Inside information

Come on, let’s be honest, most of us love to have a good goss. There is something deeply satisfying about getting the latest lowdown on so-and-so or such-and-such. Much of this tantalising tittle-tattle tends to centre on family, friends and so-called celebs.

But when the subject turns to work, as it often does, gossip becomes more than interesting. It becomes useful. Especially to job-hunters.

Throwaway comments about what is happening in a particular office or industry can be incredibly helpful to job-hunters looking for their first break. They can suggest where the jobs are or, at the very least, where they may be.

There is a trick to exploiting this sort of market intelligence – you have to know where to find it, and how to use it.

1. Read up
Some of the most beneficial gossip you can get is actually not heard, but read. Sector-specific journals are jam-packed with useful snippets. You’ll find out who is expanding, who is diversifying, who has just collected an award, who has just delivered improved sales, which company has managed to raise its share price. You get the general idea. And yes, we agree, this sort of news is not as sexy as some, but if you really are keen to get that first break put down that glossy and pick up that industry mag.

2. Show up
To supplement your gossip gathering it makes sense to attend events where you are likely to catch people talking shop. You probably already know the more obvious places to go to: conferences, seminars, AGMs, award presentations and Christmas functions. But be aware that it can also pay to be on the look out at parties and dinners. Friends of friends may just know something and they may just mention it.

3. Shut up
It is crucial not to talk too much at these opportunities. You’ve got two ears and one mouth; use them in that order. That way you’ll be able to hear what is going on around you and not miss out on those vital bits of conversation.

And when you do eavesdrop on something particularly juicy? What then? Say something like ‘Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you saying XYZ. That’s something I’m interested in; would you mind telling me a little bit more?’

4. Follow up
Once you have garnered a fine piece of insider information, apply it. How exactly? By penning, yep, you guessed it, a captivating letter. Be direct and assertive. State, upfront, your “in” for writing. For instance, “I am delighted to hear that your company has just won a new contract”. Or “I understand you are thinking of entering the German market”. Then introduce yourself and express your interest in joining the team. Provide a brief paragraph of the way your skills and qualifications would add value. Conclude with a pointer to future action. You can afford to be a bit pushy. Try something like “I will call your PA next week to see if we can arrange a time to meet”.

5. Keep it up
It would be great to be able to say that just one nugget of gossip will lead you to your dream job. But you know better than that. Persist in keeping your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. And be sure to use this research to best effect.

Just a final word of advice: remember not to accept, at face value, everything you hear or read. By its very nature, not all gossip is reliable. Some people will be motivated to speak out because they want to promote themselves and may overstate the truth.

Others will feel unhappy about where they work and may twist the facts in a negative way. So, wherever possible verify what you’ve learned with another source.

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