After the longest economic expansion in history and its tight labor market preceded the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the past few weeks. Estimates put real unemployment at roughly 18%, heating up competition for openings.
And, yes, there are still openings. LinkedIn has added a special section where it highlights companies announcing large hiring initiatives. Fidelity Investments, Salesforce, Capital One, and even SpaceX have also announced that they’re hiring. And in addition to front-line essential workers, such as store associates, healthcare specialists, and warehouse employees, companies in these sectors are also continuing to hire in other departments, says Kiran Prasad, VP of consumer products at LinkedIn.
However, there are opportunities that never get published in a job ad or large platform. Cincinnati-based career coach Kristen Zavo, author of Job Joy: Your Guide to Success, Meaning, and Happiness in Your Career, says that many, if not most, jobs are never advertised. They may be placed with recruiters or hiring managers who use their own networks to fill the role. “I’ve seen that in my own personal experience, and clients and HR directors have confirmed that that is true,” she says.
So, how do you find jobs when they’re filled before you have a chance to apply or never even announced in the first place? Zavo and other experts recommend a combination of networking, resourcefulness, and strategy to find opportunity now.
1. Analyze your skills
Assessing what truly makes you stand apart in a particular field can help you gain a valuable edge in a competitive job market. So, before you begin sending out scattershot resumes, take a moment to analyze where you can be exceptional, says Jason M. Hill, founder of Sound Advice Careers, an outplacement and career coaching firm. “Really understanding what it is you want to do in the intersection of your zone of genius—the intersection of what you’re awesome at and what you love to do,” he says.
It’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset, but if you can clearly assess the types of jobs where you can deliver real value and express that, you’re going to have an edge over applicants who are looking for anything they can land, Hill says.
2. Polish your online brand
As you ramp up your job search, take some time to look at how you appear online, including sprucing up your LinkedIn profile. Prasad says applicants should be aware of features in that platform that can help recruiters know they’re looking for a new job. This helps you tap into the network of jobs that are managed by professional talent-finders.
It’s also a good time to begin publishing more online to showcase your knowledge, abilities, and thought leadership, sharing others’ content, and participating in conversations online with contacts. LinkedIn has seen a 55% year-over-year increase in online conversations.
3. Tap your network
Once your online presence reflects your strengths and you have an idea of where you bring value, start reaching out to your network strategically, Hill recommends. Connect online with contacts in your work discipline. Look for mutual connections who can introduce you to contacts at the companies you’re targeting. Create an introductory message with links to your relevant online profiles, website, or portfolio to make it easy for contacts to forward your information and make introductions.
Zavo recommends scheduling brief informational interviews. Contacts may have more time if they’re working from home, so ask for 15 minutes to discuss the company or your job search. As you prep for the call or video chat, be sure that you do your homework, gather information and refine your career story.
At the end of the call, ask the contact if they can think of anyone else with whom you should speak, Zavo suggests. That may lead to other introductions and opportunities to expand your network.
4. Look for clues
Hill suggests targeting opportunities and contacts in industries like logistics, health care, technology, and others where growth is still happening. Examine the investor relations and news release sections of the companies you’re targeting to see if they have announcements about growth initiatives or cutbacks, which may help you know where to target your efforts most effectively.
Beyond formal job ads, you can find other clues online about companies that are hiring. Sometimes, employees will create social media posts about opportunities. Search for terms like “hiring” and “opportunity” on social media, and refine the results to include only “posts” or “content.”
5. Strengthen your skill set
Use your free time to build new skills that will make you a more attractive candidate. Prasad says that LinkedIn has seen a 50% week-over-week increase in learning content streaming on the platform. The company has also made about 30 courses on subjects like remote work, navigating new work environments, and networking available for free.
Finding opportunities before they’re public—or which may never be made public—requires some sleuthing, strategy, and effective networking. Starting now will help you get an edge on your job search and more likely to find the right opportunity for you.
More must-read careers coverage from Fortune:
—How to write a professional bio
—How Fortune 500 companies are stepping up during the pandemic
—3 ways to put your best foot forward on a video job interview
—Everything you need to know about furloughs—and what they mean for workers
—An internship during the coronavirus pandemic is a crash course in adaptability
—WATCH: 401(k) withdrawal penalties waived for anyone hurt by COVID-19
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