HR Roundtable member Dionna Keels provides tips on how best to market yourself as a job seeker in a tough job market:
The current job market is challenging to both employers and those whose quest it is to become an employee once again. Recruiters, who struggled to find qualified candidates a year ago, are now faced with the unique challenge of sorting through several, sometimes hundreds of qualified candidates and determining which candidate is the best fit for the position, their company and the uncertain future. Applicants are now faced with the challenge of separating themselves from the pack. In this brutal job market, where competition is intense, landing your next job can seem like an impossible task. However, there are proactive approaches to increasing your marketability in a tight job market.
Addressing short tenures: Having a steady work history is increasingly important in a tough job market. Employers view steady work histories as an indication of the employee’s loyalty and commitment to their past employers. However, there are always acceptable reasons for leaving a former employer (being laid off, career advancement, relocations, etc.) Remember that having the opportunity to discuss short tenures with a potential employer isn’t promised, so finding a way to add this information to your resume is essential. This can be as simple as adding one line at the bottom of each of your past positions that reads “reason for leaving,” then give a brief statement about why you left the company and/or position.
Certifications and professional designations: Professional certificates are increasingly important in a tough market and certainly give applicants a competitive edge. Certifications demonstrate to employers that the applicant is committed to his/her given occupation and that the applicant can bring “expert” knowledge to the company. These certifications are increasingly important in highly specialized occupations like Information Technology. For information on a variety of professional designations visit Wikipedia or contact professional organizations focused on your industry and/or occupation. If you are currently out of work, this might be the perfect time to work on obtaining certifications. If you are currently receiving unemployment compensation you may also qualify for state and federal funded training programs. In the Atlanta area, refer to The Atlanta Regional Commission’s Education and Training Web site.
A well-constructed resume: You have one shot to give employers a snap shot of your knowledge, skills and experience – so make it count. Search online for sample resumes or purchase a book to assist you in constructing your resume. You may also want to consider hiring a professional resume writer. A professionally written resume can cost anywhere from $50-$300 depending on complexity.
Advanced degrees: Like certification, advanced degrees also give applicants an added edge. Advanced degrees DO NOT replace a strong work history; in fact in my experience, a strong stable relevant work history will always trump numerous degrees. Pursuing a degree in a different field probably won’t be much help in the short term, but if you have obtained, or are pursuing a degree that compliments your current experience this is another indication to employers that you are committed to the field/industry.
Personal recommendations/referrals from current employees: Networking is essential in landing a job in a tough market. Reach out to your network of family and friends and ask them to keep you in mind as positions open at their current place of employment. Also make a list of companies that you are targeting and utilize your network by asking them if they know anyone who works for one or more of the companies you are interested in. You’d be surprised how the six degrees of separation theory can be quite helpful in your job search.
While the process of landing a new job may seem daunting, keep in mind that employers ARE hiring and it only takes one position to end your search. Try to stay optimistic and spend some time each day on your search. If you are currently unemployed, seriously consider how you can utilize your time out of work to make yourself more marketable.
What have you done to give yourself a competitive edge in the current job market?