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Hope Exists for Your Job Search, Despite Unemployment Spike

Take Your Career on Overdrive to Counter Rise in Unmployment

With unemployment rising to 9.1 percent in May 2011, I'm often asked how, not only recent grads, but most anyone, can take steps to counter protracted high unemployment. How can you find a job to love and stand out above the competition? You can fight the tides of unemployment - but remember during your search to seek the right position, boss and workplace environment - that move your career forward.

First, A Word for College Grads

For college graduates who have long been waiting for this time to arrive, this is not the time to kick back and think for weeks about your career aspirations. While it's wise for you to be strategic and take a short break, use this invaluable time to advance your career and build invaluable references.

Employers want to know that you'll be dedicated on the job, and will ask you in so many words, ‘what you did over your summer vacation.' Remember that it's not uncommon to parlay a summer job - including a part-time one, into a long-term, satisfying position once fall arrives.


Here are some tips to put into overdrive, for anyone conducting a job search during the recent rise in unemployment:

Time for Homework - Too often, not enough effort is put forth towards researching the prospective employer. You can also spend some time on LinkedIn and industry websites finding out about the hiring manager. That may create some common bonds and further demonstrate your interest in working at the company.

Get Out and About - Use social media and trade groups to connect with those in your field. But don't overlook face-to-face networking opportunities, community groups and organizations. Write down every friend, relative, social contact you know and ask them to spread the word - but always remember to offer reciprocity - and help them in meaningful ways. Also make a list of references you can produce at an interview.

Volunteer - at hospitals, charitable groups, or ideally, at a job in your field, if you're just starting out or changing careers. If you can afford to volunteer without pay in your field, that will appear as preferable to waiting tables because of the head start you'll get in your career expertise, as well as references from people who are "connected." It is better to be working because you are demonstrating initiative. For recent grads, there are many general job skills that have cross-over skills, regardless of the field, including: learning how to be a team player, meet a boss's objectives, gaining positive references, showing that you have strong character, are reliable and dedicated.

Be Poised and Polished - People skills are critical in today's techno-centric workplace. So consider joining Toastmasters, take communications classes, and investigate opportunities to make presentations at local professional societies. And you don't have to spend a lot of money to be well groomed and appear neat. (P.S. Leave the Lady Gaga tee shirt for the company picnic.)

Be Confident, But Don't Brag - There's a fine line between being self-assured and sounding conceited in your zeal to sell yourself. Hiring managers want to know that you can handle the job through facts and poise, not through hyperbole. At the other end of the extreme, don't harp on any weak areas or be too humble. This is a chance to talk about your successes and how your past can contribute to their enhanced future.

Be Open to Jobs Outside Your Field - Consider positions that reflect your most of your core competencies, even if they seem a slight stretch. If you're seeking a corporate job, even getting exposure in an administrative position can be of value if you're starting out or changing careers. Use job sites such as Monster, Craigslist and online industry job listings. Consider working through high-level, industry-specific temporary and consulting firms. And consider becoming a Tempreneur - combining temporary work with some entrepreneurial consulting, or parlaying project work into a full-time job. Finally, don't feel stuck in your hometown. Move to where jobs are if necessary.

Beware of the Overnight Sensation Temptation - If you're a recent college graduate, creating your own business immediately can be a challenge, unless you've been developing a proven product or service as a student for some time. So be patient about creating "the next best thing," despite the overnight 20-something sensations of the past 12 years. And while you put in your proverbial time, just remember not to settle for the world's worst job in the meantime.

Job Interview a Key Window - The job interview offers a critical window through which to judge the job and your own future work life. Companies may have "TOT zones" (a.k.a., Terrible Office Tyrants) lurking, whom you can spot at the interview stage. When you know what to look for, then you can save months and even years of time that could be put to a more fulfilling, positive career path.

Gauge Your Follow Up - When you do land an interview, always send a thank-you e-mail. If you get positive feedback or encouragement that you're a finalist, then check in every couple weeks with such approaches as helpful industry article links, local seminar alerts or updates on your skill set. Gauge your job interview follow up frequency according to the feedback you get.

Despite the recent doom and gloom, there is hope if you remember that:

1) There are still jobs available, even though they may not seem as plentiful
2) A positive attitude can only help you
3) You only need one job; it is a numbers game
4) Your career destiny is most affected by one thing: your tenacity.

Good luck in your search.