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Here's how top career experts say you can improve your job-seeking skills in a worsening economy
Just months ago, Citigroup's (C) plan to eliminate 53,000 jobs (BusinessWeek.com, 11/17/08) would have been shocking. That was then. Within the past few weeks, Ford Motor (F), Starbucks (SBUX), General Motors (GM), Washington Mutual, and other big-name companies have announced similar cuts, pushing the civilian jobless rate to a 14-year high of 6.5%. Today, more than 10 million Americans are searching for work. Many have college degrees, management skills, and white-collar work experience; in a stronger economy, they'd be gainfully employed. But for the immediate future, an all-important question looms: What now?
Given the wave of job cutting this year and the likelihood of further losses in 2009, BusinessWeek queried prominent career gurus about how skilled job seekers can best position themselves during the credit crunch. Following are their six top tips:
1. Stay positive.
Among the recently laid-off, there's a tendency to assume the worst. But for many, pink slips come with a silver lining, says Maureen Anderson, author of The Career Clinic: Eight Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love. A recent Gallup survey found that 77% of Americans dislike their jobs. Using your newfound downtime to self-examine—"What do I really want to be doing for eight to 10 hours every day?"—could push you toward a more satisfying career path, or at least offer an intriguing change of pace. To an extent, Anderson explains, "it's best to think of [unemployment] as an adventure."
Of course, such "adventures" are tough during a recession: Your dream job might be less accessible than in years past, and you'll probably face stiffer competition. But if you're pursuing something you love, it's easier to stay driven. "Enthusiasm is like fuel," Anderson explains. During a prolonged job search, "it'll carry you farther than you think."
2. Establish a professional blog.
Employers are constantly scanning the blogosphere for "go-to guys," says Marty Nemko, a longtime career coach and host of Work with Marty Nemko, a weekly show on National Public Radio's San Francisco affiliate. And if you're writing about a specific industry, there's a good chance you'll get noticed. Stay abreast of trends, offer insightful commentary, and engage your readers, much like Kerry Kerstetter does on his accounting blog, The Tax Guru. That way, says Nemko, "you won't be seen as an 'unemployed dude.' You'll be seen as a powerhouse in your profession."
3. Join a job site.
If you haven't yet created a profile on LinkedIn or registered with such online career hubs as CareerBuilder and Monster.com (MWW), you should. On LinkedIn, more than 30 million professionals "exchange information, ideas and opportunities," according to the site's home page. And roughly 300,000 employers post jobs on CareerBuilder, where overall traffic has increased 4% since last month's Wall Street meltdown, says Jason Ferrara, the site's senior career adviser. Translation? The more contacts you make, the more jobs you can access. And during rough economic times, social networking can streamline your career search. Adds Nemko: "I'd even try posting on a Yahoo! forum."
4. Pursue an "Obama industry."
On his Web site, President-elect Barack Obama promises to "save or create" 2.5 million jobs by January 2011. Among the industries likely to benefit: infrastructure, energy, education, and health care. Job seekers should seize the moment, says Nemko. "Dovetail your strengths to fit [an expanding field]," he says, adding that extra schooling is not imperative. "Ride the wave of Obamania."
5. Get creative.
In today's saturated job market, standing out is more important than ever. So feel free to be "a little unconventional," says Anderson. When you're meeting career contacts—or even just schmoozing at a party—try carrying self-made business cards, she says. You can give yourself a straightforward title, such as "experienced advertising executive," or try something more humorous, such as "professional job seeker." Explains Anderson: "It's important to be talented and likable. Before hiring someone, employers usually ask themselves, 'Would I want to grab coffee with this person on a Tuesday morning?'"
Another way to get noticed is to create a video résumé, which you can upload to such sites as Monster and CareerBuilder. Beyond displaying your personality, the video supplement proves you're willing to embrace new media—a crucial trait in today's Web-savvy business world, Ferrara says.
6. Fix your flaws.
Most employers say recessionary layoffs aren't personal. But more often than not, there's a reason you were let go and other employees were not. Ideally, you should figure it out before starting a new job search, says Nemko. He suggests asking yourself some basic "introspective" questions: Did I ever slack off? Was I properly trained? Did I get along with my colleagues? Was I on time for work?
If you find shortcomings in your professional self, resolve to resolve them. Otherwise, says Nemko, "you'll probably get laid off again."