With unemployment still higher than anticipated for 2012, many Americans are still struggling to find a job. It can be frustrating, especially for new college graduates who lack work experience. But instead of letting the national numbers discourage you from seeking out work, focus your attention on these job search strategies that you can do to separate yourself from the pack.
The days of relying on a stunning resume to set you apart are long gone. Recruiters are flooded with great looking resumes everyday, but it simply doesn’t guarantee a job.
Even having strong credentials, like a graduate degree, won’t get you a job overnight. In a recent conversation with an MBA graduate, I learned that he had submitted hundreds of resumes but didn’t receive any callbacks. When he removed the MBA from his resume, his phone rang the next day with two interview opportunities. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why that was the case for him, it’s worth pointing out that a degree isn’t necessarily the golden ticket into a good job.
Know Why You Want The Job
This sounds obvious, but the answer isn’t, “because I’m unemployed and need a job.” Businesses aren’t looking to hand out jobs to people just because that person is unemployed. They’re looking to fill the spot with people who know what they want and understand what the company needs. That’s why it’s so important that you identify what you want in a job – besides a paycheck. When you can articulate the why to yourself, you’ll narrow your search and have a much better chance of finding a good fit. Throwing your resume to anyone that’ll take it is a waste of time. Be deliberate and identify why you want to work somewhere – that strategy will help you to land a job that you actually want.
Shadow in that Field
This is especially good for college graduates who aren’t sure what line of work they want to pursue. Take two or three weeks and line up a few shadowing opportunities to experience the company firsthand. Not only will it give you an idea of whether or not you want to go in that industry, it will give you an insider track to meeting people within the company. Even a week with a new contact can set you apart in their mind to call you in for an interview.
Use Your Network
Shadowing is a great way to add a new contact to your network. Everyone has a network – everyone. While you may not directly know powerful contacts, someone you know might. That’s the whole idea behind networking. The phrase ‘it’s who you know’ is cliché, but it’s one of the best ways to stand out from the stack of resumes on a recruiter’s desk. Think about it – when a friend recommends something to you, don’t you generally trust their opinion? When someone recommends you to a recruiter, they’re vouching for you as someone they would trust to do a good job.
The opportunities for you to network today are endless. You can stay connected with so many people through social media sites and make new connections with sites like LinkedIn. If you’re not using these resources to find old contacts and to seek out new ones, you’re throwing away valuable opportunities to land a good job.
Do Your Research
If you’re unemployed, you should feel as though you’re working full time plus overtime as you research companies and apply for a new job. There’s no sugar coating it – you should invest a lot of time in researching a company if you’re serious about working there. Yes, you need a paycheck, but you also need to find an employer that gives you the opportunity to grow and advance. Otherwise, you’re just looking for a J-O-B and without proper research, your chances of being disappointed increase greatly.
Hone Your Speaking and Delivery Skills
Communication is crucial for every job. Whether you’re applying for a job in sales, IT, customer support, manufacturing, or management, if you have difficulties communicating with others, you’re going to have a hard time landing the job you want. No matter how qualified you are on paper, your first impression and communication skills will be biggest form of advertising for prospective employers. Practice your speaking skills and conduct mock interviews with others who are willing to critique you. There’s no better way to improve in this area, so start refining your speaking skills as soon as possible.
During The Interview…
Comfortable / Professional Balance
There’s a balance in being comfortable while maintaining your professional image. Be mindful of the interview environment. A good way to gauge what you should and should do or say is by paying attention to how your interviewer acts. Stay slightly more conservative than your interviewer, especially if you’re worried about coming across too relaxed.
The point of the interview is to sell yourself, so you don’t want to hide behind your dark suit and sound like a pre-recorded ‘professional.’ Let the interviewer see that you’re confident in your abilities and achievements by showing some enthusiasm and interest when you answer their questions.
Be Mindful of Body Language
The best way to show that you’re interested in a job is through your actions. Your words confirm what your actions are showing. Make it a point to practice good body language habits like maintaining eye contact, keeping good posture, and using appropriate facial expressions. Over exaggerating any of these can come across as being ‘fake.’ Spend some time recording yourself or practicing in front of a mirror if you want to really improve your body language. It can make all the difference in an interview.
After The Interview
It sounds simple, but send a genuine thank you note to everyone involved with the interview process. Emails work well, but make sure you took the time to customize your brief thank you note – a copy/paste job isn’t going to set you apart. Make sure you send your note in the first 24 hours following the interview.
Secondly, an old-fashioned phone call follow up doesn’t hurt. Just make sure you ask if it’s OK to call in a week or so. Some companies will clearly tell you that you will be notified, so it may not be appropriate to call. That’s something you’ll want to find out during the interview.
If All Else Fails…
There’s no magic bullet for getting a job, so it may take even more creativity outside of the typical network-resume-interview approach.
If you’re still out of work and feel like you’re in a rut, consider these alternative approaches to finding a new job.
Make a career change
Go Back to School
Adding a degree like an MBA isn’t a guarantee for higher pay or a better job. But going to school for a professional degree could open the door to a new field with more opportunities. Think areas like nursing, physical therapy, technical degrees, etc.
Create Your Own Work
Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you create. If you need inspiration, take a look at these side job ideas. With a little work, you might be able to turn one of these into a sustainable business of your own.
What’s one tip that you would give to a reader who is looking for work?