The economy isn't as bad as it was a year or two ago. Unemployment has fallen to less than 10% and hiring is up over the last six months. These recent headlines may be leading to a light at the end of the tunnel.
But if you're out of a job and looking for work, this upbeat chatter is just that. You've been sending resumes, responding to job postings, following up leads and (hopefully) networking. But finding work today is nothing like it used to be.
What's different? For one thing, the competition is much tougher, and is likely to become even more so as the economy continues to improve. A Forbes article last year warned of a resume tsunami heading toward human resources departments, as employees leave the jobs they've been stuck in throughout the recession, and unemployed workers renew their efforts to land something.
So how do you increase your chance at landing a job? You have to have a plan. You'd be amazed how many people don't have a plan or strategy for their job search. They just check the job boards and click the "send" button with their resume attached.
If that's been your plan thus far, it's time to step it up. Beyond your resume and cover letter, develop a plan centered around the following three areas, and work it:
(1) Social Media
Many, if not most, employers today use social networking sites to research job candidates. Are you on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook? If not, get with the program and build a social media presence. If you already have one, make sure it conveys a professional image.
- LinkedIn is an absolute must. A CareerBuilder study found that LinkedIn is the first place recruiters look. Your profile and summary and recommendations should show the value you bring to the table. In addition, recruiters have told me that this is the first place they'll post jobs and search for candidates to fill them. Join LinkedIn groups within your industry and connect with as many people as you can.
Take LinkedIn a step further. Think of the companies you'd like to work for, then utilize LinkedIn's "Follow Company" feature, a new tool that sends updates about new hires, departures, and promotions within the organization.
- Twitter allows you to build your brand 140 characters at a time. What are your thoughts? Did you read a great industry article? Have you found a great web site? Also use Twitter to follow companies you're interested in working for.
- Facebook allows much of the same. Almost all companies have a Facebook page. You may want to create a separate page to focus on your career and accomplishments, or just clean up your current one.
Job boards were unique when they first came on the scene. While some companies are still using the major boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs), others are using social networking sites more. Here's a way to use both the boards and social media: If you find a job listing on a job board, check LinkedIn to see who you know there, then search Twitter and Facebook to see if the company has its own page.
Contact at least three friends, co-workers, former bosses, and industry people each day, in person, over the phone, or online. Every person you meet is an opportunity to network and could be a source of a potential job opportunity.
A recent study showed that approximately 70% of current employees are not fully engaged in their work, in part because of a cloud of fear and resentment caused by layoffs, salary freezes, and pay cuts that have dominated the U.S. economy over the last two years. As soon as the smoke clears, they'll be looking for "greener pastures." Are you among that 70%?
If so, it only underscores the fact that you need to develop a plan and stick to it. Because you can bank on the fact that there will be a lot of competition and you'll need to do whatever you can to set yourself apart.