Job hunting in a down economy can be a daunting prospect. You'll probably need to work harder at it and you'll definitely need to work smarter to find new opportunities. Comedian Milton Berle summed it up when he said, "If opportunity doesn't knock, then build a door."
Here are six strategies to help you "build your door" and better position yourself to land a new job.
1. Networking Works
Business Insider's Gina Belli reports that "even when figures are broken down into different categories of job seekers and people are asked how they landed their current job, networking tops every list."
If you don't have one already, now is the time to develop a broad list of contacts, including family, friends, former colleagues, classmates, and social acquaintances. Reach out and let them know what type of position you're looking for. Be specific. You never know who in your network may be able to provide job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and/or introduce you to more people to expand your network.
Still not convinced that networking works?
Belli cites research that estimates that as many as 80 percent of new jobs are never listed but are instead filled internally or via networking.
2. Finding Hidden Job Opportunities
When the economy falters, companies often downsize and consolidate job functions, which can open up opportunities for someone with the right combination of talents. A smart job-hunting strategy includes determining your most marketable skills, researching the ongoing needs of the employers you're interested in (including your current employer), developing a proposal showcasing how they would benefit from hiring you and sending it off to the appropriate contacts.
"My advice is to worry less about the job title you want and more on where you think you can make an impact. When the economy picks up again you'll have a great story to tell about how you added value to a company," Beth Loeb Davies, host of the Career Curves Podcast and founder and consultant for HR Reimagined says. "During a down economy, the mistake many people make is to take any job just to bide their time until things improve. But if you aim for a job where your talents can make a difference, your stories of accomplishment are the ones that will propel you forward in your career."
3. Spruce Up Your Resume
The arrival of spring inspires spring cleaning, right? A job layoff should inspire a resume revamp. Here is how:
- Consider a new design to give your application materials a fresh look. A resume format can be an easy way to update your resume, especially if it's been a long time since you've looked for a new job.
- Scrutinize your resume format. Does it meet your goals? If you have a strong work history, stick with the traditional reverse-chronological format. Or, if you are making a career change, could a hybrid or functional resume format better showcase your skills?
- Learn which current industry keywords are trending by checking out our extensive collection of resume templates.
- Check and recheck for errors. Don't ruin your first impression because of typos, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Be sure to read through all of your resume text several times (use spell check!) and proof any emails you'll be sending prospective employers.
- Consider using a professional resume builder, which will walk you through all the necessary steps to rewrite and revamp your resume.
4. Beat the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Don't let your resume be tossed out of the running by an automated bot. Before they even get to a hiring manager's desk, an ATS will weed out any resumes that are missing relevant keywords.
Research the hot buzzwords for your field and scan the job description to identify which keywords continuously pop up. Use both throughout your resume and cover letter to improve the chances that your resume will make it through an ATS and into the hands of a recruiter.
5. Banish the Boring Cover Letter
When writing a cover letter in a down economy, here's how to make the hiring manager or recruiter sit up and take notice:
- Choose an attractive cover letter template to make your document pop.
- Set your letter apart right off the bat by abandoning the conventional opener, "To whom it may concern." Instead, do a little digging on the company's website or on LinkedIn to identify the specific person to whom you should address your letter.
- Take the company's culture into account and style your letter to reflect it. If the company's website adopts a more casual tone, for example, your cover letter can as well. However, always remain professional and polite.
- You're the best candidate for the job, so supply career anecdotes that explain how and why. Spell it out with specifics. Insert links to work you've done. Don't be shy about tooting your horn.
- Why is this company one you want to work for? Reputation in the industry? Company culture? Business philosophy? Your cover letter is the place to let them know your reasons.
- If you need help writing, consider a cover letter builder which will offer professionally written text suggestions to help your writing flow.
6. Follow Up
A wise job-hunting strategy includes follow up at every stage of the game. It's not only a courtesy, but it's also a way to keep yourself top of mind. After submitting your application, send a follow-up email or make a call. After an interview, instead of sending an email follow-up, send a handwritten note to each person who interviewed you.
LiveCareer is Here to Help!
Whether jobs are scarce or plentiful the process of getting hired is rarely a slam dunk. Commit yourself to put in the hours networking, researching and identifying companies you'd like to work for.
Better your odds with a stellar resume designed to suit the opportunity and a well-honed cover letter— we have an abundance of templates for both with built-in, easy-to-use online tools to help you jumpstart the process.