12 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers in a Down Market

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

Even in a down market, job seekers and employees are not powerless or without recourse. In fact, you have more control over your career circumstances than you might think. Over my 25 years of experience as an Executive Career Coach, I’ve developed 12 specific strategies and tactics that consistently generate strong results for job seekers, even when “no one’s hiring.”

1. Network, network, network. Continually increase your level of networking and keep expanding your contact database. Reach out to reestablish and nourish business and personal relationships. Offer to help others, even if they’re not in a position to help you (because “what goes around comes around”). There is no substitute for connecting with people one-on-one. Stay in touch and don’t isolate yourself. Being out of work does not mean you have to be out of touch, so be sure to build and maintain your networking momentum.

2. Enhance your career education and credentials. Read career books and attend career seminars. Take advantage of learning opportunities to improve your job search and career management skills. Pursue professional development by participating in classes, seminars, webinars, certifications and industry conferences. Take advantage of free and low-cost programs to enhance your credentials. Keeping informed of business trends will help you gain greater knowledge of the industries and careers that are poised for future growth. Stay plugged-in to the market and your field to ensure that you’ll be current, and to maintain your intellectual capital. Apply what you learn, and generate stronger search results.

3. Leverage technology. Utilize web sites and online tools to connect with your industry and to build greater visibility. Create a career web site or profile, using tools like VisualCV (www.visualcv.com) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). Reach out through social networking sites, such as FaceBook (www.facebook.com) and Twitter (www.twitter.com). Keep in touch with colleagues consistently via e-mail. In addition to leveraging career portals and job boards, learn how to use online tools like blogs, wikis, and virtual job fairs.

4. Differentiate yourself. Although you may be out of work, you can still distinguish yourself professionally. Position yourself as an expert by writing articles, giving presentations or teaching a class. Build you online presence with a positive, consistent impression and optimize your online identity. Get involved in professional organizations, and assume leadership roles there. Do something noteworthy in your community that will garner special recognition and build your positive reputation. Focus on what makes you special, and consistently build your brand within your industry.

5. Seek help and support. Get career support from a professional. A qualified Career Coach can better prepare you to land your next position. If career coaching is unaffordable for you, take advantage of group coaching programs that are more affordable. There are also free government programs, nonprofit agencies, job search clubs, college/alumni career centers, or faith-based missions for the unemployed and underemployed. If you’re thinking of changing industries, get some career testing. If you’re struggling emotionally, get help from a mental health service provider.

6. Act with speed and urgency. One way for you to get an edge over other candidates is to demonstrate that you’re more serious and more determined than the competition. Show up earlier. Arrive more prepared. Move quickly and efficiently. Make an impression by being more responsive and assertive than the others. Become known as the “get it done person.” Step-up to take-on greater responsibility – now, and also when you land the job you want!

7. Be flexible and adaptable. Consider shifting industries and/or being geographically mobile to open-up more career possibilities, even if you would not ordinarily choose these options. Identify industries that will emerge stronger when the market improves. Research emerging opportunities and niches that will offer career growth, and position yourself to take advantage of these trends. Rather than waiting for the perfect opportunity, offer your skills to other industries and lend your experience to different positions. Pursue a temporary, part-time or contract position to “get your foot in the door.” Volunteer, provide pro bono work or do an internship. If your field has collapsed, be sure to communicate your transferable strengths and the tangible value you offer, rather than focusing on the trade skills from your old industry. Adapt to the realities of the changing work world, rather than holding onto your old career identity out of fear, resentment or even nostalgia.

8. Improve and enhance all of the documents in your career portfolio. Now is the time to expand your career portfolio far beyond just the resume. You’ll need a one-page professional biography, a collection of powerful accomplishment stories, a series of compelling cover letters, a page of professional references, a list of targeted employers, a positioning statement (15-second commercial), and other items. Craft a unified package that consistently conveys a highly professional image of yourself.

9. Practice interviewing and negotiation skills. In an ideal world, you would have been practicing your interviewing and negotiation skills while you were fully employed, rather than waiting for a career crisis to arise. Since the job market is still quite challenging, it’s important to polish and perfect these skills. Solicit the help of a partner to role-play with you, and switch roles as needed with the interview questions and answers. Practice with an audio-recording device, and listen to yourself as you continually improve your performance.

10. Pay extra attention to your personal image. First impressions count, and we live in a very visual culture. Make a deliberate, consistent effort to present yourself in the best light. Ask yourself, “How can I enhance my attributes in the following areas: hair, eyeglasses, makeup, hands, clothes, shoes, accessories, posture, smile?” Now is the ideal time to take stock of your appearance, and make whatever changes you feel could improve your job search results.

11. Focus on tangible results and practical solutions. In a healthy job market, candidates can promote themselves with their employment history, education and related assets. But when “no one’s hiring,” there needs to be a relentless focus on tangible, positive results. The primary question in the employer’s mind is always, “What can you do for me – now?” This means that you should zero-in and quickly identify the employer’s most pressing needs and problems – and then explain exactly how your relevant accomplishments will allow you to successfully address those issues in the short term.

12. Watch your attitude. Job search is really an inside game, especially when “no one’s hiring.” The outcome of your search will have much more to do with how you think than with the external circumstances of the job market. Avoid the “gloom and doom” messages disseminated by the media, and stay away from any negative people in your life. Maintain a positive attitude, and never state anything negative or act desperate. Spend some time each day focusing-in and recalibrating your internal attitude. You’ll also need to be patient, but persistent. When the job market is bad, employers will prolong the hiring process, and your search is bound to take longer than you’d like. Finally, even if you’re out of a job, you probably have many other wonderful things in your life, so remember to be grateful.

Conducting a successful job search campaign takes energy, discipline and career support. Despite the pressures you may face in today’s employment market, you must stay focused on your goals and “search smart” by implementing these 12 critical job search habits!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.

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