These are tough times for finding work. But there’s hope, especially if you follow these expert tips.
Back in 2007, Kathryn Rose had a job she loved, handling mortgage-backed securities for a large financial institution. Then the mortgage meltdown happened, and her department was shut down. She was eight months pregnant.
The profession she’d learned inside out just didn’t exist in the same way anymore. So Rose decided to reinvent herself.
It wasn’t easy, she admits: “It’s like jumping off a cliff and growing wings on the way down.” But Rose took a hard look at her past accomplishments, taught herself some new skills and reached out to friends and former colleagues. She started getting work—lots of work—as a social media and online marketing expert, and pretty soon was self-publishing books like the award-winning Step by Step Guide to Facebook.
If you’re unemployed, finding a new job can be difficult. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2000, only 2 percent of people looking for work couldn’t find a job within a year; by 2010, that number had risen to over 10 percent. For most people, the job search now lasts between 10 and 40 weeks—and in many cases longer.
But don’t despair; these practical tips from experts can help.
1. Give Them What They Want.
Don’t just send off your résumé and hope for the best. “Redefine yourself in terms of what the employer wants,” says R. William Holland, a job-search consultant and author of several books including Cracking the New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy.
“Your résumé is not about you; it’s about what people want from you, and unless you give it to them, it will not get its 15 seconds in front of the hiring manager.”
Holland suggests highlighting words in the job description that specify what an employer’s looking for. Then make sure those keywords are “baked in” to your résumé, cover letter and all correspondence.
Keep your résumé short and sweet, no more than two pages. Sometimes that means eliminating experiences that are irrelevant to the job you’re applying for; don’t feel attached to those things.
Even if you’re returning to the workforce after an extended time away, don’t underestimate your experiences, says Ford R. Myers, executive career coach and author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. “You should emphasize what you’ve been doing all these years: organizational skills, being able to manage projects, interpersonal skills, resourcefulness.”
If an interviewer asks about a skill you don’t have, gently steer the conversation toward a related skill you do have. “You want to convey your key strengths,” says Colleen Lauria, a talent manager and HR executive.
Though new developments in technology may favor youngsters, more seasoned applicants have other advantages. This applies for career-changers, as well: “Skills can be transferrable,” says Myers. “Technical details can be taught; intelligence, wisdom and savvy can’t.”
2. Don’t Take It Personally.
“You can’t take termination or rejection personally,” says Holland. “It used to be that if you got fired or your business went under, that was a source of embarrassment. That’s not relevant now. It happens all the time.”
This is especially important when looking toward your next job or career. It may mean having to readjust your expectations, but don’t let that affect your self-esteem. Taking a temp or part-time job can be a great way to get your foot in the door, and “do not be afraid to take a job that’s at a lower level or a lower title,” says Myers. “You can work your way up. Show up with vitality and a sense of urgency. If you’re passionate about the work, the rest will take care of itself.”
3. Look for Job Leads in Unusual Places.
Opportunities can come from some unexpected sources. Be open to them even when you’re not actively in job-search mode—an off-hand remark from a neighbor or a bit of conversation with a store clerk can be more valuable than scouring the want ads or job listings online.
“Your greatest asset is your network,” says Myers. “Older people especially have met a lot of people over time. Tap into that; you’re likely to get a shot because you know someone who’s a friend of a friend or someone’s uncle or grandmother.”
And if you’re thinking about a new career path, Rose advises, “join groups and make inroads with people so that you when you need a job, those connections are there. Foster relationships. People help each other when they care.”
4. Be Adaptable.
The economy and the job market are changing rapidly, and candidates need to prove they can go with the flow. Lauria says she’s looking to hire “folks who are adaptable to change, who can deal with situations as they come.” Even if you were in the same job for 25 years and are suddenly looking for something new, highlight how you remained flexible within the position.
That also means accepting that “everything is electronic today,” says Lauria. “You have to manage your social brand: Have a consistent presence across all your social networks.” Be conscious of what you’re posting to Facebook and Twitter—potential employers could be watching.
Dress codes are changing, too; if you’re interviewing for a job, “You don’t necessarily wear a suit,” says Holland. Be aware of the work environment and “show that you can fit in in that industry,” says Lauria. “Keep up with the trends and the times.” Most industries have unspoken dress codes: A law firm is generally more formal than an Internet advertising agency. If you’re not sure, study the company’s website or the job description (“casual work environment”) for clues.
5. Stay Positive.
“When you get rejected over and over, or when you’re waiting to hear back from someone, your self-confidence takes a beating,” says Holland. “It’s bad for your health, and your ability to land a job.”
Updating your résumé for a position can actually give you a boost, he says: “It can help you remember what you’ve done that people are looking for.”
In other words, don’t lose hope! If you keep at it, says Rose, “something good is going to happen.”