Job Seekers: 5 Tips to Launch a Career

Last Updated Aug 1, 2011 2:29 PM EDT

We've all heard the depressing stories about job fairs where the handful of recruiters are mobbed with hundreds of applicants for less than a dozen positions, the oft-used term "jobless recovery" and speculation that we're headed into a "double-dip" recession. That doesn't mean you can't get a job, says Susanne Goldstein, career coach and author of "Carry a Paintbrush: How to Be the Artistic Director of Your Own Career."
But the best way to approach a job search has changed, she says. Here are her top tips for finding work that that you'll love and that will love you.

Brand Yourself: Think of yourself as a car. What comes to mind when you think Volvo? (Safe and kind of boring?) When you say Prius? (I will never race someone for a six-pack, but I will save a tree?) Porsche? (I have enough money for a really great mid-life crisis?) Okay. Those thoughts may not have been the manufacturer's marketing materials, but car manufacturers spend a great deal of time determining how to design and market their vehicles to emphasize what makes them special -- power, safety, curb appeal or economy, for example. That helps them find their niche and target their pitch to a receptive audience. You need to do the same thing with your career. What's your brand?

If you're not sure, Goldstein suggests you start with three sheets of paper. Label one: Passions; the next: Interests; the final: Skills. Write down as many thoughts as you can on each page and then brainstorm with your smartest friends and advisors about what careers intersect your passions, interests and skills. That's the niche where you're likely to thrive. Target employers in that niche and target your pitch to show them how you are a spectacular fit.

Think Backward: Instead of looking for open jobs, look for companies that do the things that engage you and fit your skill set. Don't even worry yet about whether they have open positions, says Goldstein. Research companies. Read their history, mission statement and about their team -- all information you're likely to find on their web site.

Part of what sells you is what you know and like about them. Remember that even though you're here because you want to find a job, this is not about you. Find out what problems the company needs to solve. If you can legitimately help solve those problems, you become like aspirin -- a simple way to fix their headaches.

Use Your friends: Ignore the incessant chatter about the rotten job numbers and realize that people are getting work. They're just not getting work in the same way as they did in the past. In today's market, successful job candidates are less likely to say they found a position through help wanted ads than through friends. Roughly 50% of new hires come from referral and 25% come from the employee's social networks, Goldstein says. That would mean that 75% of the successful job seekers find their jobs through networking.

Market by Fives: Your friends may not have job leads, but that doesn't mean they can't help. Ask if they know anyone in the companies or professions that you want to target who would be willing to spend just five minutes talking to you about what they do. Start with five people. At the end of those five conversations, ask if each of them could refer you to five more friends or acquaintances that would be willing to chat with you. That turns your first five prospects into 25, and those 25 into 125. The more people you talk to, the more likely one of them has a job or can refer you to someone who does.

Be Relentless: A round of golf is not determined by one good hole. You've got to keep swinging and hitting the fairway each and every time. Don't expect a great job to materialize on the first interview, or even after the first 15. Stay positive and consistent. It is a tough market, so it may require extra commitment, determination and willingness to keep trying when others have given up, Goldstein says. No one said it would be easy -- but things that are worthwhile, rarely are.

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