Landing a new job is never a cakewalk, but today’s tough economy is sure to make it especially difficult. Whether you are fishing for a first job out of school, recently laid off, or just ready to make a change, being prepared and having the right attitude can give you an edge in today’s competitive job market.
1. Think like a salesperson
Unless you are highly skilled (and highly lucky), the chances you’ll receive an unsolicited job offer are slim. To get a new gig, you have to sell yourself. Yes, you will be rejected, but if you never get to a place where you might be rejected, you’ll never get to a place you might be offered a job.
Commit to applying to a minimum number of jobs per day. Call employers—not to annoying ask whether they’ve looked at your resume (they hate that)—but to sincerely inquire about what opportunities they have or may have down the road. Send thank you notes to every employer that takes the time to call, write, or interview you—even if they say no. You never know when they might change their minds.
2. Be flexible
When making long-term career plans, you should certainly focus on not only what jobs you can get, but what jobs will make you happy and provide the kind of lifestyle you want. Sometimes, however, you just need to put food on the table. If you’ve been searching and searching for your dream job and just aren’t making progress, consider the possibility of sucking it up and taking a job that you’re qualified for—even if it’s not your passion. Things will pick up in a year or two when you can consider looking around again.
3. Do your homework
Some industries are booming despite the recession while others were hurting long before the economy went south. Focus your job search in growing industries if you can, or at least avoid getting your hopes up for a job in a dying field. The recession-proof careers I highlighted as being good prospects for college graduates hold true for anybody in the market.
4. Be optimistic
Job hunting can be emotionally draining, and the longer you go without landing a job, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s so important to keep a positive attitude. Keep moving forward with your search no matter what happens. If you get a rejection, fire off another resume. Finally, ask friends and family for support. Which brings us to my next suggestion.
5. Fire up your network
Even if you’ve never actively “networked”, you have a network to help you. They’re your past coworkers, your peers at school, your friends, and your family. Let all of them know you’re looking for a job. Don’t expect them to turn right around and offer you one, but you never know who might hear of the perfect opportunity for you.
6. Be polished
From your resume down to your clothes on interview days, don’t ignore a single detail about yourself. You may face more competition for a job you apply for today than at any other time in your career, so you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
7. Get yourself out there
Obviously, it’s easier to get a job through a personal connection than an online job site. But applying for jobs online does work—I’ve gotten jobs that way and know plenty of others who have, too. Get your resume on Monster and other sites and troll them daily. A service called Resume Rabbit can plug your resume into dozens of job sites for you.
8. In the meantime, try freelancing or temping
If your job allows, there’s nothing wrong with picking up freelance or temp work until you land a full-time gig. Not only can it help pay the bills, but it could lead to full-time work down the road, or at least provide some great new experiences for your resume. Sites like eLance.com, Guru.com. and Freelancer.com let you advertise services and bid on projects.