By Dr. Richard Bayer
Consider relocating. A critical mistake that job hunters often make is limiting their search to one specific area. The job market may be oversaturated in your current city, but there may be openings in your area of expertise elsewhere. Remain open to different locations and company structures. Widening your job search horizons may help you find a job more quickly than if you restrict your search to one particular area or company structure.
Expect to be searching for the long haul. These days it's taking longer for the average professional or managerial worker to get a new job. While it's possible that you may find something right away, it's best that you develop a long-term financial backup plan. What kind of side work could you do to ensure you still have money flowing in? How could you reduce your expenses? A great way to resolve some of these issues and to get advice on how to handle being out of a job is to join a job-hunting group to get support, ideas, and contacts. Get to know as many people in your line of work as possible. Building these relationships will be helpful to you even after you've found a new job.
Keep your spirits up. An alarming number of job hunters are becoming discouraged and dropping out of the job market. Don't let yourself be one of them. Be aware that what you are going through is not easy, and that many of the things you are experiencing are being experienced by just about everybody else. Jobs were lost every month in the year 2008, and our country is seeing its highest unemployment rate in four years. Don't let the loss of one job fool you into thinking you won't be great at a job somewhere else. Nothing is forever. Just hang in there, get a fresh start, and remember that you will find something eventually.
Develop new skills. If you suspect your old skills are out-of-date, use your out-of-work time to develop new ones. If you're being told you aren't being hired because you don't have the right experience, get the experience. Depending on your area of expertise, there are lots of great ways to hone and expand your skills. Take a class. Do volunteer work to gain expertise that you can later market. Or join an association related to your new skill area. If you need to get a job to help increase your cash flow while you are unemployed, try to find something that will enhance your résumé even if it doesn't necessarily fit in with the kind of work you would like to do long term. For example, one Five O'Clock Clubber got a twelve-week assignment with a Sears consignee during the Christmas rush. The pay wasn't great, but the job title was Regional Manager, which looked great on his résumé.
Become a skilled job hunter. Being good at your job does not necessarily mean that you will be good at getting jobs. Good job hunters know what they want, what the market wants, and how to present themselves. Having a well-written résumé and cover letter are key to being competitive when job hunting. A poorly crafted résumé or cover letter can prevent you from ever getting your foot in the door at most businesses, particularly in an economy that is flooded with people looking for jobs. If you don't think that your résumé and cover letter are up to par, find someone to help you write them or visit any of the myriad websites set up to help people out with résumé and cover letter writing.
If it's been a while since you've been in the job market, it may be time to brush up on your online job hunting skills. Familiarize yourself with online services such as Monster.com, Craigslist, and LinkedIn. Check for job postings every day and Google yourself to see what (if any) information may be available for a potential employer to find out about you online. If you have a Facebook or MySpace page, make sure it doesn't contain any information that is inappropriate. Remember that you are marketing yourself to your future employer and you want to do everything you can to put your best foot forward.
Go on an informational interview. We all know that in most businesses, it's all about who you know. The same goes for job hunting. Make some calls to companies that interest you or are in your field (even if they aren't currently hiring). Ask if you can come in for an informational interview with someone who is working in a position similar to the one you desire. Find out about their experiences, who they work with, and what their qualifications are. Getting to know people in your industry can open doors you didn't even expect. Keep in touch with these people after the interview, and you will increase your chances of being at the forefront of their minds when a position becomes available. No matter what, it will arm you with more knowledge for your search and can help you to determine if the path you are on is the right one for you.
Target what you want. As Lily Tomlin said, "I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific." How specific you are in your job search can be a deal breaker. When you are searching, be sure you select specific geographic areas, specific industries, and specific positions within those industries. For example, you may want to be a writer in publishing or corporate communications in Los Angeles or Chicago. So you start by compiling a list of companies where you could find a job in these fields in each of these cities. Research them to figure out which ones you think best fit with the kind of place you would like to work. And then find out who is in charge of hiring at these companies. Sending a résumé or cover letter to the wrong person or without mentioning a specific person can ruin your efforts. By targeting specific companies or cities and then gradually narrowing your
search, you will be setting yourself up with the best opportunity to find a great new job where you will thrive.
Learn how to get interviews. There are a lot of techniques for generating interviews. Everyone knows the basics: answering ads, using search firms, contacting companies directly, and networking. But what you might not know is that only 10 percent of all jobs are filled through ads and search firms, so it is wise to learn the best methods for contacting companies directly and for networking successfully. A coach can help you develop an effective cover letter and Five O'Clock Club book Shortcut Your Job Search: The Best Ways to Get Meetings will tell you how to make those follow-up phone calls that result in meetings. It may seem like a lot more work than hitting that send button on the Internet, but it results in a much quicker search.
See people two levels higher than you are. When you have the list of companies that you would like to approach in your job search, contact people at your level who work there to find out how well your skills match up. If you discover that your skills do indeed match up, then contact people who are in a position to hire you or recommend that you be hired. If you can talk to as many people within a company as possible, it will help you raise your stock with the HR people there and will help you to be more relaxed when it comes time for an interview.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. After an interview--whether you think it went well or not and whether you think it will lead to a job or not--always follow up with a handwritten note that thanks them for the interview and includes all of your contact information. Stay in contact with the people you've interviewed with as much as possible. For example, you might forward a magazine article that you think would be of interest. Not only will you ensure that the person will be thinking about you post-interview, but it will provide you with an opportunity to show them that you are both interested and knowledgeable in your projected field.
If you are turned down for a position, use the opportunity to find out from your interviewer in which areas you should improve. Get as much detail as possible regarding what influenced their decision not to go with you. This information will be invaluable as you continue your search. Following up is a great way to turn a job interview into a job offer, and if you aren't fortunate enough to do that, you can at least get some great feedback that will help you in your search.Dr. Richard Bayer, Chief Operating Officer of The Five O'Clock Club and author of The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life