Tips for Job Seekers: Zero In, Rev Up
These days, if you're not looking for a job yourself, you know someone who is. Beyond the blur of statistical studies, the fact remains: Plenty of folks still need a job.
To gather up some job-hunting techniques, we talked this week with several career experts. From revving up a resume to smarter social networking, here's their advice:
How to Zero In
Job placement experts like Curt Cetraro, CEO of ConnectPoint Search Group in Sacramento, say they continually meet people "who are still baffled about why they're not getting calls back" from employers with job openings.
In many cases, it's because job seekers don't focus enough on who they are and what they want. "They're presenting themselves in a very generic fashion ... to companies that want very specific individuals."
Instead, identify the specific industry, company or position you're passionate about. Do the research: Look up the company, the types of jobs and how you would fit in or add value. Read trade publications, attend business mixers, join the professional associations.
Tap your networks of friends or business acquaintances to seek out people you should ask for an informational interview. Don't necessarily call the human resources office. Find the person closest to the top or the level of responsibility where you want to work.
Show a sincere interest, not a can-you-do-something-for-me attitude, Cetraro said. "Tell them, 'I'm fascinated by your company. I'm exploring your industry. Could I have 20-30 minutes to talk about your business?' That's far better than saying, 'I need a job. Do you have an opening?'"
And when you show up, "you can't be lukewarm. Show your interest, your understanding of their business and how you want to make a difference. That's how you get a job today."
Rev up the Resume
With resumes, one is never enough. Have at least two or three, each targeted to specific jobs or career fields. Unless you're a recent college grad, ditch the obligatory "career objective" or mission statement at the top. Career experts say it's old-school.
Customize your resume to key words in the job description, emphasizing your matching skills. If the job opening is for a "senior IT specialist," for instance, those exact words should appear in the resume.
Avoid Interview Stumbles
It's one of the most common questions -- and biggest pitfalls -- in a job interview: "Tell me about yourself."
"They don't want to know about your kids or dogs," said Laura Perez, CEO of Epiphany Coaching in Sacramento. "They want to know about your education, background, experience and expertise."
Be observant. Look around the office for something that offers an instant connection with the interviewer. It could be a family photo, an award, a piece of sculpture. Commenting on his dog or her community award is "a great ice-breaker. It puts you and the interviewer at ease," she said.
Get Out the Door
Go to business mixers, professional meetings, chamber events: "Put on your best clothes and best attitude," said Helen Scully, president of Scully Career Associates in Folsom, Calif. "Even if it costs some money, if you end up sitting next to someone who's hiring, it's better than sitting at home."
Have a business card printed with your name and current or desired title -- business manager, health care adviser, etc. Include your cell phone, e-mail and LinkedIn address.
When introduced, dwell on the future, not the past.
"Say: 'I'm here because I'm really interested in project management, specifically construction. What do you do?' " Scully said. "Talk about where you want to be, not where you were."
Tap your Social Network
Embrace your Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers. But don't hit them up for jobs, said Maribeth Kuzmeski, president of a Chicago-based business marketing firm and author of five books. Instead, ask for names of those to contact in a company or industry where you want to work.
Mind Your Manners
Everyone's been warned about screening their Facebook pages for partying photos, compromising comments or inappropriate language. But there are other concerns, too.
For instance, if a potential employer uses informal language in an e-mail, Facebook or Twitter message, don't respond likewise.
"It is never OK to use texting shorthand," such as "lol" (laugh out loud) or "ttyl" (talk to you later), with company contacts, Kuzmeski said. Your e-mail could easily be forwarded to a supervisor who might not find your communication skills amusing or professional.
It's a given that most employers will check you out online before ever meeting you face to face. Treat your LinkedIn account as a first reference; it's where most employers head first. It should state your job ambitions in specific terms.
To monitor your online image, set up a Google alert to get an e-mail anytime your name pops up, Kuzmeski said. That way you won't be surprised by something an interviewer spots about you online.
Other suggestions: Create a blog on a topic you're passionate about. Or join online chats on websites of companies where you'd like to work. Just be sure your comments are intelligent, not inflammatory.
Staying Pumped Up
It's hard to not feel rejected and dejected if you've spent months looking for work. How to stay upbeat?
"Don't believe everything you see, read or hear," Perez said. "Do your own research. ... Make your own conclusions.
"Challenge the assumptions that there are no jobs or 'they're not going to hire me.'"
Start every day with a to-do schedule. Get dressed and out of your PJs. Volunteer. Be involved in activities that put you alongside people who might be helpful.
Avoid staying too long with networking groups of fellow job seekers. While they can be extremely helpful in sharing job-search strategies and boosting morale, don't become stuck there, say career experts.
And if "you've been rejected for months, get objective advice about what is causing you to not get a job," Scully said.
Is it skills, appearance, attitude? Make the changes.
"Be willing to learn something you find intimidating, like Excel spreadsheets or computer training," she said.
Ultimately, say job-placement experts, it's about targeting your search. The way you're going to get a job today is not "by throwing fishing poles in a body of water and hoping something bites," Cetraro said.
Instead, he says, it's more like fly-fishing, casting your line exactly where you want to land. You may not catch something on the first try, but odds are you'll eventually reel in a good one.