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Hunting in a Down Economy

The market is down, foreclosures are up, your bank account is emptying, and youíre becoming increasingly desperate. With fewer companies hiring and more people competing for the same spots, your future doesnít look too rosy. But if thatís true, why are people still getting hired? How come they areÖ..and you arenít?

It has nothing to do with what you did or didnít do in your last job. It has nothing to do with why you left Ė even if you got fired. And it doesnít hinge upon your age, either.

But it does take doing things a bit differently than youíve probably been doing them, and these techniques work even better in a market where job seekers Ė instead of employers - have the edge. This isnít the time to be passive. You need to step outside your comfort zone and be assertive about the process. And "good enough" doesnít cut it.

Most likely youíve been sitting at the computer, trolling the job boards and submitting your resume to anything that looks good. "I can do that," you say. But the question is, "Does the company think you can do that?" If you donít have at least 80% of what the ad says the company wants, donít bother applying, because it will up your rejection rate. Rejection increases dejection which increases pessimism which increases rejection whichÖÖ Not a productive pattern.

Pro-active means following up with the company. This is a hotly contested point and Iím very firm on doing it. Contrary to popular belief it does not make you look desperate. Companies value people who are attentive to detail (thatís probably in your resume summary) and know how to communicate (thatís probably in there too). What better way to demonstrate those skills?

It also makes you stand out from the pack. Who wants to be a faceless name in a pile of resumes? Forge a relationship and attach your personality to the application. And yes, thereís a difference between polite, professional follow up and annoying persistence. The first is good. The second is not. Call about every other day. Donít leave more than three messages. Donít email. Itís creative avoidance. Pick up the phone, and smile when you talk.

Your resume. Are you a victim of one-page-itis? If you are, itís invariably cramped with tiny print or missing relevant information. Or are there deserts of white space, hence itís four pages long? Make use of those margins and bring it in a page or two. Do your bullets say what you did instead of how well you did it?

If your cover letter talks endlessly about your accomplishments (which are probably missing from your resume) then you havenít told the company how theyíll benefit. Youíve let them figure it out. Does your letter regurgitate your resume? Is it generic? You should be using the words from the ad and providing examples that connect to what that ad says they want.

Are you networking? Finding groups that meet regularly? Do you have a personal business card with a few lines of your skills and what you want? Are you carrying around resumes? You also need a ten-second speech. Itís a pithy, informal, synopsis of the norm. Note the long sentence: "Iím in IT. I do a lot of project management. I just finished up with Buzbee Consulting who does IT projects for large retail companies, but Iíve done quite a bit of manufacturing projects too with very successful outcomes. Know anyone that needs my talents?"

Contacting companies cold works well. Although they may not be actively looking, companies are always in flux. You might be in the right place at the right time. Make sure you follow up on these letters. Read the business journals. New management frequently makes changes, and any new hire has created an opening somewhere. Access your reference librarian for directories.

If you want to work, youíve got to work.

- Judi Perkins