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January 12, 2011
Gain Control Over Your Career Search
Being a public relations pro, one of the things I consistently stress is the need to create an effective, articulate message. Unfortunately, all too often people assume a product or service’s “wow” factor alone will automatically put it over the top, even though that’s not always the case. While messaging may not seem like an element vital to career management, it should actually be one of your top considerations.

Stop for a moment and think about how we’re communicating these days. As much as we’re actually talking with others in some interpersonal setting, we’re also communicating online via some sort of social network, email, or blog. We may not think of them as such, but all of these conversations are actually messages whose impact can vary tremendously, depending on how we structure them.

When it comes to career management, we all know that we should put our best foot forward. Unfortunately, too many tend to focus more on how to interact in an interview than on the other steps in the process. Problem is, you’ve got to do a good deal of effective positioning to even get to the interview—especially in an era where unemployment rates are still hovering at post-Depression highs and are not forecast to decline dramatically over the next couple of years.

Given these variables, put some thought into the messages you create when you’re seeking a career. Concentrate on using specific words and phrases that articulate how your skills are better than the competition’s. And if you’re between jobs, please—no matter what you do—don’t label yourself as “unemployed.” Hiring managers these days are increasingly concerned about someone’s skills becoming rusty, given the fact that long-term unemployment, that is, being without a job for at least six months, is also at post-Depression highs.

During your job search, focus on doing all you can to get your skills in front of people, whether it’s starting and promoting a blog that showcases your skills or doing pro-bono media relations for a local nonprofit. Activities like these will not only keep your skills sharp—they could also get you in front of someone who might very well be able to help you.

And when you do get some help, whether it’s a recommendation from a former employer, a job interview, or a network introduction, please make sure you properly acknowledge that help. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard hiring managers say that if they have two equally qualified candidates, they’ll advance someone who remembered nice touches like sending a follow-up “thank you” letter after an interview.

One of the venues where I spend a good deal of time each week is LinkedIn. As such, I have an opportunity to review a number of different profiles. I’ve been amazed to see some list their current position as “unemployed.” These people may be superbly qualified for a great opportunity, but honestly, I rarely read past “unemployed” due to the way they’ve positioned themselves. Given the fact that this tight labor market is likely to last for some time to come, think about messaging and use clever, concise descriptions of your skills and experiences in the hopes of giving yourself a leg up on the competition!

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Cyrus Afzali is president of Astoria Communications, a New York City-based PR consultancy serving clients in financial/professional services, technology and real estate. Before opening his PR consultancy in 2004, Afzali worked at several New York agencies managing accounts for real estate, technology and legal clients. He started his career as a journalist, working as an editor and writer for nine years at outlets ranging from small, daily newspapers to CNN Financial News.

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