by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The basic tenants of job-hunting do not change in a weak job market, but the amount of time and targeted effort that job-seekers must put into a job search to be successful do increase dramatically.
If you are seeking a new job during a recession, here are some key job-search do’s and don’ts — guidelines and tips — to help you succeed in finding a new job.
- Do start your job-search with a plan. Your plan should include the type(s) of job you seek, the employers you prefer, and a strategy for obtaining a position with one of your preferred employers. [Read more about job-search plans in this article, For Job-Hunting Success, Develop a Comprehensive Job-Search Plan.]
- Don’t rely on any one technique to find your next job. The best approach, especially in a weak job market, is a multifaceted approach using a number of job-search techniques (including networking, company job postings, job boards, cold contact, job fairs).
- Do understand that laying the groundwork — completing all the preparation (job-search strategy, writing resumes and cover letters, preparing for job interviews) — is the most essential element to your success in finding a new job.
- Don’t allow yourself to get easily discouraged or distracted. Your ego may get bruised a bit in a long job-search, but the more you stay focused and upbeat — with your eye on the prize — the better your chances of success. Remember that it will take much longer for just about all job-seekers to find a new job. [Read more about long job-searches in this article, Strategies for Staying Upbeat During a Long Job-Search.]
- Do plan to invest a much higher degree of effort into your job-search than ever before. You’ll need to set a daily goal to complete several job-search activities (such as obtaining job leads, following-up job leads, making new network contacts, connecting with existing contacts, conducting informational interviews, revising your resume, responding to job postings, building your personal brand, going on job interviews, etc.). Do stick to your daily schedule — and whenever possible, do try and exceed your daily goals.
- Don’t ignore or underestimate the power of career networking. Networking — using all the people you know (plus the people they know) to keep alert of job openings that match what you seek — is a crucial part of any job search. In a recessionary economy, however, networking must dominant your job-search strategy, as few organizations are actively seeking new hires. And don’t just use your existing network of contacts, but continue to seek out new people you can add to your network. Do develop online networking skills as well as more traditional networking methods. [Read more about networking in this article, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Career Networking.]
- Do create a resume that focuses on your key accomplishments and successes when describing your experience. Do use action verbs to describe those accomplishments. And do consider using a “Qualifications Summary” section on your resume to highlight your key qualifications and accomplishments. [For many resume resources, tips, samples, and tools, go to: Resume and CV Resources for Job-Seekers.]
- Don’t spend the majority of your time — or even more than 5-10 percent of your time — on the major job boards (a very typical job-seeker mistake). When you do want to use a job board, spend the majority of your time at specific employers’ Websites or to niche job boards for your industry or profession. Consider using a job-search engine to keep track of the most recently posted job ads. [For links to online job resources, go to: Job Sites by Category.]
- Do take a little time to recover from a layoff or downsizing before jumping back into the job market. People who have been laid off need time to come to terms with the termination and put it behind them; not doing so often leads to unintentional mistakes in your job-search. [Find more detailed information and advice in our Rebounding After a Layoff Tutorial: How to Successfully Re-Enter the Job Market After Being Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off.]
- Don’t forget to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job lead and job opportunity. One of the best ways to show that you potentially fit well with a prospective employer is by inserting into your cover letter and resume some of the same words the organization uses to describe itself. If you are responding to a specific job opening, tailor your materials to the specific needs and qualifications outlined in the job description.
- Do conduct detailed research on every employment opportunity and employer so that you know exactly the type of employee each seeks — and so that you know you are a good fit with each organization’s cultures and values. [Read more about researching employers in this article, Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Companies.]
- Don’t let the bad economic news stop you from job-hunting. In fact, many companies that announce layoffs today are hiring for new positions tomorrow.
- Do follow up all job leads until you know for certain the job has been filled or no longer exists. In a weak job market, the most successful job-seekers are both patient and persistent. [Read more about follow-up in this article, Follow Up All Job Leads: Don’t Wait by the Phone (or Computer).]
- Don’t use your current employer’s resources when job-hunting. Use a personal cell phone and email account when job-hunting. Seek interviews during your non-working hours — or take a personal day.
- Do develop a strategy for building your personal brand. Options include writing articles for your trade publications, participating in industry conferences or trade shows, and developing your own online portfolio. Do consider developing at least a simple Website showcasing your brand (even if you only publish your resume or CV) using your name as the domain name. (See, for example, the author’s site, RandallSHansen.com.) [Find more detailed information and advice in this section of our site: Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools.]
- Don’t fall for any job-hunting or work-at-home scams. Reputable headhunters and recruiters earn their fees from employers, not job-seekers.
- Do prepare for your job interviews. Try to determine the type of interviews you can expect (individual, panel, group, traditional questions, behavioral-based questions, etc.) so that you can develop and practice solid responses to prospective questions. Once at the interview, don’t forget to get the correct name (and spelling) of each person who interviews you. Do ask questions, and do ask about the hiring timeline. [For many interviewing resources, tips, and tools, go to: Guide to Job Interviewing Resources.]
- Don’t panic if weeks go by and you have heard nothing from the employer as hiring cycles continue to get longer and longer. But do keep following up with the employer regularly to show your on-going interest in the position. [Read more about follow-up in this article, The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews.]
- Do follow all proper job-hunting etiquette, from job-search attire to writing thank-you notes. Especially in a weak job market, continuing to show your interest by following-up with the employer is extremely important.
- Don’t give up if you are struggling to find a new job, but do consider obtaining career counseling — perhaps from your former college’s career office or by hiring a career or life coach or stopping by your local One-Stop Career Center.
- Do consider finding/accepting a temporary position or a survival job — one that will help you pay your basic bills and living expenses — while you search for your next career position. [Find out more about temping strategies and resources and survival jobs.]
[For etiquette resources, tips, and tools, go to: Job-Hunting & Business Etiquette Resources.]
See also these Job-Hunting During a Recession Articles for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Read all our job-hunting do’s and don’ts articles for job-seekers.
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