The Job Seeker’s Top 10 List

It goes without saying that today’s job market is more challenging than it has been for many years. That means you have to work even harder to uncover opportunities and distinguish yourself among a crowded field of applicants. Here are 10 strategies to help you gain an edge in a tough employment market:

#1: Leave your comfort zone. Don’t limit your search to your current industry or field. Expand your horizons by focusing on your transferable skills. When writing your resume and cover letter, note the qualifications you possess that are valuable in any number of jobs, such as leadership and communication skills, and showcase how those abilities would apply to the open position.

#2: Minimize work history gaps. Hiring managers look for applicants who have remained professionally engaged and kept their skills current during periods of unemployment. If you are unable to find a position right away, consider temporary assignments, internships, and volunteer opportunities to stay active professionally. You also might consider taking a class to increase your knowledge in a specific area.

#3: Be flexible. Remaining open to all possibilities is essential in a challenging economy. Don’t overlook a position even if the job title, salary, or benefits may not be exactly what you hoped for. Once you get your foot in the door and prove yourself, you may be able to renegotiate aspects of the position.

#4: Manage your digital footprint. Think your friends are the only people who viewed those wild vacation photos you posted online? With a few mouse clicks, potential employers can dig up information about you, too, on blogs, personal websites and networking sites. As you look for employment, keep tabs on your online reputation to make sure there is no information about you on the Web that could affect your professional reputation.

#5: Find jobs before they’re advertised. Read local newspapers and business publications to identify companies that may be expanding, and send them your resume, even if they have no advertised openings. These firms may be searching for good talent anyway.

#6: Cast a wide net. While the major job boards can be extremely useful, don’t forget to investigate industry sites specific to your industry or professional discipline. These venues may list more targeted career opportunities.

#7: Network online and off. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job, including those you’ve met through networking websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Just keep mind that, while online networking is effective, it’s still important to arrange face-to-face meetings. Ask an online contact to a lunch meeting to build rapport.

#8: Customize your materials. Sending out a generic resume isn’t likely to catch a potential employer’s attention. Tailor your application materials to showcase your relevant skills for each opportunity, based on the job description. Employers want to see why you are the best fit for a particular position.

#9: Enhance your marketability. Find out what skills are most in-demand in your field and take steps — such as enrolling a class at a community college or a weekend seminar — to give yourself an edge in these areas. Attending events hosted by a local professional association and reading relevant trade publications are good ways to determine which abilities employers in your field value most.

#10: Meet with a recruiter. Staffing professionals often have access to open positions that aren’t advertised and can effectively double your job search efforts. They also can provide useful feedback on your resume, cover letter and interview skills, helping you improve your job-hunting techniques — and chances at landing a position.

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