Exploring several methods for finding job leads.

The job search can feel a lot like searching for gold by sifting through wet mud. It takes considerable time and effort, often for little reward. Along the way, however, you may find rocks that seem worthless but turn out to be very valuable. 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 this process. No job lead is a bad job lead; some may just not pan out for you. It’s important to be diligent, patient, and prepared throughout the process.

The methods that most people find jobs are typically broken up into three categories: a) networking, b) cold calls, and c) intermediary. Networking is typically used by persons who have more experience, while cold calling is commonly associate with positions that are lower paying and possibly paid on an hourly wage. Intermediary is the method most commonly thought about when doing a job search. Intermediary goes back to searching the newspaper’s classified section or now searching online classifieds or employment websites.

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

Your Network

The majority of jobs acquired by job seekers are found via contacts and personal networking. In section 2.1, you were asked to think about your personal network and build a pyramid with five levels. In section 1.2, we talked about expanding and maintaining your personal network. Now is when that work pays off. If you have expanded your network and kept your contacts “freshâ€? by staying in touch with the people you’ve identified as potentially helpful to your job search, it will be much easier to contact them now 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, e-mail, letter, or in person.
  • Keep good records on who you’ve contacted and the information each contact provided. If you told someone you would follow up with them at a later date, make sure you do so.

Social Networking

The newest method of reaching out to your personal network is by posting on social networking sites to see if your friends know of any job openings in your field of interest. This type of outreach is becoming more and more common. Social networking is similar to reaching out to your friends by connecting through the phone, except it’s less targeted and easier to reach more people quickly.

Always Thank Your Network

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

Remember: It’s important to put in the effort planning your research 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 in order 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 e-mail list services (or listservs) that are 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.

You may also be able to e-mail the list service to see if any of the professionals working in your area have open positions. You can put yourself out there and sell yourself on these lists, but make sure that you know the etiquette for each list before you start posting there. Be careful giving out personal information, and always remember to give a method to respond to your inquiry. Professional organizations can have both a national presence and local affiliates or chapters in each state or even certain cities.

Conferences, Workshops, and Meetings

Through your research, 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

We covered career centers and job fairs earlier in this course and they should be considered viable tools for finding job leads. Find out if you have access to career centers and job fairs through local colleges or universities and take advantage of these resources if you can.

Employment Centers

Employment Centers are often underutilized resources when it comes to job leads. Employment centers in fact 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 Web Sites

There are many employment search web sites out there. Some are more specialized (by industry or experience level, for example) then others. The effectiveness of these sites is debated, but since many businesses post jobs on these sites, it’s important to at least do some research there. At the very least, you can use these large sites to survey the businesses you are interested in and find out how they publicize their job openings. These sites can also lead you to find other job sites used in your field of interest.

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. You can find a short index to some of the more well-known job scams on AFB’s CareerConnect. 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. There are approximately 16,000 jobs available on the site each day. Registering on the website allows one to apply to the federal jobs. This takes some time, but is worth the effort. The website allows you to select notifications of job advertisements related to key words. USAJOBS is a tremendous resource that all people with disabilities seeking competitive employment should explore. President Obama wants to increase the percentage of people with disabilities working with the federal government. This should mean many current and future opportunities for people with disabilities.

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.


As we’ve already established in earlier lessons, 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. If you know that you will need assistance with your search and want to learn about the resources available, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a staff member or librarian. The great thing about living in the electronic age is that most libraries have moved a number of their resources into electronic formats. These resources can be found from the comfort of your home or school computer.

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 persons with disabilities. Web sites such as Getting Hired, NIB Career Net, and AFB CareerConnect offer some listings of reputable recruitment companies that can be good resources for job seekers.

Create Your Own 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 position you are interested in holding, and then calling them up 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.

First, you must identify companies you’d like to cold call. Searching the local yellow pages (online or in print), using directory assistance or searching on the Internet are all good ways to start. Once you’ve found a business you’re interested in, find their Web site and look for a human resources department contact, and links for things like “employment opportunities” or “job opportunities.” More and more companies with web sites post their job openings online. Maybe there is a position posted that you’re interested in and you can respond to it. Even if an organization doesn’t have jobs posted on their site—or if you can’t find a job of interest posted in an organization’s listings—it can be effective to cold call them. Often businesses have jobs that are about to become open but are not yet posted. Some businesses may not post jobs or may not be quick about posting their opportunities. Often businesses are willing to hold on to applications or resumes until a relevant job opens at a later time. This is something that you should ask a human resources or business representative when you call. It’s important to note that the employment divisions of companies can go by many names: human resources, personnel department, hiring division, etc. Smaller businesses may just have a single person who is in charge of their hiring.

When cold calling businesses, you may find that some organizations only accept applications on certain days and/or at certain times. For instance, restaurants will often reserve a slow day or a low traffic time of day for applicants to come in and meet with staff. Always respect these schedules.

Cold calling is typically more effective for lower wage jobs. This method is not as common for higher wage jobs, but it has happened for persons. It is just another method of job search and more commonly associated with jobs that are paid on hourly rate rather than a salary.

Keep Aware When Out and About

Some small businesses hang signs in their windows to advertise that they are hiring. 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 Wantedâ€? or “Now Hiringâ€? sign hanging there. 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.

Bulletin Boards

Electronic and physical bulletin boards can be great job lead resources. Physical bulletin boards with job postings are becoming rare, but you can still find them on some school campuses and at local businesses. Online bulletin boards are much more prevalent these days. If you are a college student, most colleges have databases or job posting web pages that list jobs on or off campus. Message boards or job posting lists on company and organization sites can also be good places to find leads. It’s a good idea to be skeptical of jobs posted online that sound too good to be true. As with job listing sites, be aware of possible scams and do your research before pursuing something that sounds too good to be true.

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