Hiring continues to be mercurial, even as the unemployment rate drops. Nevertheless, I see reasons for job seekers to be more hopeful in 2013. Our unemployment statistics are far better than those in most other countries, and many employers say they plan to increase hiring in 2013 (especially for college graduates, which the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports will be up 13 percent, year over year.)
For those still looking for jobs, I've collected some advanced job-finding strategies that go beyond the traditional advice. (Note that I said job finding; not job seeking. Let 2013 be the year you identify yourself as a job finder, not an unemployed person.)
Track Your Progress
If you have been in the job market more than a few months, the amount of information you've collected could be staggering. If it's not well organized, you are missing opportunities. Put every bit of data you collect into a format that, at the minimum, lets you structure and sort the data pool. By every bit of data, I mean all of it -- every business card you collect; every interesting opening you find; even if the information doesn't seem pertinent at the time.
A spreadsheet works well for this purpose, but you can also create a table in a word processing program. I offer my clients a Jobsearch Worksheet -- a Microsoft Excel file with different worksheets for networking, recruiters, job boards, application status and elevator speeches. It's currently a free download on my site, and you can customize it to your needs.
In addition, you should also use a calendar tool (Google.com offers one for free) to set reminders so you don't forget important follow ups. If you are tech-oriented, use one of the free online project management tools, such as Producteev or Mavenlink, for even deeper integration of your contacts, notes, appointments, reminders and more.
Successful business professionals use specialized tools to help them and their teams manage long-term projects, make connections and retain focus over time. Successful job-finders take the same approach.
Put the Word Out
Business cards and websites aren't only for corporate promotion. First, if you are not already using LinkedIn, sign up now. Also, order a professionally produced "business card" on which you can put a LinkedIn logo and profile name, website address if you have one, and direct contact information such as your phone number and email address. Add your skillsets or a few key, former positions to the reverse. Then, for those occasions when you make an important connection but don't have the time or opportunity to collect information, have plenty of cards at the ready. Cards are free at places likevistaprint.com but I recommend you pay the extra fee to promote yourself instead of your printer on the backside.
Move Networking into Overdrive
You've probably read a dozen articles that tout the value of networking, and for good reason -- it works. One of my clients from Boston used networking to move into the top tiers of politics in Georgia. Traditional wisdom says it's nearly impossible for a Northerner to break into "good-old-boy" politics in the South, but he did it... through determined, focused networking.
No matter how much networking you've done, it's time to accelerate your efforts. If you are not already doing so, look at every interaction as a potential networking opportunity. If you make a connection with parents at your children's athletic games, school plays or PTA events, for example, don't hesitate to offer your card and ask them to contact you if they know of job opportunities relevant to your experience. Be brief and respectful, but diligent, and the work will pay off.
Use your data tracker (discussed in the first tip), to search networking data for opportunities you might not have noticed. For example, let's say you have a great conversation with someone at a networking event in February. You exchange information and put his or her contact data into your tracker. Through an unrelated source, you hear of a perfect job opportunity in May. You can (and should) search your tracker before interaction with the company to look for valuable connections and information. In this case, you'd discover the February connection and could approach the contact for pointers, in advance.
Find Your Relevance
Many of my clients use a period of unemployment to reevaluate their prior direction and priorities. For the some, the result is a determination to find a job that follows their "passion." The only problem with this approach is that their experience and job skills don't necessarily translate to that passion very well.
Here's the good news: with the exception of positions that require highly specialized training and expertise, nearly all of us can find relevance to an industry or position in which we want to work, we just have to look hard enough.
Make an inventory of your skillsets and be sure to consider life experience such as volunteer work and hobbies. If the experience is complex, that's even better. Did you run the fundraiser for a local charity? Did you organize a bird watching group in your neighborhood? Activities that show drive, initiative and leadership are attractive to every employer.
Next, drill down to the individual tasks you performed, and then look for specific relevance. From project management to public speaking, you'll be surprised at the experience you'll find.
Mobile devices are one of the most powerful tools a job finder can use. Even if you don't have a fancy smartphone, your mobile device should have contacts, calendar and notes applications (not to mention a camera) that you can use to record important, on-the-go information. Once you begin thinking of your mobile device as a job-finding aide, you'll start seeing and recording information everywhere.
On an unrelated note, don't be afraid to use the text messaging function on your mobile device. It's often quicker to send yourself a note via text message than to open a notes tool. Furthermore, when you make a new contact offer to text them your name and phone number (plus any other pertinent information up to 160 characters). Business professionals tend to have fewer messages stored -- and to scroll through them more often -- in a text messaging tool than they do in an email archive. If the contact seems hesitant to receive a text, don't push the issue. Just hand them a card and ask for theirs.
These are only a few of many less-commonly used strategies that help my clients become job finders. If you'd like to hear more -- or share tips of your own -- I invite you to send me a message.