In times like this, when a down economy begins to show signs of rebounding, job seekers of all ages and levels of experience suddenly flood the market with resumes and contact everyone in their network of associates to promote themselves as potential employees.
So, with all this activity, how can you stand out from the crowd?
Simple. Put together a strategic job search strategy, one that will enable you to compete effectively in all aspects of the employment search process. Here are some key aspects to a good job search plan:
1. Know the market.
Which job sectors are hiring? Which ones aren't? Where is growth projected? Recent studies show that moderate to strong growth is expected in the following broad categories: Manufacturing & Production, Sales, Health & Life Sciences, Transportation, Utilities, Information Technology (especially programming), and Retail. Markets that are expected to stay flat or decrease include Hospitality & Restaurants, Government jobs, Finance, and Construction.
How does knowing the market help you find a job? First of all, it tells you not to expect too much if you're looking in one of the flat or declining markets. For instance, if you were thinking of leaving the private sector and looking for a government job, this might not be the best time. It's also good if you're thinking of changing careers—now would be the time to look into IT or Sales, rather than Hospitality or Construction.
2. Have the right skills for the right job.
That means focusing your job search in areas where you are qualified. Having the skills and experience a company is looking for automatically puts you a step ahead of the competition, many of whom might be career-changers or people trying to jump ahead a few career levels. With so many people trying to find any job they can, your odds of catching an employer's eye will improve dramatically if you have the experience they want.
3. Use the right tools for your search.
Yes, the resume and cover letter are just as important as ever, regardless of what some so-called "employment specialists" might be predicting. But they are no longer the only tools at your disposal. You should have an online presence, including a web resume and a LinkedIn profile. You should have a one-page career highlights sheet—a personal profile—to hand out to your network contacts and to individuals at job fairs. Business card resumes are also good for this. You might even want to have an interview portfolio, a multi-page document that you can pass out at interviews. Of course, none of these tools will be effective if they're not formatted correctly and written in a professional manner, so either do some research before putting your documents together or consider having a professional resume writer help you.
4. Consider your options.
More than one-quarter of the new jobs created in 2010 were temporary positions, a trend that is likely to continue—and probably grow—in 2011. Companies are changing the way they do business, and part of that is relying more on temporary help and contract positions. Yes, sometimes these can lead to permanent roles, but 1099 employees are the way of the future in many job categories, so you should be prepared to look into this type of role as an option.
5. Do some research.
Hit the Internet and read the Economics section of the newspapers. Find out which companies have new products coming out or who are expanding facilities. Companies whose businesses are growing are the companies most likely to be hiring. Companies who are laying off employees or who are mired in scandal are less likely to be bringing on new employees.
6. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Don't get discouraged if a few weeks go by and you haven't found work, or maybe even gotten interviews scheduled. Finding work is hard work, so don't start slacking off when things don't happen fast. Remember, the competition is tougher than ever, so that means going the extra mile in terms of devoting time to your job search process.
With the right strategy in place, your odds of finding a job will increase accordingly. So stop wasting time and start working on your roadmap to the future.