On a daily basis I hear from my clients about their struggles to remain hopeful and motivated in their search for work, in the face of what feels like an onslaught of gloom and doom economic media reports. It is difficult to blame job searchers for feeling overwhelmed by a growing sense that there is not much they can do to beat the odds and find meaningful work, or even any type of employment, for some.
However, Alexander Graham Bell’s famous quote that “We often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us” rings true, more than ever. There are changes in the world of work which demand of us to rethink how we approach job search, and it is likely that those who adapt their work-finding methods will be well positioned to benefit from the opportunities that the economic changes inevitably will present.
A quick read of the media shows that in this changing economy, the ratio of job searchers to employers is such that it is a “buyers” market out there for employers. Employers are in the enviable position of being able to choose from a large number of experienced and well qualified candidates to fill even the lowest paid of positions.
This presents you, the job searcher, with a challenge: to take a more active role in the job search process. It is no longer sufficient to find a few job posts, email a resume and cover letter, and sit back passively waiting for an invitation to an interview. Job searchers need to work hard at getting the attention of the employer, by being in the right places (online: social media, in person: networking, volunteering), using the proper key words which employers are seeking, and engaging in the right activities (behaving, both on social media and in real life, in an appropriate and impressive manner).
Here are some ideas for rethinking your job search approach:
- Make sure to review your internet presence (Google yourself — any surprises?) and make sure to clean it up and update it. Keep in mind that if you are active online (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs), you can have an impact on what an employer might find if they search for you online
- Information is KEY to success in this age of the Internet and your role is to be able to independently gather information, solve problems and demonstrate your ability to do so. You can assume that employers will be gathering information about you online, and you should be doing the same. The best sources of information about companies and the people who work in them are on LinkedIn (for companies and individuals), Facebook and company websites; check out glassdoor.com; don’t forget to use Google to see where else the company is mentioned. Some of the company information is generated by them, and some is ABOUT them — all of it very informative.
- Network, network, network. Concentrate on quality, not just quantity. Find like-minded people, who want to support you and genuinely believe in you. Earn their respect – help them in their endeavours (volunteer) and position yourself to benefit from them. Extend your networks, using both social media – e.g. LinkedIn, BranchOut, and other social media platforms, as well as going to networking meetings, volunteering and generally making sure that people get to know you and notice you.
- Become an independent learner – if you need to upgrade your skills (and you almost always do) don’t expect employers to offer you training. Make sure you know exactly what skills are required to perform the job; evaluate your own abilities and identify your gaps in knowledge. Make sure to clearly describe the relevant skills you already have, both on your resume and online profile (e.g. LinkedIn) with all the proper key words that employers are demanding. Find ways to gain new skills or sharpen those you have (short courses, online tutorials, volunteer work) – keep learning and teaching yourself.
- Be proactive and think ahead – keep yourself informed about trends in the economy and position yourself well to be able to benefit from them. Be open to developing ideas and gaining new ones. Be prepared to think and act laterally, and to try new approaches to finding work: certain sectors are producing more jobs than others — ever thought of focusing on the Green (environmental) or Healthcare sectors for jobs in your field?
- Take care of your social, mental and physical health. Don’t let job search or work take over — make sure to work on keeping a balance, and doing things that you find to be good for your spirit; develop a hobby that makes you happy and dedicate time to it.
- Look for work that is meaningful – sometimes meaning can be found in just one aspect of a job, such as the people with whom you work, or the goals of the employer. It may be worth compromising salary expectations to find work that is fulfilling.
- Volunteer strategically – get involved with people and employers who fit in with your goals. When you are there, glean advice, inside information and look out for potential mentors who can support your career development
- Identify target employers/companies and go after them actively – “follow” them on LinkedIn, set up Google alerts so you can updated whenever they get mentioned online, volunteer with causes sponsored by that company, so you can meet people who work there – be prepared to get in any way you can and start at the bottom, if necessary
- Consider “slash or portfolio” careers — be willing to take part-time work and work a number of jobs, if necessary. This is becoming increasingly common and acceptable, and can be an excellent way to keep more options open and gain a wider range of skills and experience.
Bottom line: it isn’t anymore only WHAT you know, or WHO you know – it’s WHO KNOWS YOU. This means working harder than ever to get employers’ attention, through careful self-marketing, focusing on a wider range of employers than before and making sure that you know and can control your online presence.