Time to think outside the box.

To get ahead in the job-search game, you've got to nail the basics. Honed your CV? Check. Registered with recruitment agencies? Check. Signed up to all the job-alert emails under the sun? Check. Still not landing your dream role? … check.

It's a regrettable reality that, even when you've mastered conventional strategies, job offers can be hard to come by. If it's been months and you're still searching, it's probably time to employ some more novel methods. Read on for some clever job-hunting tricks that'll help you to get ahead when tradition isn't enough.

The freelance boost

Job rejection is a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you had your heart set on working for a particular company. But it's important to understand that even when passed up by an employer, it doesn't mean you're totally ill-suited for their operation. If you're confident in your ability to perform, drop your interviewers a brief message enquiring about freelance work.

Freelancing in general is a great way of gaining valuable experience in a particular sector without the need for passing a stringent selection process. It demonstrates that you're enthusiastic about working in a particular role and have the self-discipline to keep yourself on track. Spelled out correctly on your CV, this all looks great to an HR manager as well. It may be your ticket to making a stronger impression and finally landing the interview.

Tap your network

It's a tired old adage, but the "It's not what you know, it's who you know" mantra rings as true today as it ever has. If you're hitting the job rejection wall over and over again, it's time to tap your personal network.

If it's your first job out of university that's proving tricky to come by, turn to former academic mentors. As established professionals themselves, they'll undoubtedly have job-search wisdom to share. But, even more helpfully, they'll have professional connections in the field of your qualification. Ask that they put you in touch with anyone who could give you even the tiniest of toe holds in the industry and politely request that they vouch for your personal qualities.

If you're looking to shift from one job to another ‒ or are returning from a career break ‒ former managers and colleagues should be able to help you out. Ask if they know of any unadvertised openings ‒ the so-called "hidden job market". And it should go without saying, only reach out to individuals who you feel have your best interests at heart!

Informational interviewing

Tapping your network is a great strategy when you've got pre-existing contacts in your field of interest, but what do you do when you lack even these?

The key is to get yourself amongst as many relevant bodies as possible. That means scouring the web for sector-specific meet-and-greet events, networking evenings, and industry conferences. Introduce yourself to people, engage in discussions, and start to make some connections. Most importantly, focus on getting to know the professionals who hold the kinds of jobs you want or work for companies you're interested in.

Once you've met the right people, you should begin what's known as "informational interviewing". Invite any of them to coffee and ask to pick their brains. Now, to bluntly ask about job openings from the offset might be perceived as crass, so use this time to coax out key bits of information relevant to your hunt.

Ask open-ended questions about the individual's own line of work, keeping things general enough to allow for an expansive answer. After a couple of follow-up queries along the same lines, express your personal interest in the area. At this stage, assuming you've built some rapport, you can gently approach the matter of vacancies: What advice would you have for somebody trying to break into your field? Who do you know who is hiring in this area right now?

Use your online profile

Such is the digital age that we live in, your online presence will likely be scrutinised by any prospective employer. But you can be proactive online yourself and go for hunting opportunities where they aren't technically advertised.

With a focus on LinkedIn and Twitter, seek out those who could, hypothetically, offer you a role. Connect with as many as you can… and cross your fingers that they accept or follow you back!

With a good few industry bigwigs privy to your online output, start posting content that speaks to your abilities and job suitability. If you're in a creative role, share your portfolio with pride. If your line of work doesn't offer this option, post as many of your well-thought-out opinions on industry matters as you can. In short, wave as much self-promoting content in the faces of would-be employers as possible.

The job hunt can be cruel. You can hone your application, master the most artful of interview techniques, and still fall flat. Sometimes you've got to think outside the box to get yourself on the staff sheet. That might mean a foray in freelance, tapping your professional network, making new contacts, and wowing online. Implement these and your job hunt will become a whole lot easier.

Another clever job-hunting trick to help you get ahead? A professionally written CV. Learn more about working with a TopCV writer.

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