The days of getting a job right out of college and staying there until you retire are long gone.

Today, a person has an average of 11 jobs in their lifetime, and 5 to 7 career changes.

So, how do you go about finding all of these new opportunities? Since employers won’t often come knocking on your door, you have to use active career management to discover leads—even if you’re not currently looking for a new job.


Where Do Employers Find Talent?

You might think that employers rely on recruiters and major career websites like Monster or Indeed to fill the majority of their positions. But the fact is, internal sources account for twice the number of hires as external ones.

What does that mean, exactly? It means that employers first look at internal candidates, referrals, and informational interviewees before hiring a recruiter or posting on a job board.


How to Get Job Leads

You might be wondering how you’ll be aware of career opportunities if companies are not posting them externally right away. Career management expert John Krumboltz believes in something he calls planned happenstance: “Each of us plays a key role in creating unexpected career- and life-enhancing events and transforming them into real opportunities.”

In other words, you need to actively engage in your career in order to open the doors to yet-unknown opportunities. There are a number of ways you can position yourself to be the first in line to hear about job openings, including:

  • Look for Internal Opportunities. Since internal candidates account for the majority of hires, you should definitely stay aware of internal opportunities. Most companies put job postings on their intranet, so make a habit of checking regularly. You’ll also want to maintain good relationships with everyone you interact with at work. Everyday conversations with coworkers and colleagues from other teams could be your ticket to a new opportunity before anything is posted online.
  • Leverage Your Network. Employee referrals are powerful. Stay in touch with key people in your network, including friends, family, former colleagues, people you know from professional organizations, college classmates, etc. You never know when a casual lunch date to catch up with an old friend could turn into a job opportunity a week, a month, or a year later. And if you see a posting for a job that you want on a career website, don’t be afraid to ask a member of your network who currently works at that company to refer you. They’ll be happy to help—especially if they have an opportunity to earn a referral bonus.
  • Ask for Informational Interviews. A great way to hear about opportunities is by simply getting out there, making people aware of your interest in a particular job or company. If you’re looking for internal opportunities, take some time to set up informal chats with leaders or peers in departments that interest you. If you want to work for a different company, first leverage your network to see if anyone can introduce you to someone there. If you don’t know anyone that works for the company, scour LinkedIn and corporate websites to find names and contact information for people who work in roles you’d like to have. Reach out to request a short, informational interview to learn more about their position, department, and company. The next time their team has an opening, you may just be the first to hear about it. Learn more about the art of the informational interview.
  • Get LinkedIn. For those rare instances when employers are actively looking for you (or job candidates with your qualifications), make sure you have an updated and accurate profile on LinkedIn. It’s the go-to social network for recruiters and HR professionals.


Want more in-depth information on networking, informational interviewing, and online social networking? Check out the Capella Career Center Connecting with Others video series.

The Capella Career Center’s mission is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful, and effective, career decisions.