Attacking the Job Market and Workplace Proactively in Tough Times: A Roundup of Expert Advice

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Compiled by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

We asked job and career experts for tips on how workers and job-seekers can take a proactive stance to improve their jobs and careers, even in a tough economic climate — and we got an earful.

We asked experts to complete this sentence: “If you could offer one piece of advice for how workers and job-seekers can be proactive regarding their jobs and careers at this difficult time, it would be ________________________.”

Here’s what they said:


You need to be an active networker. In today’s economy, it is imperative to have an active network in place. Most employers prefer to hire people who are referred to them via their own networks, so it is essential to focus on expanding your online and traditional networks of contacts. By networking, you can potentially set yourself apart from the scores of other applicants who apply for every job vacancy. In today’s economy, employers are inundated with job applications. The best way to have your resume considered is by networking actively and trying to find people who can possibly recommend you for a job opportunity.

Nurture and grow personal and professional networks. Ask not what others can do for you, but what you can do for them. Then — if appropriate — demonstrate how you can meet needs. This spirit of reciprocity can help you be “top of mind” when your skills are needed.

    — E. Chandlee Bryan, Quintessential Careers contributor and Certified Professional Resume Writer/Career Counselor, Careers in Context

Expand thy network of friends now! Take a class at a community college, or continuing-education program, or join to meet people with similar interests, so if you unfortunately do lose your job, you already have relationships with people who might be in a position to help you get your next one. Who knows, you may be able to help them and feel like a million bucks!

    — Melanie Szlucha, career coach/resume writer/job interview coach/networking coach, Red Inc.

Networking is by far the best job-search method and a way to stand out in the job market. Fresh college grads as well as seasoned professionals can effectively use employee referrals to get their foot in the door. The proverbial inside track is especially critical in tough times of mass layoffs and hiring freezes when competition for open jobs gets even tighter. There are many general-purpose social-networking Websites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Here job-seekers can leverage their current network of friends and colleagues to get introductions to other people. Alternatively, they might consider joining specialized peer-to-peer job-search networks such as where they would be able to introduce themselves directly to insiders (employees) at companies of their interest.

    — Alex Carp, Job Search Networking Specialist

Build your network on LinkedIn. While many professionals have LinkedIn profiles, not many know how to leverage the profile as a job-search/career-management tool:

  • For “passive” networking: Increasingly, hiring managers are bypassing recruiters (to save recruiting fees) and passing along job postings to their online networks. The more connections you have, the more you will be in the flow of these opportunities when they come up. Your connections will have your resume and contact info right at their fingertips, making it easy to get in touch with you.
  • For “active” networking: You can search for companies you are interested in working for and see which of your contacts works there or knows someone who does. Perhaps they can set up an informational interview. Candidates coming in through this channel are being “referred in” by a trusted party and therefore will get a closer look and probably a faster response than if they had been one of the thousands coming through an open job board.
  • For interview prep: Before interviews, you can read the profiles of the people you’ll be meeting. Not that you’d want to start rattling off their vital stats during the interview, but understanding their background and work experience might help you tailor your answers to their hot buttons.
  • For lead generation: You can keep tabs on your connections in an unobtrusive way, and see when they change jobs. Depending on the position, they might want to bring in people they know or have worked with before to build out their new team. Send a note of congratulations and an offer to be of service if they need any help. You don’t want to sell, but just to get on their radar screen by offering your genuine support.
  • Liz Lynch, Founder, Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following in Person and Online, McGraw-Hill.

Network with abandon using virtually every means available — from professional/social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Ziggs, ZoomInfo, Plaxo, and VisualCV to traditional face-to-face and e-mail contacts. These steps are critical for job seekers today as they seek to gain visibility and traction in their job-search efforts. It is definitely not enough to merely plaster the job boards with resumes; job-seekers must aggressively manage their network to produce viable leads, have numerous conversations, and build momentum through sustained, purposeful activity.

    Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, Career Coach/Resume Writer/Job-Search Coach and author of Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search and six other titles.

Spend time every day on your network. There are networks that require “face-time” such as associations, alumni events, etc., and then there are virtual networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook that can be expanded and nurtured daily. If you don’t already have at least one virtual network, start building one and interacting with peers in your area of expertise and industry. Not only will you make your profile available to the thousands of recruiters who network on these sites, you will also build important ties to peers in your industry and area of expertise. While Facebook might not seem like a career vehicle, it is rapidly turning into a great way for mid-career professionals to re-connect with high-school and college acquaintances. In fact, one of the fastest growing groups on Facebook are young (26-34) to middle-age (35-44) professionals. So — get out and network. You never know where your next job lead might come from.

    — Kim Shepherd, CEO of Decision Toolbox, a recruitment process outsourcing company, Orange County, CA

Begin to re-establish connections in the workplace. A great place to start is to join and become involved in a professional association. I know of situations where this [involvement] proved fruitful and resulted in new positions. However, start this process early so the relationships are already intact.

    Lynn Berger, author of The Savvy Part-Time Professional — How To Land, Create and Negotiate the Part-time Of Your Dreams.

Never stop networking. Former colleagues, customers, vendors, association meetings, networking groups, board members, recruiters, and others are all great sources to spread the word and help you identify the right opportunity. You are in the sales mode; thus, you should try to meet five new people per week and have five meaningful conversations (not necessarily with the same five people) each week.

    — Kevin Nussbaum, President, CBIZ Human Capital Services

Actively network and keep your referral chain active. New/better job opportunities often come along when you are not looking.

    — Chad Perce, president of iMethods, an information technology staffing and consulting firm, Jacksonville, FL

As a career coach, I stress to my clients that the best thing they can do to be proactive during difficult times is to build your network, which includes things like attending monthly networking events, completing a profile on virtual networking sites like, joining a local networking group like BNI) that meets weekly, and just getting out there to meet people on both a professional and social level. Building your network also includes maintaining contact with those already in your existing network. (Keeping an organized database of existing and new contacts is important as well.) So if the time comes when someone is looking for a new job, they’ll be in a much better position to call upon their now much larger network to help in the job search.

Get in front of people and ensure that you leave with at least 3 new names of people they recommend who could help you.

Get away from the computer … and make sure you are networking.

Continue on to Page 2 of Attacking the Job Market and Workplace Proactively in Tough Times.

See also these Job-Hunting During a Recession Articles for Job-Seekers.

Katharine Hansen, PhD, Creative Director Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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