By Karen Burns
1. Have reasonable expectations.
Everybody wants the perfect job. But if your criteria are too high, or if you’re being too demanding, you may well remain unemployed or unable to get to the next level.
2. Do a little personal PR.
Stake out some internet real estate to serve as a “landing page.” This can be a blog, a website, or your LinkedIn profile so potential employers who are interested can easily find out more about you.
3. Look happy.
Employers are more likely to hire happy-looking people. So you’ve gotta smile. Your smile needs to come from a genuine place and remembering that hard times do not last.
4. Bring your resume up to speed.
A resume is no longer a comprehensive summary of your work and education history. Emphasize recent accomplishments, certifications, and training.
You may hesitate to rehearse answers to the most common questions. But consider the benefits of creating great answers to those questions you hear the most – short, vivid, three-sentence answers brimming with examples and facts. Then practice them until you can speak with conviction and confidence.
6. Be upfront about being overqualified.
Explain (in your cover letter, while networking, at the beginning of interviews) why you are pursuing this particular job. Hiring managers get nervous if your last job was as senior vice president and here you are applying for a general manager position. It will help if you emphasize skills and deemphasize titles in your cover letter and at the interview.
7. Nail the food part of the lunch interview.
Don’t order the most expensive thing. Don’t order the cheapest thing. Don’t order anything that is ostentatiously huge or smelly or crunchy. Instead, order a smallish dish that you can easily and gracefully eat with a knife and fork. Order quickly and with no fuss or interrogation of the server. Do not make an issue of your food allergies, your weight, or your likes and dislikes.
8. Mirror your interviewer.
Interviewers need to know if you’re the kind of person with whom they and their employees would want to spend eight or more hours, every day. Matching the communication style of your interviewer is an enormously effective means to convince a hiring manager that you are the ideal person for the job. If he or she is crisp and all business, put on your best professional hat and behave likewise. If the mood is light and relaxed, you too should unbend a bit.
9. Smile during the phone interview.
Phone interviews are not the same as in-person interviews. Smile while you speak. It may feel silly, but smiling shows up in your voice. Stand up. It removes pressure from your diaphragm and gives your voice more resonance. Tape your resume on the wall so you can consult it without having to look down, which can muffle your voice.
10. Don’t freak out about failure.
Your job search will inevitably involve setbacks. Please don’t let failure make you feel like a failure. Remember that lucky people fail more often than unlucky people because trying many things ups their odds of succeeding. You can do this, too.
Volunteering is great for your morale. Let’s face it, a long fruitless job hunt can start to make you feel like a loser. Volunteering rejuvenates you and renews your sense of self-worth. Volunteering fills you with positive feelings of accomplishment – feelings that will spill over into your job hunt.
12. Become a decent public speaker.
What better way to shine at job interviews, or in staff meetings, or at business luncheons than to express yourself clearly, confidently, coherently, and concisely? Speaking makes you visible. Speaking makes you memorable. Speaking can even make you look smarter than you really are. Consider joining Toastmasters or any group in which you can develop some speaking skills.
13. Blog it.
Writing a blog will make you smarter (hence, more employable) because you’ll be doing all sorts of researching, reading, and thinking. A blog provides a showcase for said researching, reading, and thinking.
14. Scrap the functional resume.
Three out of four hiring managers say they prefer chronological resumes. They’re used to seeing them formatted like this. They like to see a nice, neat career progression, preferably headed “upward.” They are still really hung up on gaps in work history. And, let’s face it, they feel -perhaps justifiably – that job seekers who go the functional route are trying to hide something.
15. Try not to annoy your interviewer.
Unfortunately, lasting impressions are formed within 90 seconds of the first meeting. Avoid gum chewing, slouching, knee jiggling, finger drumming, yawning, crossing your arms or legs, checking your cellphone or listening to it vibrate.
16. Find an outlet.
Find healthy ways to vent the hopelessness, anger, and depression if you are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy with your current job. Don’t let it all just fester inside. Get it out through exercise, therapy, meditation, prayer – whatever works for you.
17. Put yourself in the company of upbeat people.
Positivity is contagious. Whatever you do, avoid the doomers-and-gloomers.
Twitter is a relatively easy way to stay on the radar of a great many people. On Twitter you can create instant exposure, build credibility, and brand yourself as a top talent. Learn to be pithy and smart in 140 characters and you may attract the attention of potential employers, and even become a “thought leader” yourself.
19. Grow your network.
Set yourself a goal – like making three new contacts every day. Your network cannot be too big. Think former bosses/colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends, relatives of friends, relatives of friends of neighbors’ bosses. Use your spouse’s network, too.
20. Change your resume-sending strategy.
Employers want to reduce the time and money and risk associated with the hiring process. Make it easier for them by proactively seeking them out – catching them at that point where they’ve identified a need but not yet moved to fill it – and showing them you have what they need.
21. Ignore the unemployment numbers.
Statistics are useful when describing large populations. But you are only one person. You need only one job. Using statistics as an indicator of your individual chance of success is not only discouraging, it’s downright unrealistic. Here’s an idea: Get used to thinking of yourself as an exception. And then position yourself, in the eyes of potential employers, as an exception. You do this by clearly describing yourself and what you do in terms of profit generation.