Many job-seekers don't realize there is a seasonal aspect to the job hunt. The good news is that early fall is one of the two best times of year to look for work. Just like the school year begins anew, organizations gear up after the summer slowdown.
Companies need employees and contract workers to carry out their upcoming projects and initiatives. They make plans, allocate funds and begin to interview more actively. Therefore now is the time to invigorate your search and sharpen your focus on your goals!
But what if you have been out there looking for a long time? What if your hopes have been dashed again and again? What if you are beginning to lose energy and confidence in yourself? No matter how difficult the process and negative your feelings, this is the time to re-energize your efforts.
The following are three ways to regain your focus, boost your morale and revitalize your momentum:
#1 Sharpen Your Skills
A surefire way to increase your confidence is to build upon your skill set. There are numerous low-fee and free websites that offer skills' training that will strengthen your resume and give you that all-important competitive edge. Here are a few to get you started.
- Lynda.com: For $25 a month, you will get unlimited access to close to 3,000 video courses (mainly business, technical and creative)
- GCFlearnfree.org: Boasts more than 120 free tutorials and more than 1100 videos and interactive exercises in technology, math, ESL and more
- Microsoft Office Training: Learn the MS Office Suite for free
- OpenCulture.com: Links to scores of free, high quality training videos for both cultural and educational subjects
Take classes or workshops in your area of specialty. You will not only be reinforcing your skill set, you will have the added benefit of networking with your classmates and the instructor. Ask to meet briefly with him or her and begin the conversation with an open-ended question along the lines of, "I'm targeting positions in the field of XYZ. Do you have any advice or suggestions for me?" You are likely to get some useful information and, many times, even contact names that could prove extremely helpful.
#2 Find New Ways To Network
You already know that the vast majority of jobs are obtained through personal referral, yet there is an even more critical reason you should be out meeting people whenever possible. Isolation is the #1 killer of both your personal motivation and your chances for success. There are several ways to interact with others and each of them could payoff big time by providing you with valuable connections as well as an added boost of confidence.
- Increase your presence at professional associations and groups relevant to your line of work. Attend meetings and group events with the goal to interact with people you haven't yet met. The contacts you will make at these meetings are likely to have direct links to managers and other decision-makers in organizations that interest you. At a minimum, they could provide you with helpful, insider information and you may well gain access to leads in the hidden job market.
- Join a job search group. These groups are helpful on three levels: job search tips, lead exchange, and emotional support. Many such groups meet on a regular basis where members promise to perform a number of job search activities. They are then obligated to report their progress at the following meeting. This provides an unbeatable combination of encouragement and accountability, and these factors will go a long way to keeping you motivated and moving forward.
- Volunteer in a related field. The very act of serving others will raise your feelings of wellbeing and may lead to valuable connections and unexpected opportunities.
#3 Organize Your Search And Track Your Progress
To mount a successful campaign, you will need to ensure that you are on top of your game. Make certain that you return messages in a timely manner, follow up on your commitments, and keep information to and from your targeted companies in order. You can easily do this by purchasing a three-ring binder, printing out all of your correspondence and labeling it according to individual companies. You can also create a spreadsheet where you track and monitor your connections and commitments. Moreover, there are free online sites like Jibber-Jobber.com that will help you organize the various aspects of your search and keep them in one convenient location.
In addition to the various organizational tools, you will want to write out a list of daily and weekly goals. One of the most frustrating aspects of looking for work is the fact that you're expending vast amounts of energy -- generally without seeing an immediate return on your investment of time and effort. Therefore, even the simple process of keeping a checklist is important. Tracking how many face-to-face contacts, number of emails you send out, and the amount of phone calls you make each day will give you a sense that you are making progress.
So now is the time to build upon your skill set, grow your network and re-organize. When you energize your search, you are likely to find yourself landing a job or, at a minimum, actively interviewing. Therefore prepare to show yourself as the confident, can-do candidate you are and take full advantage of the early fall season and the opportunities that abound!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!