Layoffs are a daily occurrence in this recession. Too many of my friends and colleagues have found themselves involuntarily benched. If thousands in each industry are on the street finding a new job requires a personal Zen that’s comprised of patience, routine, sustained confidence, steady action and considered risk-taking.
To effectively seek work – you have to think like a marketer and market yourself as a brand. Identify your unique selling proposition, carefully target your potential new employers, craft persuasive messages and determine ways to get the attention and consideration you deserve. But be realistic. The toughest part of job hunting is managing your nerves and marshaling your resources.
The good news is that thousands of others are in the same boat. There’s no embarrassment to being out of work. But that’s also the bad news; thousands are competing for hundreds of jobs. It’s a buyers market where some employers are trading up.
Here are ten must-do steps to keep you sane and on track toward your next job:
Create a Routine. Job hunting isn’t a full-time job, especially when the jobs you want are few and far between. Set up a daily routine. Check email, surf job boards, then walk the dog, exercise, meet friends for lunch and watch Oprah. Structure your day so that you do what you need to and reduce the likelihood that you’ll obsess about your circumstances.
Prepare Your Pitch. You’ll need a killer resume with several variations, cover letters summarizing your greatest hits, references and selling points to acquaint headhunters with your strengths. These are messages you can control and shape. Writing and rewriting them gives you a sense of control and comfort and is something you can actually work on while you are waiting for the right opportunity. Anticipate the questions an interviewer might ask and prepare the answers. Make a list of people you worked with and your role in each assignment so you can quickly cite an example of how you fit the job specification. Spend time wordsmithing, be introspective and write like a journalist -- don’t bury the headline. You’ll have 5-10 seconds to grab somebody’s attention so pick your words carefully and be sure you are accenting you strongest selling point.
Don’t Pitch Every Job. You are anxious with one eye on bills and the other on your savings account. But restrain yourself. Many of the jobs posted aren’t real. Many aren’t right for you no matter how much you’re worried about cash flow. Pick your shots. Take the time to craft a short, punchy cover letter that translates and matches your experience to the job requirements. Doping this math for an HR person will dramatically improve your chances of making a short list.
Stutter Step Your Submission. The vast majority of online applications come in during the first 24 hours after a job is posted. Huge numbers of people are applying automatically to all kinds of jobs that they aren’t remotely qualified for. Many employers can’t handle the numbers so they dump the first response wave because nobody is willing to wade through 500 resumes. So pick your shot, wait a day and then apply. There is a reasonable chance that your patience will earn you more consideration.
Set Alerts. Let jobs find you. Do a search using the keywords that fit your ideal position. Save the search as an alert. You can do this in 45 seconds on Craig’s List or at www.indeed.com, www.simplyhired.com, www.tovix.com, www.jobster.com. Each day the jobs most interesting to you will end up in your Inbox. If you like, you can set more than one using keywords for different titles or different industry sectors. All you have to do is sort out the duplicates and decide where to click to apply.
Surf Social Networks. Let you r Facebook and MySpace friend know you are looking and sign up for professional groups or forums on Ning, Naymz and LinkedIn where many jobs are posted and many recruiters are lurking. Also check trade association and trade publication sites and industry newsletters many of which either have job listings or report on openings, new positions and employer’s plans.
Don’t Be Bashful. You can’t win if you don’t play. Tell people you are looking and what you are looking for. Most people assume that friends and family know their situation and will do the math for them. This is usually NOT true. And, while it might make you blush, you never know who knows whom. Tell your maiden aunt, your cousin Boise and your neighbor, cousin, high school BFF or sister-in-law just might be hiring.
Publish. In an interactive world, employers will search the web or prospective employees either to identify people in companies or industries of interest or to check out candidates they’ve heard about or talked to. So while you’ve got the time share your expertise by publishing a blog or positing thoughts, comments, opinions or advice on blogs, portals, professional communities, media sites or job boards. You never know if your clever response to a news story our your nuts-and-bolts advice to an industry peer will send an employer in your direction. Remember many more people read this stuff than write posts, so consider it a form of self-marketing.
Engage Recruiters Gingerly. Most recruiters are actively trying to find the needle in the haystack; the perfect candidate that meets all the requirements and nice-to-haves that employers fantasize about. If you fit the profile, these guys are your new best friend. If you connect on a real job prospect immediately find out if they have an exclusive retainer or if they are pitching you on contingency. Their status with the hiring organization will drive their behavior towards you.
If you don’t, they don’t hate you, but don’t expect a return call. Every recruiter keeps some kind of database and almost everyone remembers individuals with interesting stories, unique expertise or even odd-sounding names. Many allow you to upload your resume to their sites, others are happy to collect resumes by e-mail and many post openings on their own sites and larger job boards trolling for candidates.
Try to find the recruiters who specialize in your industry or your functional specialty. Expect that recruiters will be a mixed bag ranging from skilled, understanding conversant professionals to half-wit jerks looking to score a quick commission. And you never know, tomorrow they can get assignment where you fit the bill.
Seek Out Context. Every job you get considered for is at a different stage in the search. In some cases you are the first person they’re seeing. In other cases they already love somebody else or the one they truly loved turned them down. Get as much information as you can about where the hiring managers are in the process, their style, their formal and informal process and the culture of the organization. This will require you to dig and to push the recruiters; who often don’t know this stuff themselves. But be persistent. These critical elements vary widely within industries and even under corporate or holding company umbrellas. Understanding how you intersect with the on-going search is the most important piece of intelligence you can get because it will shape the way you position yourself and cue you about how to persuade them to hire you.