The job market isn't about to right itself, but aggressive job-searchers can improve their lot by using two potent resources: their friends and their computers. Last year, FastCompany.com told you about the growth sectors for the next decade. No changes there, unfortunately. In 2010, you'll need to innovate if you want to participate. We can help with our shovel-ready job search toolkit.
If you're looking for a job, there's a good chance you just lost one. But don't move on too quickly. "Know what you're entitled to if you get laid-off," says Alison Doyle, About.com's guide to job searching. "Review your contract and know your rights: severance, health insurance coverage, pension vesting," and so on. That will help you clarify your financials and make contingency plans.
Once you start looking, remember a few ground rules, says Doyle: customize your resume for every job you want, and do the same with your cover letters. "Many job seekers still think it's enough to send out resumes and wait for a phone call for an interview, but it rarely happens that easily anymore."
Hone Your Resume
Resume sites like Emurse and ResumeBucket allow you to create and share an online resume that can also be PDF'd or printed out. Keep things brief and concise—you can expound in your cover letter and interview—and please, oh please, say the experts: avoid jargon.
These days, many companies are eeking by on lean staff. "Be broad on your cover letter," says Andy Speer, VP of technology solutions for Technisource, a nationwide outplacement firm. "Today, for example, our customers are looking for hardcore coders who can put on analytical hats, talk to customers, serve on committees, develop a business process—do something more creative," he says. In your resume and cover letter, layer your different experiences on whatever foundation you've created. Broaden your potential.
Do Your Homework
Read, read, read. If the last year has been any indication, the state of American industries will be changing literally by the week in 2010, so you may not be as up to date as you think. Browse industry blogs, trade journals, and niche sites to keep abreast of the latest dirt in your sector so that you can emphasize the right assets in your resume and interview.
If you think you know your industry beat already, search more creatively; there may be sources you overlooked in the past. If you're a logistics professional, for example, you may have spent some time reading BreakBulk and American Shipper. But you may not have perused Fairplay.co.uk, another trade site across the pond.
Lastly, look for mailing lists specific to what you want; they often get the freshest job listings and host real-life meetups. Ed2010, for example, dishes to people in publishing, while Headsets & Highballs caters to workers in the film and television industries.
It's not enough to slap a resume on Monster.com and saunter off to watch American Idol. On today's Web, there are dozens of avenues to spot jobs and get noticed, and you should be paying attention—outplacement firms and HR departments certainly are.
General job search sites have evolved. There's nothing wrong with CareerBuilder and Monster, but these days, LinkUp, Indeed, and SimplyHired lead the pack. But don't stop there; look for niche listing sites that fit. TheLadders.com, for example, specializes in managerial positions that pay over 100K.
Other sites get even more specific. "There are sites for retirees looking for consultancy, there are sites for former military folks, and there are sites that are "reunion" based for former employees or projects," says Speer.
Do a little Googling, and don't be afraid to get specific. If your search engine skills aren't up to snuff, ask the natural-language search engines at Mahalo and ChaCha where you can find listings for your niche.
Search by industry, too. If you're a tech nerd, hit up HackerNews, Reddit Jobs, or Startuply. For media, there's MediaBistro, Mandy.com, IWantMedia, and Variety. Non-profiteers have Idealist.org and designers have Coroflot. For contract work, there is Solvate.com and, of course, Craigslist.
Whatever your industry, find where the best companies are posting their jobs, even if it means calling the HR departments at your dream companies and asking where they advertise online. Chances are, their competitors are posting there too.
In slow-growth quarters, government jobs often supply what private industry can't. Thanks to the recent Recovery Act, the Federal government will be hiring over 270,000 workers between 2010 and 2012. You can find out where the stimulus money is going at Recovery.org and where to find the ensuing jobs at this site published by the Partnership for Public Service.
Build Your Network
Once you know where you want to work, get a guerilla network working for you. "If you want to control your own destiny, you need to tap into an internal 'sales' person who will sell your skill-set" inside that company, says Speer.
That means finding someone who works where you want to work, and getting them on your team. "Buy him lunch and say, "I want to have the experience you've had; what's the best way to get introduced to the people that make the decisions?"" says Speer. "That's the best way for any prospect to go where they want to go." (Need to build up your gumption? Check out this post on "recruiting a small army" by author Chris Guillebeau.)
So, how do you find these "internal salespeople?" Chances are, you already know them, so hit the Web and start rekindling relationships. "I hear a lot of people saying, "I'm not interested in the new age stuff like LinkedIn," says Speer. "And that's fine—if you don't want to get called."
Track down all the old cronies and classmates you can think of on LinkedIn, Speer says, and see where they all landed—they might be able to offer a "link" to a decision-maker at a company you like. Also remember that many companies compensate their employees for referral hires. If you can't find someone you used to work with, do a people search with sites like Pipl.com or Yahoo People.
Be the Best Candidate
Once you get your foot in the door, you'll have unprecedented competition, so it's important you communicate that you're the best fit for the job. This year, that means being amenable to doing "tours of duty"—that is, being flexible about your location. Maybe a company needs someone to work on a project for a year in Chicago or for six months in Palm Beach.
"I can't tell you how pleased we are with transportability," says Speer. "Finding a resource from Phoenix that can go to Chicago and work on a project was unheard of three years ago. Now, there's a willingness to do a tour of duty supporting [an employer], and that's attractive."
If you're not amenable to moving, be up-front about it. If your locale is a top priority, consider states that are experiencing job growth, like Minnesota, New Jersey, and Vermont, which showed the largest increase in new job listings this past quarter, according to LinkUp. (Big job losers were Texas, New York, and California.)
Don't Fight the System
Yes, we all hate automated resume sites: they're impersonal and they smack of black holes. But HR departments use those systems as their central database, so being in that black hole is important.
If you're a people person, go ahead and do your schmoozing in person—but make sure you also submit your resume to their system, says Speer. "They're not going to load your resume in their system if you walk it in," he explains, so when it comes time for them to do a search, your name won't be in their computers.
Once you've exhausted yourself and your resources, go ahead and get old fashioned. "Collect business cards from your interviewers so you can send an old-fashioned paper thank-you note," says Doyle.
Now, don't you have some American Idol to catch up on?