arise as a result of problems. Every company, no matter how successful, has problems. If a company has a problem that is costing them money or time or customers, and they became aware of someone who has the know-how to solve their problem, what do they do? Yes, you guessed it! They create a job for that person and often hire them immediately. Remember, just because a job isn’t advertised it doesn’t mean that an employer isn’t looking for candidates.

Clearly, as a newcomer to Canada you can improve your job prospects dramatically if you’re part of the 10% who look in the hidden job market (where 80% of the jobs are), rather than part of the 90% who look in the visible job market (where 20% of the jobs are). Don’t ignore the visible job market – but do spend more time accessing the hidden job market.

Tapping into the hidden job market means identifying companies that would likely be a fit for you. It requires knowledge of companies that are active in your field, are planning projects that could use you, are expanding their product or service lines, licensing new technology, launching new ventures, replacing retired personnel, and so on.

All of this, of course, requires a more creative approach to your job search, and some hard work on your part. There are many facets to learning how to successfully access the hidden job market. If you feel uncertain, then seek the help of those who can assist you.

Here are a few basic tips to help you get started:

Build a network

Since networking is a huge part of finding unadvertised vacancies you will need to learn how to build a network.


Let people know you are looking for a job, what your past experience includes, and what type of work you seek.

Be professional

Even if your prior relationship with a contact was personal, when networking, stay professional.

Be diplomatic

Do not come right out and ask for a job; this is often considered impolite. Ask contacts for tips or leads that you can follow — ask them to point you in the right direction.


In addition to network-building you will need to learn to do cold calls to employers who are not advertising. This is hard work, and especially difficult for individuals who cannot market themselves.

Be confident

Don’t be shy. Fake confidence if you need to!

Get out there

Attend conferences, seminars or trade shows that relate to your line of work. Keep on learning.

Good luck with your job search!

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