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Job-Hunting in Times of Uncertainty: Five Overlooked Strategies to Help Make Your Job Search More Productive -- and Successful
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
In times when the economy falters, when financial markets fall, and when companies of all sizes in many industries announce plans to reduce their workforce, job-seekers tend to get a bit concerned about the length and success of the job search they may face. It almost goes without saying that job-hunting in a boom economy is quite different (and much easier) than job-hunting in a slumping economy.
Different, yes. Harder and often more time-consuming, yes. Impossible, no. Job-hunting is an art that simply takes more time and work to perfect in uncertain times than in good times. You will have to work harder and smarter at finding new opportunities, but they are out there, and if you take advantage of these five strategies you will be much better positioned to land a new job.
Utilizing the Power of NetworkingWhat's the most important tool of job-hunting, especially in times of uncertainty? Not a resume nor interviewing skills... but networking. Why networking? Networking is the most effective tool of job-hunting because if you use your network properly, you will hear of multiple job opportunities, often before they are even listed (if they are ever listed).
Some job-seekers shy away from networking because they equate networking with taking advantage of people, but if done correctly, networking can be a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Networking is not asking everyone you know for a job. Networking means developing a broad list of contacts -- family, friends, and people you've met through various social and business functions -- and using them to your advantage when you look for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network.
Now is the time to broaden your network -- even if you are not currently looking for a new job. You never know when you'll need your network, so make every effort to grow it.
Need more information about networking? We have lots of networking tips, names and contacts for numerous networking and professional organizations, networking do's and don'ts, and much more in the Art of Networking section of Quintessential Careers.
Finding Hidden Job OpportunitiesIn good times job openings are plentiful, but in uncertain times the job openings disappear. Job-seekers are left scrambling for the few "open" jobs. But there are always other job possibilities lurking in the background, and it is up to the persistent job-seeker to find those hidden job opportunities and/or to create new opportunities.
Finding hidden opportunities. Job-seekers must take full advantage of their network to uncover as many potential job openings as possible. Hunt down every lead. Consider using cold calling techniques to find other opportunities. Focus more of your time and energy here than trying to respond to every job posting at Monster.com or the other job boards.
Creating new opportunities. As companies downsize and consolidate job functions, many opportunities may arise for a job-seeker with the right skills. Determine your most marketable skills, examine the ongoing needs of the employers where you want to work (including your current employer), and develop a proposal showcasing how the employer would benefit from hiring you.
Sharpening the Focus of Your ResumeOne of the most important tips you can take away from this article is this one: resumes are supposed to document your skills and accomplishments, not your duties and responsibilities. Make a list of the two or three accomplishments from each of your recent jobs -- and then use them on your resume. Try to quantify accomplishments as much as possible. Read more.
Decide whether a traditional chronological resume format is better for you or whether you need a functional resume format, or some type of hybrid format. Read more.
Consider developing a "qualifications summary" or "key accomplishments" section for your resume. Think of this section as the executive summary of your resume. If the employer reads only this one part of your resume, will it be enough to entice the employer to read the rest of your resume?
Develop multiple resumes, perhaps even customizing each resume you send to the specific job and employer. Also consider multiple resume formats, from the standard formatted paper resume to a scannable text resume and Web-based resume.
Finally, remember that a resume is a living document. You are never "done" with your resume. You should update and edit your resume(s) regularly, adding new accomplishments and skills, sharpening the focus, removing outdated material.
Need more resume help? You can find lots of free resume resources, including our resume tutorial, resume do's and don'ts, resumes samples, and much more in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Developing a Dynamic Cover LetterA cover letter is an integral tool of your job search. Perhaps in the past you have been able to get good jobs with a mediocre cover letter, but in uncertain times, your cover letter becomes the main tool that can determine whether your resume is read and whether you are even considered as a candidate for a position.
How can you improve your cover letter? Let's review the two most important parts of the cover letter: the introductory paragraph and the ending paragraph.
The first paragraph of your cover letter must sell the employer on the benefits/skills/talent you will bring to the job -- a mix that no other job-seeker has (what we call your Unique Selling Proposition) and one that has a clear benefit to the employer. Do not waste this critical opening paragraph.
Weak opening paragraph: I am writing today to apply for the account manager position you have posted on your company Website.
Better opening paragraph: I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base in every position I have held, which in turn has increased the revenues and profits of my employers. I want to bring this same success to the account position you have posted on your Website.
The final paragraph of your cover letter must be proactive. You must ask for the job interview (or a meeting) in this paragraph. You must express your confidence that you are a perfect fit for the job. You must also put the employer on notice that you plan to follow-up within a specified time.
Weak closing paragraph: I hope you will review my resume, and if you agree with what I have stated here, consider me for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Better closing paragraph: I am eager to help advance the success of your company, and I am convinced that we should arrange a time to meet. I will call your office in the next week to schedule an appointment.
Need more cover letter help? We have lots of free resources, including a cover letter tutorial, sample cover letters, cover letter do's and don'ts, and much more in our Cover Letter Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Mastering the Art of Job-Search Follow-UpIn good times, some job-seekers may be able to get away with being impolite in not sending thank you letters and being lazy by not following up all leads, but in a tight or uncertain job market, job-seekers must follow-up every job lead, every job application, and every job interview.
Some job-seekers may see follow-up as too aggressive, but the cliche about the squeaky wheel getting the grease applies to job-seeking. As long as you don't contact the employer too often or act abusive, following up with emails or phone calls is a way to stay at the forefront of the minds of the employers, as well as a way for you to stay on top of the status of the search. Each time you follow-up, your strategy should be to reinforce the perception that you are the ideal candidate for the job; the job-seeker with the unique set of skills and experiences required for the job.
Follow-up each cover letter and resume you send with a phone call or email requesting an interview. Follow-up each interview you have with a thank you note or letter to each person who interviewed you. And follow-up your thank you note with a phone call or email to again express your interest and fit with the job and check on the status of the search.
Need more information? Read:
- The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews
- Job Interview Follow-Up Do's and Don'ts
- Thank You Letters FAQs
Final Thoughts on Job-Hunting in Uncertain TimesPersistence and patience are the important traits to have when job-hunting in uncertain times. Persistence, because as mentioned in this article, the job-seeker that tracks down all leads and follows up with every person is the one who is going to have more opportunities. And patience because in uncertain times, employers will slow down (sometimes even stall) the job search process, so you need to be prepared for the job search to be long.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.
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