One of the most frustrating things about looking for a job in a recession is when people start talking about our economic engine improving and yet job after job continues to be lost – maybe even your own. “Improving? Sez who? Do your statistics tell me where to find MY new job? Will statistics do my job search for me?”
No. They won’t. And it also doesn’t help your job search finding out unemployment is a lagging indicator and being told things are on the way back up when you know darn well your own job is long lost with no new job in sight!
So how does any of this help with my job search?
Let’s face it. Job search is way tricky in normal times. But during a recession, not only does competition gets tougher, but jobs get more scarce – and so it may take much longer before you finally get that all-important job offer. And while it’s not uncommon for people to start a job search with enthusiasm, sending resumes to every job that even remotely sounds like a match and waiting eagerly by the phone for the call…after a while, you and your job search both feel like you’re running out of gas.
What you can you do to kick your job search into high gear
First…congratulations on all you’ve survived so far! Don’t underrate yourself. This is not easy and the last thing you need to do is start getting down on yourself just because you can’t find a job. You will. Your strength, determination, ingenuity and perseverance are tremendous assets for any employer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
More than ever, you’ll need to stay positive (as much as humanly possible) and mount a full-frontal effort. Sure there are obstacles and you may get plenty of “no”s before you hear the melodious “yes”, but so what? You only need ONE job. So pull out all the stops until you get the job you want and deserve.
In the meantime, here are some ideas I hope will help:
Tip #1: Resume. Resume. Resume.
There are lots of job search gurus out there swearing the resume is dead. Don’t you believe them. Even if you’re an absolute genius at networking and using social media to get yourself in the door, in most cases there are still folks who will judge you by your resume. And a poor resume can put a dent in even the best candidate’s chances. You still have to be sold internally, and that may well involve some old fogey (like me) who doesn’t know resumes are dead. 🙂
In addition, there are still plenty of jobs (and industries) that recruit the old-fashioned way. Don’t let anyone fast-talk you into thinking otherwise.
When you’re in job search mode, you need to be prepared for all possibilities. And so you definitely want to have a resume ready and waiting that can sell you at first glance – and is chock full of results-oriented details that support, as best they can, just how right you are for the specific job.
And you also have to consider resume keywords, since many resumes submitted online need to be searchable both for this job and future openings. And nowadays many companies you submit resumes to also keep those resumes in databases that use keywords. (Hint: To find good resume keywords look at the ad.) Your cover letter too needs to quickly let them know who you are and what makes you the exact match for this particular job opening; at this point they don’t need to know your hobbies or general thoughts on life.
PLEASE don’t underestimate how important this is. I’ve seen many resumes people think are good enough – and they aren’t! It’s hard for you to judge this objectively, so ask others for their opinions. You might be surprised.
For more tips on resumes and cover letters:
Tip #2: Find yourself a job champion and/or career mentor
The right person will help you see possibility and not impossibility. Someone you work with or worked with (maybe from another department) who can offer sound advice and guidance. (Usually NOT someone in your current HR department if you’re still employed, but that’s another post.)
Or it can be a former teacher or professor. A relative or a business associate of a relative. A friend of a friend. Even someone you read about in the paper or online whom you make friends with. This is not the time to be shy. (See Tip #3.) A good mentor can make all the difference. They can also sometimes be your champion when you’re facing obstacles and need a little extra oomph to get over them. Or a career mentor can even be in the form of a career coach who helps you find your own way over those obstacles. The main thing is, you don’t have to go it alone. Successful people rarely do.
If you can’t exactly find a full-fledged career mentor or champion for you and don’t have the money (or desire) to hire one, then you can at least find people to help you get to where you want to go. That brings us to…
Tip #3: Networking
We’ve all heard about networking. Social media networking is one of the biggest buzz phrases on the internet. But let’s not forget good old-fashioned in-person and phone networking. They really can make a big difference. Sure…not everyone feels comfortable networking. I understand that. In fact, I bet most of us feel uncomfortable promoting ourselves. It feels like we’re asking for help. Well…we are in a way. But aren’t you also a potential asset to some employer? (A wise person once suggested I think of it more as giving someone an opportunity to hire a great worker. I like that.)
The majority of jobs are NEVER posted anywhere. They are found through networking. Let me say that again. The majority of jobs are found through networking. So if there’s ever a time to push through whatever shyness you have or images of potential discomfort conjured up by your brain, this is the time. Hopefully this will help:
And if you don’t know people to network with or want to increase your network, try to arrange some informationals with people in your industry. Informationals are also good for folks you already know. You set these up to get more industry information to help your job search and also to ask for names of other people to contact who might know of an real job.
The good thing is, since informationals are not about actually asking THIS person for a job (best not to go there if you can hold yourself back), you can find people willing to give you some of their time – 15-30 minutes is a good way to ask to show you respect how busy they are. People really do like to help – especially if they don’t feel the pressure to get you the job themselves. Sometimes these directly generate job leads, but even if they give you a name who gives you a name, etc….informationals are a great way to expand your job search possibilities. Who knows? They may also net you a lifelong career mentor!
Tip #4: How Do I Use Social Media to Network?
I’m making this a separate category because it is a whole different animal – and takes special care and feeding. (With an emphasis on your online network feeds.) Some people take to social networking like urban ducks to bottled water. But for those who need help getting started, you might find this post by Alison Doyle a good starting place:
Still – as hot as social media is right now and as useful as it can be – one of the best ways to find a job is still through good old face-to-face contact and/or recommendation from someone you both know. (But of course online networking sites liked LinkedIn, for example, can help you find some of those mutual friends and/or potential career mentors.)
Tip #5: Treat your job search like a daily job. Send out those resumes!
Sometimes just one or two resumes gets you the job. But that’s rare. And in this job market, you are not servicing your own needs unless you take your job search very seriously. Job search IS your job if you’re out of work and you need to approach it as if you were your own full-time employee. The effort and creativity you put into a job search reflects on who you are as an employee. Don’t sell yourself short.
Here’s a post based on an e-mail a reader sent me. Tells how he finally got himself kicked into high gear and got that job:
Reaffirms the importance of a resume. Also makes it clear sending out a resume once in a while is just not good enough when it comes to you and your all-important job search.
Tip #6: Don’t think linear when looking for a new job
Tough times call for determination and extra imagination. You are not alone in feeling scared or ineffective. Job searches do that to the best of us. Here is a post I hope will help inspire you in case you have to take a job that feels “beneath” you or doesn’t live up to what you were aiming for. Any job can be a path to something better.
Don’t be afraid to look at jobs in other fields or even part-time jobs in the meantime, since they may lead to full-time work or other non-linear opportunities. I got several good offers from what at first were very simple temp jobs! A foot in the door is one of the best ways to sell yourself. And remember to think about consulting if your skills might lend themselves toward that; once again, even a small consulting job is a foot in the door that can be the beginning to a wonderful new career.
Tip #7: Think positive and stay sane!
Yes…I know we hear “think positive” (or positively) all the time. Easier said than done, I know. “How can I think positive when my rent is due, I’ve been turned down for every job I applied to for the last 6 months, my sofa has a huge dent in it now, and my clothes are mysteriously all shrinking?”
As I said before…we all start to doubt ourselves and our ability to ever pull ourselves out of what sometimes feels like a deep spiral. But you can and you will! First and foremost, keep your spirits up!
And beyond that, remember to keep your momentum going as best as possible. Keep applying for jobs – even to ones that don’t quite measure up to your standards. (See Tip #6) You never know what the new job might really be like and you also never know when someone screening resumes might decide you fit a different job s/he is working on filling. (This brings us back to Tip #1)
Do you have tips to help rev up a tough job search? Have you found your own job search engine (pun intended) needing a tune up?
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About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, Career Nook and on Google+.