Has your job search stalled? If you're like millions of middle-aged job-seekers, you've been out there for awhile and have likely run into your share of unforeseen roadblocks and discouraging near misses. According to figures cited by the AARP Public Policy Institute, most mature applicants can figure on spending 12 months trying to find a new position.
But there are several variables involved in job search success and these unfortunate statistics don't necessarily predict the outcome for your individual experience. How you conduct your job search (as well as a bit of luck) have a far greater impact on your results than numbers cited by the media.
Therefore, why not ramp up your search by employing techniques and strategies that make a real difference to your chances for success? Why not eliminate time-wasters and maximize your potential impact? Why not make small changes that will achieve big results? Here are three simple yet powerful ways that you can put energy and momentum back into your search:
Turn off your computer! This statement sounds like "luddite speak" to most job-seekers. However, sitting for hours in front of your computer is the biggest time-waster of them all. Despite all of the job boards and company websites, fewer than 15% of positions are obtained through online postings. And if you're spending much of your time answering ads, you're guaranteeing yourself one result: maximum competition! If the job looks good to you, it probably looks good to thousands of other people, too.
Instead of amplifying your competition levels, limit your computer time and use it strategically. Treat the ads for your line of work as research tools. Identify key skills and industry buzzwords that are currently in demand and make certain to speak to these while networking and cite them liberally throughout your resume. You'll also want to back up your claims with solid examples of how you've used these skills to create value for your former employers -- quantifying your results whenever possible.
Utilize social media to connect with people on a personal basis. Your goal is to spend most of your time in face-to-face meetings and personal phone calls. Email and text messages are great for passing information along, but nothing beats the impact of a personal connection. A friendly face and a professional demeanor will build a far stronger rapport, and this personal relationship will serve to motivate others to want to help you.
Maximize your first impression. We all know the importance of making a dynamic first impression. Moreover, these first few moments of personal impact are especially critical to your success in a job search. Of course, your goal is to present yourself as someone with the knowledge and skill to do the job. Yet equally important, you'll want to let people know that you're someone who is committed, responsible and pleasant to work with.
Make sure you're sending the correct nonverbal messages through your dress, demeanor and energy level. This is especially true for mature job-seekers. Take care that your wardrobe is up-to-date and do the same for your accessories -- including eyewear. If needed, whiten your teeth, as you'll want to be socializing -- and smiling -- at every opportunity. Also, follow the suggestions in my article, 4 Surefire Tips to Power-Up Your Branding Statement, to ensure that you're articulating your strengths with skill and confidence.
Organize your search. Few employers out there are seeking unreliable, disorganized employees. Therefore you'll need to take extra care to be on top of your game. Make certain to return messages, follow up on commitments and keep information to and from your targeted companies in order. You can do this by purchasing a three-ring binder, printing out all of your correspondence and labeling it according to individual companies. You can also create a spreadsheet where you track and monitor your connections and commitments. Even better, there are free online sites like Jibber-Jobber that will help you organize the various aspects of your search and keep them in one convenient location.
In addition to the various organizational tools, you'll want to write out a daily and weekly list of goals. The job search is notorious for requiring vast amounts of effort -- yet many times producing a negligible return on your investment of time and energy. By the very act of writing out your to-do list and then checking items off, you are creating a tangible way to track your progress. This simple act can help you feel motivated and wanting to move forward.
Most of all -- don't let the statistics discourage you. It may be true that most mature job-seekers can expect a long, slow process. But, if you commit to putting in 8 to 10 hours a day, work your network and present yourself as a winning candidate, you should be able to minimize your search time and start seeing offers.
Luck, circumstance and economics certainly play a role. However, employers are looking for strong, effective candidates and, if you match their needs, you're going to be hard to beat. So do whatever you can to keep yourself motivated, get out there and network at every opportunity, follow through on your contacts and commitments, and make that great first impression... your next job might be just around the corner!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!