5 Reasons Why Empathy is Important in Your PhD Hidden Job Market Search


For PhDs seeking employment after years of being buried in academic work, identifying and making use of the hidden job market can determine how quickly you get hired. This is increasingly important for job seekers who are currently unemployed or looking for better-paying employment opportunities.

What is the hidden job market?

This term refers to vacancies that are not advertised in a traditional way. You won’t find them in newspaper career columns, company website career listings, or on online job boards. According to a Forbes article from as far back as 2013, the hidden job market accounts for an estimated 80% of all hires.

Hidden Job

Moreover, an increasing number of job prospects are finding employment through networking rather than applying to advertised postings. The 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey by Jobvite, for instance, found that 50% of respondents heard about jobs from their friends, 37% learned about vacancies through professional networks, while 35% discovered open positions via social media.

With that said, there are various reasons why employers skip the traditional route of advertising vacancies in their companies. These include

  • It saves money
  • It saves time
  • The employer is looking to hire in-house
  • The employer is relying on employee referrals
  • The employer prefers to headhunt candidates from certain backgrounds

Whatever the case, you can boost your chances of being employed by tapping into the hidden job market. How can you make full use of it? As the title of this article suggests, empathy is one of the keys to making your presence felt.

Why empathy? Well, in an era where automation is claiming a lot of industrial processes, soft skills –which are difficult to be mimicked by machines – are now being prioritized in human interface jobs. Emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and working with different types of people are among the important soft skills employers are looking for nowadays.

In using the hidden job market, employers believe they will reach more of the people with these relevant skills. If you are empathetic, therefore, you will likely be well on your way to discovering opportunities in the hidden job market.

Here are five reasons why you should really spend time on empathy if you want to make the most of your hidden job market search.

Building a supportive professional network

NetworkingThe ability to communicate well, including through writing and speaking, are linked to being empathetic. Mastery of these soft skills and willingness to share can help you to grow your professional network both online and offline. Being part of such a community increases the likelihood of gaining access to opportunities that are not shared with the wider public. That’s why it is important for PhDs to start building their professional networks while still in school. That way, you will always be able to gain valuable insight on opportunities that may arise in your circle and which you can capitalize on when you are ready to move on from postdoc positions or make significant career moves. Learn more about Networking Networking for Introverts

Uncovering jobs that are more compatible with your experience and skills

Whether you heard about a job through a friend or an informal social media post, it may or may not be suitable for you. Determining compatibility means being in tune with your abilities and being honest with yourself. For example, you may be unqualified for the job on paper but, being self-aware, you probably realize there are ideas you can bring to the table that the employer may be interested in. Or you may find yourself excited about the company’s offerings (because they align with your area of study) but your ability to think critically allows you to realize the role would not allow you to be creative. Either way, having empathy helps you to save yourself the trouble of going after every job opportunity and only tackle those you feel will be the best fit.

Being better prepared for job interviews

Gaining access to the hidden job market has the benefit of making it easier for you to land job interviews. However, you still need to do a good job convincing the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the job. Here, talking about your feats in pursuing a PhD will rarely, if ever, get you hired. Adequate preparation is the key, and this involves more than just researching how to answer popular interview questions. After all, most interviewees will already know how to answer such questions. Setting yourself apart, therefore, depends on your ability to apply empathy to your preparatory work for the job interview. The way you go about this is to develop an understanding of the company. Do your homework on why the company was created, what drives it, its mission, vision, and values, and then apply those to your job interview preparation. At the very least, the interviewer will be impressed by how well you understand what the company needs from you. How to stand out in any interview

Better at negotiating

NegotiatingMany positions found on the hidden job market will not display the remuneration package and benefits that come with it. Others may display such information but they may not be in line with what you are expecting as a PhD (especially if the company was not looking for a candidate with such a high degree in the first place). In any event, you may wind up being offered the job and the time comes for you to discuss salaries and benefits. Being empathetic can help you understand what is reasonable and what is not, what you are willing to give up, and how far the other side is willing to go in order to accommodate you. By showing empathy, it is possible you can negotiate to achieve a win-win situation that allows you to get the job and the employer to feel they made a good deal.

A higher likelihood of being approached with offers

Being active in a community and showing a high degree of empathy allows other people to gravitate to you and look out for your best interest. This means the more you share – whether advice, valuable content or helpful ideas – while building your professional network, the more those in your circle will be on the lookout for opportunities on your behalf. As a result, you could have opportunities coming at you that are only shared on the hidden job market.

Empathy is truly one of the important keys to retaining meaningful employment in the 21st Century. Being cognizant of the hidden job market and how to use it by working on your empathy can help you move from unemployed or underpaid PhD to finding the job of your dreams.

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