Tuesday, November 17, 2009

8 tips to help you find your way in this tough job market


While I knew there was a good chance the unemployment rate would go up, when I heard the latest figures were 10.2 percent, my reaction on Twitter was automatic: "Double ugh," I wrote. It was exactly how I was feeling at the moment. Then, I did what I always did: I picked up the phone and started asking experts on how job seekers could succeed in this tough market. Here's what I wrote for my Gannett column:


You may not think you have a superpower, but if the only way you’re looking for a job is by applying to companies or job boards on the Web, you’ve just become invisible.

Phil Haynes says it’s these kinds of blunders that can prevent a job seeker from finding a position, but he says a revamped strategy can help bring success.

“Your chances of finding a job by just applying online are about 7 percent,” says Phil Haynes. “You want to make yourself visible to companies, but you’re invisible if you’re applying for jobs that way.”

Haynes is in a unique position to know how companies are hiring. He is the director or of AllianceQ, a group of Fortune 500 companies that have collaborated to build a pool of qualified job candidates to match with job openings. It not only drives down recruitment costs for employers because they are sharing resources, but candidates have access to more opportunities through a job search program known as UnitedWeWork.

As employment rises to more than 10 percent, Haynes says that job seekers need to quit wasting time on strategies that won’t help them find a job. He suggests several ways to improve a job search process. He says some do’s and don’ts include:

  1. Don’t apply for jobs for which you’re not qualified. Employers have to weed through hundreds of resumes for even the most basic jobs, so they immediately discard ones where the skills don’t match their requirements. For example, if you’re not an engineer, don’t apply for a job that requires an engineering degree. “You do a great disservice to yourself when you do something like that,” Haynes says. “It never, never works that way. I have never seen someone picked for a job if they don’t have the qualifications.”
  2. Do take a sales approach to the job search. “Before you sell something, you have to know your product. In this case, you are the product. What can you offer someone?” Haynes advises not trying to “be something you’re not,” but instead looking at how what you know could translate into something positive for an employer.

3. Do your homework. Haynes says you should never approach an employer about a job unless you have researched the key players in the company, what the company does and some of the challenges it faces in its industry. That information can easily be found on the Internet or by visiting a local library, he says.

4. Do walk out the door. “Put on a suit and get out of the house,” Haynes says. “Go knock on doors. Do it the old-fashioned way: Walk into a small or medium-sized business and talk to them.” Haynes says the way you get opportunities is often by selling your skills to a company leader face-to-face. By making that personal connection, you may nab a job before an employer even considers posting it. “They may just see you as someone who can save them from going through stacks of resumes,” he says.

5. Don’t be desperate. Never approach an employer with the attitude that you’re willing to do any kind of work. “Don’t ever tell an employer that you really need the job, but rather that you’d like the job,” Haynes says. “Never say you’re willing to do anything.”

6. Do understand that something is better than nothing. Maybe your pride won’t let you take a certain job, or even apply for a position with less money than you were making. “Listen, you’ll feel better about yourself if you have a job and someplace to go,” Haynes says. “You can keep looking for something better, but take the job for now.”

7. Don’t be ashamed. “This time period is not going to reflect negatively on you in your resume,” he says. “People are taking survival jobs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

8. Do follow up. Once you’ve had a job interview, don’t let the connection languish. That doesn’t mean you call and bug the person about a decision. Instead, use information gleaned through the interview to make a stronger personal connection, Haynes says. For example, if you know the person went to a certain school and had a favorite professor, find information on the professor’s latest accomplishments, or an article written by the person. Forward this information onto the interviewer, saying something like, “I thought you might find this interesting since I know this professor was a personal favorite.”

Haynes also offers other words of encouragement to job seekers.

“Don’t forget that while some jobs are gone forever, there are a lot of new ones evolving,” he says. “And as soon as the stock market rebounds, a lot of those 6.6 million people who are 65 and older are going to go ahead and retire. That’s a lot of jobs opening up.”


What are some other job search tips?


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