By Peter Weddle -- If you’ve done everything you should, and nothing has happened. If you’ve conducted research on employers in your area, written an up-to-date resume, networked with colleagues and friends, and replied to the openings for which you’re qualified, and still all you hear is silence, then it’s time to reinforce your job search. Sure, it’s frustrating and dispiriting, but the situation can be improved if you take action. In fact, the one course you must avoid is simply to continue doing the same old things over and over again. If you’ve given the standard methods your best effort and they aren’t working, then you have to adopt a new approach. Think of it as a power bar for your job search.
This “pick-you-up” has just six steps. It’s important that you do them all. Don’t cherry pick the steps you like and ignore the rest. Do every one, even those that may push you a bit out of your comfort zone. That’s how this new approach works. It energizes your job search by sharpening strengths you already have but are not using effectively and adding new capabilities that will enhance your position in the job market. They’re all essential, however, if you want to hear something other than silence. The six steps follow.
Today’s job market is one of the most competitive in history. It’s not easy to capture a good position, let alone a great one, even if you’re doing everything right. Yes, you will hear stories about others who landed a dream position fifteen minutes after they started looking. Remember two things about them: they’re the exception to the rule and the next time around they may not (and probably won’t) be so lucky.
Don’t get overconfident.
To be truly competitive in this job market, you must be ahead of the state-of-the-art in your profession, craft or trade. How can you do that?
If you haven’t taken a formal education or training program in your field within the last five years, you’re at least partially obsolete. Enroll in a developmental program right now—there are many offered online that you can take in the comfort of your own home—and then promote your commitment to staying up-to-date on your resume. List the institution at which you’re enrolled and the name of the course you’re taking, followed by the phrase (In Progress). That tells recruiters you’re committed to self-development, a trait most employers love to see.
If you have kept yourself up-to-date in your field, get ahead of others who may have done so, as well, by taking supplemental courses that will make you an even more attractive candidate. For example, if you speak English as a second language, enroll in a business English class; if you speak English as a primary language, enroll in a Spanish class or in a business writing class. The ability to communicate effectively in a pluralistic business environment is a potent competitive advantage in today’s job market.
Modernize your networking.
Traditional face-to-face networking is still an important component of any job search, and you should continue to invest time and effort in both making connections and contacts that can position you for a successful search and improving the skill with which you do so. However, it’s now equally as important to stretch your networking into a new dimension—the Internet. Networking online enables you to expand the number of people who know you and thus may be able to assist in your job search.
Where and how do you do it? By joining the discussion forums that are available on sites operated by your professional association, your alumni organization and/or affinity group (e.g., sites for veterans, women in technology, African-Americans in finance). Limit your time investment to no more than 30 minutes a day, but do participate. The Golden Rule of Networking is the same online as it is in the real world: you have to give, in order to get. Share your knowledge and experience with others so they will be inclined to share theirs (and the jobs they know about) with you.
Stop using a generic resume.
Recruiters know your resume was written on a word processing system, so they are well aware of how easy it is to modify the document. That fact has radically changed their expectations. They are longer satisfied with a generic resume accompanied by a cover letter that relates the resume to their specific opening. Instead, they want the resume, itself, to be tailored to the position and the cover letter to highlight the key competitive differences that are described in the document and make you the candidate they should select.
Tailoring a resume to each opening for which you apply obviously takes time, so adopting this approach necessitates another change in your job search strategy. In essence, it forces you to abandon the scatter-shot method of application—applying for any opening where you are even partially qualified—and replace it with a more focused strategy in which you limit your efforts to those opportunities where you are truly competitive and most likely to be engaged by the work involved.
Start making better use of job boards.
There are more than 40,000 job boards currently in operation. No single one of these sites can bring you every employment opportunity for which you are qualified and in which you are potentially interested. For that reason, it’s important to use a range of these sites regularly. I suggest that you put at least five of them to work for your job search:
2 general purpose sites or job boards that post openings in a broad spectrum of professions, crafts and trades. These might include the employment section of your local newspaper site (e.g., BostonWorks.com, NJ.com) or such sites as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and Yahoo! HotJobs.
3 niche sites or job boards that focus on a specific career field, industry, geographic location or affinity group. These sites might include JobsinLogistics.com, JobsinME.com (the state of Maine), Medzilla.com, VetJobs.com, NVJobSearch.com (the state of Nevada), Jobs4HR.com, and TrueCareers. A word of caution is in order here. With so many options available to you, it’s important to be a discriminating consumer. Not all job boards have the same capabilities and, unfortunately, not all are operated in accordance with good business practices. How can you tell the difference?
To evaluate the various features and services at sites, you can use The Guide to Internet Job Searching by Margaret Riley Dikel or my own WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Both are available in most bookstores.
To select sites that have agreed to operate by the best practices in business (e.g., protecting the confidentiality of any personal information you submit to the site), I recommend that you focus on job boards that have joined the International Association of Employment Web Sites. This organization is the trade association of job boards, and its logo on a site is your “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” that indicates a well run organization. Finding a great opportunity and winning the race to capture it is a tough challenge for anyone in today’s highly competitive job market. If you’re not having the success you want, it’s time to move to a new approach … and add some power to your job search campaign.