Posted by: careerworks | February 23, 2011

Continuing to look for a job in 2011? Here are some tips to help you stand out

Many job seekers continue to use the same job-search strategies even though they yield few results hoping to land a job when the market gets better. Well, 2011 is here and it’s not much better than 2010 when it comes to employment opportunities.

While economists project there will be a gradual pick up in hiring this year, it won’t be enough to put a dent in the high number of jobless Americans. They are projecting it will be 2012 before the unemployment rate comes down. Some people suggest the unemployment rate will rise to above 10 percent.

That means it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and honestly assess what you can change about your job search game plan to compete better.

Most job seekers find it hard to change even though they aren’t getting job offers, or even callbacks. But change you must, you have to do new things and more things to stand out.

But where do you begin? Here’s a list of six questions to ask yourself, and advice to get you started on evaluating your job-hunting approach for the rest of 2011:

1. Am I disorganized?:
A common problem I hear from job-seekers is they become overwhelmed with the process and many don’t even remember how many resumes they’ve sent out, let alone which companies they’ve sent them to.

It’s hard to be strategic when your arsenal is in disarray, and forget about figuring out which tactics have worked and which ones are duds. You need to know what you’re actually doing. You need to get organized.

Creating two spreadsheets, one including a list of your networking contacts, and another with job-search activity including the job ads you answered, the resumes you sent, the responses you got back, and all the pertinent dates. For those employers where you’ve received phone or in-person interviews, you could create color coded files with all the information and interactions with a particular company, and have them handy on your desk so you’re ready if a hiring manager calls back.

2. Does your resume stink?:
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is not tailoring their resumes to a particular job opening. That’s always been important but it’s even more so with computers scouring resumes for certain key words.

Successful job seekers take the job description and incorporate it into their resume. By adding key phrases from the job description to your resume you will increase your exposure in database searches and you will also catch the recruiter’s interest. Recruiters tend to scan quickly and look for key words to qualify the candidate.

3. Have you been networking or just not-working?:

Just posting stuff on LinkedIn is not serious networking. Sorry. If you want to find a job you have to put yourself out there and meet people face to face. Remember people hire people, not companies and certainly not computers.

You have to find out about a job before it’s posted and the best way to do that is through networking. Most people get jobs from personal contacts so you have to put yourself out there and that means attending conferences and going to community events, etc.

The way to find the people you need to know is to research companies via their own sites or in the news if they’re big enough. But also check with your local librarian; they have research tools that will make your job of finding people much easier. You could also follow employers you’re interested in using social media.

4. What do I really want to do?:

For workers who lost a long-time career and see no hope of reentering that field, it’s natural to be unsure about what to do next. That’s why you need to figure out what  you want to do, for the long term or just for the next few months.

No matter how hard you try, if you are not motivated or passionate about a certain job, hiring managers are going to take you out of the running.

5. Am I a Jack-of-all-trades?:

Once upon a time, it was a good thing to claim you could be all things to all employers. Unfortunately, today it’s all about specialization.

Companies hire specialists, not generalists, still, most job hunters are stuck in the old paradigm.

It makes sense that job seekers resist the specialist label. They don’t want to risk losing out on opportunities, so they play it safe and position themselves as generalists. But you have to resist if you want to land a job. Know your specialty — your unique brand and offerings. Your resume, cover letter, your elevator pitch, and interview answers all have to reflect that specialty.

6. Does anyone know I’m here?:
When you’re in the troughs of job searching it’s easy to think no one knows you exist. That’s what’s so great about the Internet and social networking sites. While they shouldn’t replace contact with real people, these sites are a great way to raise your profile when you’re unemployed.

Find a blog that is relevant to your career goal and a frequent commenter on it, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, among other more targeted social networking sites can also offer visibility.

Just make sure that you use the account only for professional purposes—that is, it informs readers only about things relevant to your job function. If you want to post your vacation photos or tweet about your kid’s birthday party, use a personal account.




  1. This is great advice, Tom. Regarding your Point #4, do you have any suggestions to help people find their “unclaimed” passions? Temperament/talent tests or surveys?

  2. I found the Strength Finder assessment to be very helpful. It’s used in business as well as in church leadership courses.

    • Nita… I agree with you. The Clinton StrengthsFinder Assessment is one of the most underutilized tools in the world of work. I use it extensively when working with our clients.

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