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Are you worried about the economy? Concerned about the high unemployment figures that we hear on the news month after month? Have you bought into the myth that it is near-impossible to find a new job during a recession?
If you have a job now, you may find yourself questioning your security when you read the daily reports of layoffs at company after company. If you are currently out of work and job searching, you may find your anxiety levels rising with each passing day that you don’t find get hired.
Without any doubt, in recent years, the job market has become increasingly competitive. But even as the economy has slowed, there are many who have been incredibly successful in conducting fast, effective job searches. Even in a recession–even in the midst of rising unemployment–you CAN build your career and secure a job that is personally, professionally, and financially rewarding.
Here are 21 tips that you can put into action today to speed your own job search and drive it to a fast, successful conclusion.
1. Set weekly goals for your job search – To keep your job search moving forward I recommend you set manageable and motivating weekly goals. Your goals should be: 1) Attainable while providing a challenge; 2) Written on paper; 3) Specific; 4) Stated in a positive way; 5) Manageable; 6) Measurable and trackable; 7) Timed with a deadline
2. Be clear about your focus – It is critical that you spend some time and energy now – before launching your search – on self-introspection and analysis. Knowing what YOU want, what YOU are passionate about, and what YOU bring to the table will provide you with a confidence that simply can’t and won’t be matched by many of your competitors in the job market.
3. Create and follow a multi-pronged job search plan – An effective job search campaign is one that includes the strategic, planned, methodical use of a variety of job search approaches. Answering ads alone is almost never enough. Neither is networking, working with headhunters, using internet job search sources, or researching and targeting specific employers. But, when you combine all these approaches and launch an integrated, multi-pronged job search campaign, you will always come out ahead.
4. Approach your job search as if it were a job itself – Get organized and create a system for managing your job search. An organized plan and system will help keep you motivated, moving forward, and focused on achieving the ultimate goal. At the very least, you need a calendaring system, a system of logging inter-related and follow-up activities, a contact management system, and a filing system.
5. Assemble a support team – You should build a support team around you of people who can help you stay motivated and on track while giving you honest feedback and helping you stay accountable to your goals. By assembling a good mix of people to support you, from a diversity of backgrounds and professions, you will receive a variety of different perspectives, ideas, and insights that can be very helpful. You should consider joining a job search support club or group – a local one if one is available or an online one.
6. Develop and promote your personal brand – Personal branding (the process of clarifying and communicating what makes you and your unique value proposition different and special) differentiates you from your peers and helps to position you as a leader in your field. By knowing and promoting your brand, you achieve instant, precision-like focus that positions you as the ideal candidate for the specific type of opportunity that interests you.
7. Prepare your CAR success stories – Take the time to think about and document between six and twelve CAR Success Stories (Challenge-Action-Result Success Stories). What are some of your greatest accomplishments that illustrate the strengths you want to highlight in your interview? What were the challenges you faced related to these accomplishments? What actions did you take to meet the challenge? What were the results—quantified results when possible—of the actions that you took? You will use these in your resume, during networking meetings, and in interviews.
8. Perfect your resume – Like it or not, your resume is your first introduction to most employers, and your only chance to make a good first impression. Keep your resume up-to-date at all times. Consider hiring a professional to rewrite your resume to convey and illustrate your unique value proposition complete with accomplishments and succinct “success stories” that differentiate you from your competitors in the job market.
9. Cultivate your network – There is no more effective job search technique than networking. Make networking a part of your daily routine and plan to spend the majority of your job search time on networking activities (approximately 3/4 of your time is a good estimate). The more you network, the faster your current job search will come to a successful conclusion and the faster and more successful any future job searches will be.
10. Create and practice your elevator pitch – You will hear the “what do you do?” or “tell me about yourself?” questions over and over, both during your job search and throughout your entire career. Preparation is the key to confidence and the key to making a lasting, positive, and memorable first impression. Be ready with a 30-60 second elevator pitch that immediately and confidently conveys to the listener who you are as a professional and what your value proposition is.
11. Do your research – Take the initiative and do some research to identify the companies that you really want to work for. Determine where you would fit in their structure and what you have to offer them. Develop a proposal that clearly illustrates how you would deliver a return on their investment in hiring you. Now leverage your network to set up meetings with the hiring decision-maker at the companies.
12. Strengthen your industry contacts and knowledge – Informational interviewing is a great technique for almost everyone. Contact people who can tell you what is going on in the field, help you better understand the competitive landscape, describe for you what it is like to work in the field, and ideally point you in the right direction for the next person you may want to speak with. Prepare lists of questions about the company or the industry so you make good use of your contacts’ time.
13. Build your online presence – Creating and maintaining a blog on your area of career expertise is an extraordinary way to build your credibility and visibility. Business networking sites like LinkedIn and FaceBook are increasingly popular ways to expand your network. Consider writing articles on industry and profession-related topics. You can also participate in online discussions on topics related to your career focus.
14. Introduce yourself to headhunters – There are presently well over 15,000 recruiting offices in just the United States alone. It is impractical and a waste of everyone’s time to contact all of them indiscriminately. Do a little research and determine which firms specialize in your industry of choice or positions like you are seeking. This small, segmented list is the one you should focus your time and attention on.
15. Be prepared for salary negotiations – Know your value and be able to clearly articulate the returns that an employer can expect from hiring you. Never forget that as an employee you are investment. It is up to you to know what your worth is, to make sure the potential employer is clear on what that is, and to make sure that they pay you the best possible price for your contributions.
16. Put together a strong list of references – Contact each person that you intend to list and ask for their permission. Never provide someone as a reference unless you have discussed it with them first and briefed them on your current job search. Verify the contact information for each reference and ask for permission to list a telephone number and email address.
17. Get out and meet people – Join and then take part in events held by professional associations and other groups. Attend workshops and trainings in your field or industry. Attend job fairs to meet directly with hiring decision-makers. Volunteer your career-related skills in your community. If you are an expert at something, offer to speak on the topic to various groups.
18. Always follow up – A hand-written thank you note or a more formal, typed thank you letter after speaking with a networking contact, attending an informational interview, or after attending an actual job interview can make a lasting positive impression that gives you a distinct competitive advantage. A follow-up phone call on every resume you send, whether it is a resume sent cold, in response to an ad, or based on a referral from one of your networking contacts can make all the difference in whether your resume is actually read and considered or not.
19. Adopt a “failure is not an option” attitude – Celebrate your accomplishments daily and weekly, but recognize that a successful job search requires persistence and consistent effort. It can be difficult to remain motivated when you don’t immediately see results but remind yourself that job searching is a process and that it takes time. Reward yourself not just for the results, but for the effort.
20. Consider an “outside the box” solution to employment – If you are having trouble finding that one, perfect full-time position, consider a “portfolio” career that is built around your skills and interests through a variety of part-time jobs, which may include some combination of part-time employment, self-employment, freelancing, consulting, and temporary jobs. While many of us have been raised to believe that a full-time job is really the only secure work arrangement, a portfolio career may actually be more secure because it involves multiple streams of income.
21. Adjust your attitude – An enthusiastic, “can-do” attitude that exudes self-confidence and a clear understanding of the value you offer in the workplace will make all the difference. Always put a smile on your face when you talk on the phone; it will shine through in your voice. Make eye contact and watch your body signals and posture when you meet with contacts in person. Your positive, confident attitude is one that people will like to be around and will make it more likely that you will be hired.
When you turn on the news and all you see is bad news about the economy and the job market, it is easy to become so anxious that you actually scare yourself into inaction. Don’t let that happen to you! There are personally, professionally, and financially rewarding jobs out there to be had. Stay competitive, remain in action and working toward your goals each day, and one of those jobs WILL be your new job. The more “feelers” you put out, the more contacts you make, the more resumes you put into the hands of hiring authorities, and the more face-to-face interviews you go on, the faster you will achieve your job target. Job searching does take time, even at the best of times, but by leveraging these 21 tips you will find yourself back to work faster than you thought possible.