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My wife, like many Americans these days, lost her job a couple of weeks ago. She is not wasting any time in getting back into the market, but finding a job in the current economic environment can be challenging. Here are a few strategies which we are using to improve her chances of quickly finding a good new position:
Let Everyone Know - It is really hard to overstate the important role that your personal network can play in helping you to get a new job - to underscore that point, I got my last two positions through friends and acquaintances. Even though you may be feeling uncomfortable about your job loss, letting everyone know that you are on the market will greatly improve your chances of landing your next job in a hurry. A simple way to do so is to compose a brief e-mail to your acquaintances letting them know that you are searching for new challenges.
Make a List of Target Companies - a great way to start the search is to identify companies that you would love to work for. Make a list of such companies and then talk to people in your network who may be able to introduce you to some hiring managers in those companies - whether or not those companies are advertising any open positions. Frequently companies will create positions for people that impress them and in other cases open positions may not have even been advertised yet.
Talk to Old Colleagues - Former colleagues are an excellent source of job leads. After all, your old co-workers know and respect your professional skills. They are also likely to be in the same industry and can provide an instant reference to a future employer. For example, my wife reached out to some of her colleagues that still work for a company she worked for in the past. The result: an informal interview is scheduled for next week to see if any interesting positions can be created for her.
Don't Trust the Job Sites - if you are sending an e-mail resume based on a job posting in one of the online job sites or in response to an ad on the company website, your chances of landing an interview are remote. Hiring managers are typically inundated with dozens or hundreds of applications, most of them completely irrelevant. Hiring managers don't have a lot of time to spend reviewing applications and consequently chances are that your application will simply be ignored. Want to dramatically improve your chances? Apply online, but also find somebody you know that can bring your resume in person to the hiring manager and preferably even give you a personal recommendation at the same time. A great way to find folks in a company you are targeting is through a site such as LinkedIn.
Prove Your Worth - you know how most candidates in a job interview are all talk? I mean everyone can come in and answer some questions. How can the hiring manager know if you are any good? Well here's an idea: if you are interviewing for a job that has some definitive work product, you will look like a star if you bring to the interview a portfolio of your past accomplishments. For example, my wife who is a marketing programs manager assembled a portfolio of past marketing campaigns she led. Three jobs ago - the last time I interviewed for a job "cold" - I brought with me a copy of several articles which I published in professional magazines. Instant credibility.
Reach Out to Headhunters - if you are looking for a professional position, get in touch with some headhunters in your industry. If you don't know any, ask your colleagues to recommend some. Ideally, your connection with headhunters should start long before you are out on the job market. Periodically, I get phone calls from headhunters about this or that position (yesterday being the most recent example). Even though I just started a new position and am certainly not searching for a job, I never blow-off a headhunter that calls me. Instead, I listen to what the headhunter is offering and I propose the name of a candidate or two that I think would be a good fit for the position. Guess what - headhunters really appreciate the help. That's how you build a relationship, and when its time to look for that new gig talking to those headhunters will be much easier.