Job search strategies for a tough economy

Lay offs, cutbacks, downsizing, restructuring, hiring freeze… We’re hearing those words more often, and they don’t inspire a lot of hope for today’s job seekers. It’s time to tweak those tried-and-true job search strategies for today’s market. Whatever your reason for seeking new opportunities, here are some tips for finding them.

Use networking websites. Networking is an essential step for job hunting but what’s new is how much of it is moving online. Not only are social and professional networking sites a good way to keep in touch or reconnect with friends and colleagues, but an increasing number of employers are looking to them for information about potential candidates. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and BrightFuse are an opportunity to show off your qualifications and skills. In addition, look for industry or profession-specific communities to join and be an active participant.

A word of caution: avoid rookie mistakes like not keeping information up to date or posting inappropriate content. See 10 career-damaging online mistakes for advice on avoiding the pitfalls.

Go beyond the resume. A well-developed, targeted resume and cover letter are must-have items, but today’s job searchers are going beyond the traditional application package and developing a suite of job search collateral. Perfect your 30-second and one minute “elevator pitches” and know your top selling points by heart.

Online portfolios, interactive curriculum vitae and promotional websites are just some of the tactics you can use to get noticed. The internet allows you to include elements that a paper resume does not, like video, images, links to other websites and even audio files.

And should you start a blog? Yes, according to, provided it’s treated like a professional document. An employer isn’t interested in an online diary, but a well-written blog can act as a communication tool or a “resume in motion.” You can play up your expertise, keep viewers up to date on your latest projects and accomplishments and show how you think through issues and current events.

The best part is you don’t have to be tech-savvy: you can take advantage of free tools like VisualCV or hire someone to help you with the design work. Blog software and services like WordPress and Blogger make it easy to set up a blog — which you can later customize and move to your own domain.

Leverage your experience. Good news for boomers: according to experts, employers are looking for people who know the ins and outs of the business and have problem-solving skills based on experience. Focus on your skills and knowledge base to position yourself as someone who has the know-how to turn a problem around.

With cutbacks and layoffs, many companies may turn to outsourcing to fill the gaps. Watch for freelancing and consulting opportunities that match your skill set.

Seek recommendations. Another reason to network: many companies offer their employees some incentive for referring new hires. Your reference won’t just being doing you a favour, he or she will earn some extra cash as well.

Even if there isn’t compensation, a referral from a friend may mean your resume goes directly to hiring managers rather than getting lost in recruiting processes.

Help others. It goes without saying that you should give back whenever possible and help others with their search too. Helping others out strengthens relationships, and you never know when a favour may turn into a future opportunity.

If you’re looking to build up your skills to re-enter the workforce, volunteering will provide opportunities to learn as well as make you visible in your community.

Think outside the box. Limited opportunities mean you may have to expand your search to find them. Take a look at other industries where your skills and experience are an asset, and look outside your hometown if necessarily. Some recession-proof sectors include healthcare, energy, education and “green” industries.

And don’t overlook telecommuting or legitimate work at home opportunities. (See Find legitimate work-at-home jobs for ideas).

Play the field. You think you aced the interview and there’s an offer on the way, but you shouldn’t put your job search on hold while you wait for results. Circumstances can change quickly, and that offer of employment could evaporate at the last minute. Experts recommend that you keep your options — and your eyes — open to other possibilities.

Protect yourself. Unfortunately, scammers are ready to take advantage of any crisis and the economy is no exception. Take steps to protect your personal information, only use reputable and credible services.

In addition, beware of those “too good to be true” offers. Con artists are trying to capitalize on people’s fears by offering get rich quick solutions. Before you start your search familiarize yourself with the warning signs of common scams. (See Avoid online employment scams for tips).

Know where to find help. Do you know how to format a text-only or HTML electronic resume? What professional organizations you should tap into? What networking events are held in your area?

Unless you’re a career expert, you’re likely to have questions at some point and knowing where to find the answers can eliminate some of the hassle and worry. There’s a wealth of information online through job search websites, community resources and college and university career services websites. Bookmark a few of your favourites for quick reference.

It doesn’t hurt to look up your alma mater either. Many colleges and universities offer counselling, workshops and continuing education courses for their alumni.

Start NOW. Experts agree that you should start taking these steps as soon as possible. There might not be a pink slip in your future, but it takes time to put a plan into action, get a blog going or establish your brand online. If you start soon, you’ll be in good shape when the economy picks up again. Hunting for a job while you already have a job means you can afford to be choosy about your next step.

Sounds a little overwhelming? Set reasonable goals, like completing one task or step in your plan each day if you’re actively hunting.

Finally, remember to stay positive. Job hunting can be discouraging even at the best of times, and today’s market may try your patience more than usual.

Sources: How to Job Search in 2009