As we begin 2021, the employment market couldn’t look any different than it did a year ago. Few could have predicted a global pandemic and the impact that it has had on the employment market. We began 2020 with historically low unemployment and we ended the year with unemployment for Americans standing at about 6.7%. This means that approximately 10.9 million people remain jobless. While forward momentum continues slowly, some estimates say we won’t return to pre-pandemic unemployment levels until 2024.
Through our work at Distinctive Career Services with job seekers, we know that many of you struggle with the fact that not only has the job market become more competitive but that at the same time the actual process of job searching to land a new job has become increasingly complex.
While there are many who have resisted the change, the days of simply browsing through the online job boards and sending out a few resumes in order to win your next career opportunity are over.
If this sounds like the primary techniques that you are using, as we enter into a new year it is time for you to take a hard look at your results (which we would expect to be dismal), then create and follow a new job search plan that emphasizes more effective job search techniques.
Many of the most successful job searchers today are using social networking techniques, leveraging online profiles, ferreting out and assertively using the best niche job posting sites, proactively scheduling interviews even when there is no known job opening, and working to enhance their personal brand.
Of course, you still have all the traditional concerns such as making sure your resume is top-notch and brushing up on your interviewing skills–goals that we would encourage every serious job seeker to pursue and achieve immediately.
While the timeframe for your job search will vary with the specifics of your situation, there is an old study (about 20 years old as this is written) that indicates the average bout of unemployment costs the average worker $11,000 in lost income as well as in the expenses of conducting a job search. It’s reasonable to assume that this figure would be much higher now. What does this mean to you? It means that it is in your best interest to invest the time and money that you need to invest to make your job search as short as possible.
Shortening your job search by even a few days or weeks could save you serious money and pay you back many times over on the investments that you have made in any professional services such as job search coaching or professional resume writing.
Are you currently in the job market or do you expect to be in 2021? Job searching can be both stressful and time-consuming. But, with some planning, genuine effort, and sincere commitment, you can minimize that stress and land a new job – one that is personally, professionally, and financially rewarding – faster than you may have thought possible.
Here is a checklist to help you achieve a fast, successful search and land a new job in 2021.
____ Be clear in defining your career objective and job target. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know how to get there? Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your career by clearly defining your job search focus. In general, the more precise and focused your job search is, the better. For most people, the best and strongest job targets will include a statement of the job function and professional level paired with other indicators, sometimes just one and sometimes more than one, to make the job target more precise and ultimately more effective. These other indicators may be criteria such as industry, company size, company culture, or geographic location.
_____ Don’t underestimate the critical importance of your resume. If you haven’t done so recently, it is time to update, revamp, and refresh your resume. Your resume is your first introduction to employers and you must make a positive first impression with it! Your resume should be up-to-date, focused for the current search, employer-centered, and results-oriented. YOU are a commodity in the job market and your resume is your advertisement. If your resume needs refreshing, now is the time to do it. If you need help with your resume, that is what we specialize in at Distinctive Career Services. To get started, book a free informational consultation.
____ Build your network of support. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a strong support network to offer encouragement and advice, to brainstorm and share ideas with you, to help keep you accountable to the goals you set for yourself, and to help keep you on track throughout the emotional roller coaster that a job search can be as you seek to land a new job. Family and friends are often included in the support network, but also consider joining a job search group or working with a career coach, particularly one who is very familiar with job search mechanics.
____ Adjust your attitude. Yes, job searching can be tiring and stressful, but 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.
_____ 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.
_____ 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.
_____ Cultivate and strengthen your professional network. With more than 80% of available jobs never advertised, it is essential that you have the ability to access the hidden job market. Your professional network will be one of your most effective sources for information and referrals relating to the hidden job market. Of course, networking is all about relationships and so you should continuously nurture your network relationships regardless of whether you are job searching or not. But, whether you have or haven’t (If you haven’t, building network relationships would make a great New Year’s Resolution), now is the time to reach out to everyone you know to inform them of your search and to ask for advice and referrals.
______Establish and strengthen your online identity. Recruiters and employers routinely search the internet to dig up information (and sometimes dirt) on job candidates. In 2021 and beyond, it is essential that you recognize this and leverage it for your advantage. What do employers find when they Google your name? Try it and see. Your online identity should be professional and supportive of your personal brand. Ideas for building or improving your online identity include blogging, creating an online career portfolio, using Twitter or Facebook, and writing/publishing professional articles in article directories. You can even review books related to your profession in online bookstores. Perhaps most impactful, is LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile you need one and if you do have one but haven’t been using it, now is the time to learn. Not only will LinkedIn strengthen your online identity, but it is also an invaluable resource for networking and researching potential employers.
_____ 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.
_____ Establish and promote your personal branding. At its essence, personal branding is about the authentic and unique promise of value you offer. In relation to your career, it is about the promise of value you offer that differentiates you from your peers and competitors in the workplace and job market. Branding yourself can actually have such a dramatic effect that you will become hunted rather than being the hunter for your next job opportunity.
____ 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.
____ Create and follow a written, multi-pronged job search plan. Answering ads or posting your resume on the Internet are the easiest, but usually least effective job search techniques. Your job search plan should include a balance of techniques to access both the published and unpublished job market. Further, it should include activities prioritized and strategically selected to fit in each of the five major job search approaches: 1) Networking and referral building; 2) Targeting and contacting employers; 3) Working with recruiters and agencies; 4) Internet job searching (which also has some overlap with the 5th technique); 5) Answering advertisements.
Originally published on December 29, 2010. Updated for 2021.