Job-hunting in January? It's a fact of life for recent grads and those recently laid off. First-time filers for jobless benefits are again expected to soar past the half-million mark and some economists predict close to double-digit unemployment by the end of 2009.
Such grim prognostications should not deter the determined. However, your strategy may very well determine your success.
DON'T WRITE RESUME FIRST
Contrary to what many advise, don't make crafting a resume number one priority on your "To Do" list. Your resume should be a reflection of your accomplishments and skills as they pertain to a particular job. So, first narrow your job categories and tailor-make your resume to fit each one. In fact, the more specific you can be in the jobs you want, the more pointed you can make that resume.
TARGET GROWTH INDUSTRIES
Heed the words of legendary bank robber Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, he replied, "That's where the money is." Look among the industries that are expanding. For example, computer software engineering ranks among the 50 fastest-growing occupations, while automotive engineering does not. This doesn't mean you have to be an engineer to tap into these growth areas. If they're expanding, they will also need other personnel and services, accountants, media and marketing specialists, sales and legal professionals. Click here.
Now is the time to test the worth of all those business cards you've collected and attend those professional functions you've avoided. Forget your alma mater? Get reacquainted with it as a resource through the alumni association, your fraternity or sorority. Revisit the employer that gave you a summer job or internship when you were in school. There will be people there who remember you, hopefully liked you and will be flattered that you are interested in returning to a company that knew you when.
It's not a staff job and it may not even have benefits, but it is a paycheck. Seizing a freelance opportunity opens a window when the door is closed. This allows a company and the people that do the hiring to get acquainted with you and gives you an advantage over other candidates when a fulltime job does become available. Freelancing also allows you to expand your network and once freelance job frequently leads to another. In fact, this could pave the way for your own start up by discovering what business needs you can fill.
PRACTICE SINGING YOUR PRAISES
Many job seekers find it difficult to talk about them in a meaningful way. They find themselves bragging or being bashful and neither is effective. Make a list of your real accomplishments and then talk about them to yourself in a mirror or with someone you trust. Make a list of talking points you want to get across in answer to some of the questions you can anticipate. Don't engage in generalities, but do give specifics about how you organized a project, delegated responsibility, resolved a dispute.
PRACTICE PHONE INTERVIEWS
You may never be asked for a face-to-face interview if your phone skills are poor. Your voice and tone and diction will have to carry you. No one can see your earnest expression or the energy in your eyes; your voice and words have to be convincing and congenial at the same time. Grammatical slips and slang will be more noticeable over the phone. Frequently a preliminary phone interview is used to narrow down the applicant pool, so take the call as the screening session it really is.
STAY IN TOUCH
Be diligent in your email and handwritten thank you notes. And if you don't get the job, don't be shy about asking why. Knowledge is power and this can help you next time out.