For recent graduates as well as victims of downsizing, layoffs and other economic backlashes, the job market can be an intimidating place. But the 2011 job hunt could be just the chance you need; let go of some of those old job-hunting habits and tackle the 2011 market with these updated tips. (Focusing on salary may be a mistake. Find out which benefits have the highest long-run payoff. See Job Hunting: Higher Pay Vs. Better Benefits.)
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- Keep your social networking alive, well and professional.
If you've been neglecting your Linkedin account and playing Farmville instead, it's time to switch gears and look at social networking as one more step in the successful job hunt. It's fine to have accounts for personal social networking, but spend less time on those and lot more time on the profiles you have that relate to your past, current and future career. Get involved in local groups on Linkedin, update your professional blog daily and follow professionals in your field on your Twitter account. A neglected or unprofessional social profile can hurt your job hunt, but a regularly updated and professionally focused social presence can open many doors.
- Find a job with Twitter.
Twitter is useful for far more than to-the-minute updates on the personal lives of your favorite friends and/or celebrities. Twitter can help land you a new job. First, follow influential folks in your field. Keep up with what's going on. Participate. Be part of the profession even if you're still looking for a job. Second, use a Twitter search tool to look for jobs, conferences and networking opportunities with people in your field. Twitter can be just a time-waster, sure; but it can also be a way to connect with people in your profession, build relationships - and maybe even end up with the job you want. (Follow Financial Edge on Twitter!)
- Polish up your resume.
Social networking is a powerful way to get the contacts you need, but most often you'll still have to send in a resume for those job applications. Don't send an outdated resume in after you've updated your online presence. Make sure that both your resume and your online profiles are current and the best representation of your work experience and education.
- Get active even (especially) if you're unemployed.
Local connections are one of the most powerful ways to find a job; plus you'll only get depressed if you sit at home in your sweats all day. Join local organizations, volunteer and get involved in your community. Use your expertise to help other people out. Offer free seminars in your church or community organization, write articles for the paper or mentor someone who's new to the field. Staying up to date in your field and active in your community gives you something to say when those potential employers ask, "So what have you been doing in the last six months?" (Don't let a period of unemployment keep you from landing a new job. Check out Bridging The Gaps On Your Resume.)
- Look for ways to be an expert.
If you're a recent graduate looking for your first job, then that whole "work experience" section of the resume is often a painful subject. You may not be able to fill it up with years on the job, but do what you can to establish some expertise in your area. Attend conferences and seminars, take classes and get certifications. Write articles or author a blog. Interview professionals in your field; visit places that are relevant to your field; contribute to journals, blogs, papers, online groups and professional organizations.
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- Check out your freelancing options.
Downsizing isn't a word most of us like, but it does have one potential benefit. More downsizing means more outsourcing, which means that many companies are looking to hire freelancers on a contractual basis to do all those jobs that still have to be done. Search local classifieds and job boards for listing for freelance, temporary or contract jobs, which are predicted to keep growing in number in 2011 (5).
Sure, it may not be how you want to work long-term, but it can help you stay afloat financially, keep getting that work experience and establish more connections in your network. When those companies do start hiring, you'll already be a name they know. (Freelance work is a way to escape the daily grind - but don't ignore the added responsibility that comes with freedom. Check out Freelance Careers: Look Before You Leap.)
- Tap into your social network.
Don't be reticent when it comes to letting people know that you're looking for work. No, you don't want to attack your friends and family members with a day-to-day account of your job hunting exploits, but simply mentioning that you're looking for work in XYZ field can be helpful. Chat up strangers and you never know what kind of connections you'll make. There's a reason it's called social networking. (The CFA Institute provides members with a variety of ongoing career and networking benefits. To learn more, read Ongoing Career Benefits For CFAs.)
The Bottom Line
Finding a great job is about more than practicing interview techniques, crossing your fingers, and hoping that your persistence really will pay off. It's about using the resources at your fingertips, in your community, and in your network. Get smart with your job hunt in 2011, and you could be the one handing out tips for 2012.
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