eleven thoughts on finding a job in THIS economy

I’ve been seeing more and more blogs, articles, and news stories about finding a job as the economy grinds on. From my experience as a former recruiter and someone who was laid off right when everything started to tank, most of them seem to leave out some key points or ideas.   Here’s the advice I’d give to anyone looking for work. Not all of it applies to everyone, but experience shows that most of it applies to most people.

 1. Give up your “shoulds”. Finding a job is your #1 priority and you don’t have the time or energy to spend on shoulds. The economy shouldn’t have failed. Your employer shouldn’t have laid you off. You should be able to maintain your lifestyle. You shouldn’t have to make sacrifices. They should know how qualified you are and give you a job. They shouldn’t treat job candidates that way.

All of this may be true, but it doesn’t help you find a job. In every endeavor, the people who are most successful get past the shoulds, get out of the victim mindset, and charge forward. It’s not easy to do, but when you’re in the shoulds, you’re in denial. Just because the ship shouldn’t sink, it doesn’t mean it isn’t sinking. You can argue all the reasons it shouldn’t sink or you can find a lifeboat. Your choice.

2. Don’t confuse activity with progress. Posting a resume on one of the big job boards is a start, but it’s not everything. Sending resumes to every single job posting, whether you’re qualified or not, feels like you’re searching, but that’s time that could be spent sending fewer but more targeted and customized resumes. Remember, the point isn’t to do a job search, the point is to get a job (sounds the same, but isn’t always).

3. Search nationally. There are a few who can’t relocate at all, but for every person in that situation, there are many more who could but really, really don’t want to. They are caught up in the fear of change and all the shoulds, and it’s a tough place to be. I sympathize: After being laid off, I lived apart from my family for five months until I could move my family. We couldn’t sell the house so we ended up renting it out and losing money each month. No fun, but it had to be done, and no one went hungry.

Although many areas of the country are suffering (and will continue to suffer), there are other areas where the local economies are just fine. Industries have been hurt, some jobs may never come back, but there are other jobs in other areas. Those who limit themselves to one town or even one state are really limiting their options.

4. Resume writing is a skill. People often thing that recruiters and hiring managers spend a lot of time going over each resume, analyzing it, thinking how that candidate will fit in the organization. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Each resume gets looked at for about 10-20 seconds. IF it catches their eye, they’ll look at it more closely. If not, it’s on to the next resume. (Of course, it may be scanned by computer and not even looked at unless the computer approves it first). Should it be this way? No. Is it this way? Yes.

Writing a resume so that it conveys all the information a person is skimming it for is a skill. Also, it’s really, really hard to write your own resume. Even those who are very good at editing other people’s resumes often struggle with their own. The best approach is to get input and feedback from others. Find people who are friendly, but not your friends so that they can give unbiased thoughts. Find someone in HR, or a manager you know, call up the career center at the college you went to, or hire someone to help. Once you have a polished resume, it may still need to be tailored to each job you apply for so that it emphasizes the most important skills for each job.

This is time, effort, and money well spent. After all, if your resume doesn’t catch people’s attention, you won’t make it to the next stage. Simple as that.

5. Interviewing is a skill. The interview is your chance to demonstrate why you are an outstanding fit for the position and the company. If you cannot convey that, you will not get the job. Further, studies have reported that many interviewers will form a strong opinion about you in the first few minutes. Should they? No, but they do.

People often think that they can just wing it or don’t even realize that interviewing is a distinct skill. I used to be terrible at interviewing until I became a recruiter, now I understand the types of questions people will likely ask and the information they are looking for. The good news is that you can learn this, too.

Go to the library and check out books on interview questions. Practice answering them with several different people. Can’t say it enough: practice, practice, practice. An athlete wouldn’t show up at the big game without practicing and you shouldn’t show up at the big interview without practicing. The best interviewing advice I received was to think of five different situations you’ve been in when you really did a great job and practice talking about those situations. Chances are, you can adapt those situations to any behavioral interview question (“Tell me about a time when you took initiative, handled change, had to assert yourself, etc.”).

To be continued…

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