In these times of economic difficulties, budget cuts and job loss, I hear daily from paralegals and others who certainly did not deserve to lose their jobs but who nonetheless find themselves updating their resumes and hoping for a new position before their unemployment benefits end.
When they come to me for advice, the first thing I tell them is that they DO have a job: they’re now self-employed and their job is finding a job. They have to treat this new job as though it is their own business and go to work every day. This is serious hard work!
Here are seven strategies for making your new business of job hunting a success:
1. Know Your Market. Do some research to determine what employers are looking for. You should craft your resume and your job search to be the perfect candidate for those jobs. Also, remember that many jobs are never advertised, but exist in the minds of the partners or Human Resources Director. If they view you as the perfect candidate for that position, they may hire you without ever interviewing any other candidates.
2. Do an inventory. Make a detailed list of your skills, experience, accomplishments, interests, goals and values. What are your strengths and where will they fit? You will need to be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, how you are the unique and perfect candidate for a job. Your inventory should also serve as a road map to other areas where your skills and experience would transfer. Also, know your salary expectations and be prepared to have that discussion. Communicate this in a such a way that the value you would bring to the position is commensurate with that salary level. Know also that you may have to get real about what your next job will pay. It may be more important to get your foot in the door and have those all-important benefits.
3. Develop a Plan. Begin with a clear, concise resume and a concise cover letter that states how your qualifications match job requirements. Both your resume and cover letter should be designed to catch the potential employer’s attention. Identify potential employers and start sending those resumes, whether they are advertising open positions or not. Consider using an appropriate employment agency but sure you understand what the agency will do for you and if there is a cost. This can be an excellent job lead resource. Also think about doing some temporary or freelance work that may result in (a) additional contacts; (b) new skills and experience; (c) additional income to tide you over while you’re unemployed; and (d) put you in a position to be available when a full-time job is available.
4. Get the word out. Let everyone you can think of know that you are looking for employment. That includes friends, colleagues, neighbors, members of your professional association, former professors and classmates. It does not matter if they are located right in your hometown or living in Timbuktu, let them know. This network is an important piece of your job search plan. There is always someone out there who knows someone who knows someone else who might help you.
5. Boost your network. Sign up for job search newsletters and e-mail blasts. Post on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Take the time to actively participate in Internet discussion boards and forums. Done the right way, social networking can be priceless job search tool. Just remember that everything you post is public in some way and that, once on the Internet, it does not go away. These sites are used by people who are hiring to screen potential job candidates. You will want your posts to say positive things about you.
6. Do not wait for opportunity to knock on your door. This most likely will not happen. Instead, make your own opportunities by being persistent, assertive and proactive. As intimidating as it may be, make those cold calls to potential employers. This is important for two reasons: first, you need to beat your competition to the draw; and second, it demonstrates to the potential employers that you are serious.
7. Keep track of your progress. Maintain detailed records of the jobs you have applied for. This would include communications, interviews, referrals, and any follow-up actions you take. You are building a list of valuable contacts for current and future job searches. During this process, be sure to mind your ‘P’s and Q’s’ by writing thank you notes and speaking positively about the people who have interviewed you. Remaining polite and positive is key.
The job of searching for a job is hard work. It may be the most difficult job you have ever had and it is essential that you maintain a positive attitude. If you take steps to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the job-hunting crowd by developing some effective strategies and defining what you want and need, you will be on your way to losing your current job-hunting job (hurray!) and landing that full-time position.