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Updating the techniques that can sharpen your skills. “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.”

–Norman Vincent Peale

Maybe the economy has resulted in your being laid off, or you just think it’s time for something new. Maybe you’re getting back into the work force or just starting out. Whatever the reason for your decision to look for a job, it’s never easy, and a recession makes it less easy. One thing’s for sure, you’ll have a lot better chance using updated techniques and tools. Your job-hunting skills and your approach to your résumé and cover letter should all come into the 21st century to maximize your chances of landing the right job. If you head out there with outdated job-hunting techniques, a Xeroxed résumé that’s the same for every job, a cover letter that says nothing more than “see my résumé, attached,” and unpolished interview skills, you’ll turn a long search into one that’s, literally, endless. In this issue, we’ll cover the job search, and in future issues, we’ll address the résumé, cover letter and interview.

GET YOUR JOB SEARCH OUT OF THE STONE AGE

Sure, check the want ads and contact your friends, but here are some ideas that will get your job search into the 21st century.

1. Surprise! Employers know how to Google, so make sure anything that comes up when they type your name into the search engine presents you in your best light. Create some good profiles at LinkedIn and Facebook. If you already have a profile, take down your spring break and new-kitten photos and replace them with photographs that showcase your professional accomplishments and volunteer work. Don’t turn your profile into a résumé, but do make it reflect the person you’d want your employer to know.

2. Use social networking sites to see if there’s anyone in your network who might know someone at a company you’re interested in working for. Have you been ignoring all those requests to join someone’s LinkedIn network? Ignore no more! Many companies say as many as half their new hires are from referrals by current employees. Such a referral indicates to the company that the current employee has already done some of the work of weeding out people who are unsuitable.

3. Since your e-mail address will be on your résumé, change it to reflect your expertise and interests if it doesn’t already. Marketingguy or Auditor123 is going to make a better impression than, say, Crazyman or Partygirl.

4. While you’re at it, be sure your voice mail message is polished and professional and that the caller doesn’t have to listen to a snippet of It’s a Hard Life for a Pimp before it goes to your message or you pick up. If you have children who are old enough to answer the phone at home, teach them some polite phone etiquette. Replace the adorable family outbound message with everyone singing Leave, leave, leave a message to the tune of Row, row, row your boat, or the insulting one about how if they don’t know what to do by now they should hang up and find out, with one that’s more straightforward, informative and professional.

5. Use the Web. Go beyond CraigsList and Monster to industry-specific job lists and résumé sites. Do some digging.

6. Write articles for Web sites, which is another way to get your name to come up in a positive way if you’re Googled. Participate in industry group forums and on social networking sites like LinkedIn’s Q&A feature and Facebook groups.

7. Attend industry events. Be sure you have a fresh supply of business cards at hand, and a few résumés in case a conversation goes far enough that anyone asks for one. If you’re no longer employed, your business card should be one you’ve had printed specifically for the job search, not your old one from your old job with the office phone number crossed out.

8. Freshen up your skills. If you’ve been in a comfortable job with lots of support staff and haven’t learned computer basics like PowerPoint and Excel, learn them. If you find job postings that have requirements you don’t have but could get through part-time jobs or continuing education, now’s the time to get them.

9. Bridge the gap with part-time work or multiple part-time gigs. You’ll learn new skills, keep a few bucks coming in, maybe get a foot in the door of a permanent employer you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of and increase your network.

10. Volunteer. Put your professional skills to work. If you’re an accountant, offer to do accounting for a local charity. A writer? Write their newsletter. An IT guy? Set up or manage their computer systems. You’ll keep your skills sharp, have something useful to add to your résumé, and make some new contacts — not to mention doing somebody good.

THE JOB HUNT AS JOB

In the end, remember that you’re doing what Milton Berle advised: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” It’s often said that one should approach a job search as though it were a job in itself. During your job search, you should be busier than ever.

Assuming you’re not already holding a full-time job during your search, your day will include scouring the Internet for job opportunities and spending at least half an hour personalizing each résumé and cover letter you send out, plus time at a part-time job, volunteering, writing and submitting articles for Web sites, updating your LinkedIn or other profiles, freshening or expanding your skills with coursework and certifications and looking for and attending industry events. Starting your new job should feel like a vacation after all the work of the job hunt!

In the next issue we will focus on techniques for updating your résumé.

Written by MARY ANNE COLE