If you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected job search and feel a little overwhelmed, you are not alone. There are 2.3 million fewer jobs available than there were in 2007 and unemployment rates are higher than they have been in over 26 years and are expected to peak around 10.5% in early 2010. There will be few net new jobs until later. Is it a tough job market? Yes. Is it impossible to find a job? No, but there are several pitfalls to avoid if you want to launch an effective job search campaign.
Don't Skip Assessment
Before you rush to update your resume, be sure not to side step assessment. Most people have come to think of "assessment" as a standardized test completed online or using paper and pencil tests. What we mean by assessment is much more involved and specific to the individual. In the interest of time, we can boil it down to two quotes from two very wise men: William Shakespeare and Yogi Berra. When is the last time you saw those two names in the same sentence? We like what they each had to say: "To thine own self be true." and "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up some place else." Assessment includes helping individuals with visioning their future, understanding their unique gifts, strengths, and passions, and figuring out what they want to do next. It is a critical step in building the confidence, resolve and endurance to keep going when the going gets tough.
Don't Underestimate the Importance of Targeting
We talk to many candidates who are frustrated by the seemingly impossible job market. When we ask job seekers, "What is your target?" or "What stage of your search are you in?" we are often met with a look resembling a deer in the headlights. One common remark is, "I don't care where I work. I just need a job." That may be true, but try to think of the message that sends to a potential employer. Sometimes it helps to think of it like a marriage proposal. How many women out there when their guy pops the question would get all weak in the knees when he explains that he doesn't really care who he marries, he just wants a wife and any woman will do? That would not likely be too well received, and the message is not what potential employers want to hear either. So, it is important to give some thought to your target. By target we mean: 1) an industry or organization size; 2) a position within that organization; 3) a geographic location. Knowing your target will also help position you appropriately on your resume. If your target is off, everything else will be off as well.
Don't Get Bogged Down Using Ineffective Search Methods
While it is true candidates should use all four methods of job search: 1) answering ads; 2) registering with search firms; 3) networking; and 4) direct contact, it is important to use time wisely. What we find repeatedly is most candidates spend up to 35 hours a week searching online job boards and applying to online ads. They are shocked when we tell them only 4% of ALL jobs are filled through those means. Online job boards can be useful in assessing the market and researching what skills employers are looking for, but you should be spending the least amount of time there. The return on your investment is far too low! We also find candidates rely heavily on search firms. Again, search firms are a valuable resource to candidates and we encourage clients to continue to work with recruiters and search firms. However, keep in mind that a very low percentage of jobs are filled through this method as well--only about 10%. If you are waiting for your recruiter to land a job for you, you can expect a much lengthier job search. You will have the greatest return on your investment through direct contact and networking, so these two methods are the best use of your energy, time, and efforts.
Jennifer Vogel is Managing Partner of Envision Evolution Group, LLC, a career management practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Jennifer is a certified professional resume writer and career coach. She has a master's degree in Human Resources Management and a BS in psychology with over 20 years of experience in resume writing.