Marketable or Makeover (Part Three): Perceiving the Invisible Market for Executives

Imagine you and two friends stumble across a huge shape in the dark. One of you reaches out and feels big floppy leaves like an enormous tree. Another feels a sturdy tree trunk, wrinkled, and strong. And the third feels a tiny stalk with a fly whisk on the end. Later when you discuss your impressions, it might seem that you are describing very different objects.

Yes, it’s an elephant, and a very old story (Read more) but it illustrates the difficulty of describing something you cannot see… like perceiving the invisible market for executive positions.

If our experience holds true for the market in general, then roughly 350,000 executives—75% of the total—find their next position via this unpublished market in our core geography every year. [Read more.]

How do they do it?

In fact, sometimes candidates come to us and ask for a list of these unpublished opportunities. Well, if there were a list, then it could be published. But, of course, there is no such list. The unpublished market is being created all the time as hiring managers stumble across solutions to the issues they may not even have completely formulated or shared with HR.

For example, I remember a time shortly after the Iron Curtain collapsed. One Paris-based company was thinking about opening up the East European market. By sheer chance, my resume with my Eastern European market development experience landed on a VP’s desk (because I sent it to him). And, the rest was history. By the way, there was no position description or even compensation range established at that point. That meant I had tremendous latitude in negotiation.

Those are two of the advantages in the invisible market: less competition from other candidates and higher compensation.

Serendipity is the lubricant that allows the invisible market to flow. The one rule is that you have to play to win. If you are not engaging with the actors in this market, then it is highly unlikely you will be discovered.

But begging for a job is undignified, right?

No begging required! The Barrett Group leverages more than 30 years of experience helping executives uncover these hidden gems and has thereby developed a variety of entryways into the invisible market. All of them require effort on the part of the candidate. But they also provide rhetorical devices—reasons a candidate can utilize to explain his/her reason for contacting other executives—without having to specifically ask for a job.

And by the way, these mechanisms work.

Here are a few examples:

  • “After getting laid off for the third time, Kia wanted to learn how to gain more control over his career. He had a lot of doubts about the social capital building exercises he was asked to do. But, he did it and, while “paying it forward” to people in his network, one of his professional contacts proposed an unusual opportunity…” [Kia Banisadre, VP Sales and Business Development, Read more.]


  • “My career consultant, Anne Lipsitz, was a joy to work with. She taught me a lot about the unpublished job market. She also shared the power of LinkedIn with me. Oh, my goodness! I didn’t realize that LinkedIn had become a replacement for networking in person. I had a LinkedIn profile, but never used it, so I was starting at zero. Anne said my goal should be to get to 500 contacts, so I had to be aggressive about connecting with people.” [Keith Brown, Director of Development, Read more]


  • “When the pandemic roiled the industry where he’d spent 30 years and cast his company into bankruptcy, Derek was laid off with little prospect of finding similar work. Self-reflection prompted Derek to consider different industries and to build out his social capital.” [Derek Maxwell — Global Technical Support Manager, Read more.]
And here are a few more:
  • “I really liked The Barrett Group approach because it felt holistic. And, rather than relying on a recruiter to match me with a job, I would learn how to develop myself and my career. At a time when I felt I had no control over the job-seeking process, that was crucial to me. […] Overnight, I went from getting zero responses to tons of leads.” [Christine Lowthert, Area Director, Read more.]


  • “I became convinced of the power of the unpublished market. I applied to so many published jobs and got nothing. Even when I worked with 3rd party recruiters, the results were nothing compared to when I began tapping into my network.” [Joel Engle, Chief Growth Officer, Read more.]


  • “Learning about the concept of paying it forward from Isabelita [his Barrett Group career consultant] was a lightbulb moment for me. I had a decent network and had always kept good relationships, but I realized from her that I wasn’t maximizing them,” said Matteo. “When I started to nurture my network using pro bono consulting in the way Isabelita suggested, that is when my job search really started to take off.” [Matteo, Senior Director of Worldwide Supply Chain, Read more.]


  • “I used the unpublished market in my prior line of work, but the foreign service community is tight-knit. The private sector is a much larger scale. So, Larry [his Barrett Group career consultant] taught me how to set up lines with people and follow up with them – he helped me map out a networking strategy. Because I knew few people in the private sector, the key was to get referrals from someone who knew someone who knew my reputation.” [Vincent Capodicci, Security Program Manager, Read more.]

Does this sound like something you would like to learn?

If it feels as if you are thrashing around in the dark as you navigate the executive job market, then perhaps you should invest in an experienced guide. You need someone who can show you the way. Someone who has done this before (in fact, thousands of times) for other executives. Why not investigate the Barrett Group? You save time and frustration. And you will most likely also earn more money. Let’s find out.

Peter Irish, CEO
The Barrett Group

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