Thursday, May 26, 2011

8 Tips for Battling Job Search Fatigue

Rachel Farrell, Special to

Job searching for any length of time can be frustrating. But when your search has gone on for months or even years, even job seekers with the most endurance can get tired.

It doesn't help that many job seekers are looking for work under the notion that the recovering economy means automatic work -- and now.

"The economy is on the rebound but the job market is still very slow to respond," says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, director of career and professional development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and author of "This is Not the Career I Ordered." "Candidates should be cautiously optimistic."

But sanguinity in times of dejection is easier said than done. Job searching for long periods of time can not only make job seekers tired -- it can affect them emotionally, too.

"There are so many emotions that go along with long-term unemployment -- feelings of inadequacy, anger, terror, shame. You name it. And when these emotions get a lock on a job seeker, they can be nearly paralyzing -- or totally paralyzing," says Jenny Foss, owner of Ladder Recruiting Group.

To manage those emotions, you need to acknowledge that your search methods aren't working and commit to adopting a new strategy or plan, Foss says. And it's important to tap into your resiliency skills so employers know you can handle stress and change, adds Dowd-Higgins.

But part of the problem is that even after long-term unemployment, many people still rely on the passive search methods that used to work well -- but just don't anymore, says Foss.

"The game has changed dramatically in the past few years. Unfortunately, a large number of job seekers who find themselves suddenly on the market often panic," Foss says. "They don't take time to catch their breath, craft a job search strategy that leverages a variety of search and networking tools, and then execute on that strategy in a focused, systematic way."

Tried and true methods of simply applying to jobs online, searching through job boards or even enlisting a recruiter just won't cut it, especially after a long period of job searching. You simply cannot conduct an effective job search from behind your computer, says Dowd-Higgins.

"You must get out and be seen and heard in your job search. People hire whom they know and trust and employers are using their network more than ever to make new," she says. "When jobs do become available, employers are hesitant to post because they know they will be inundated with applications. The networking job search continues to be the most effective technique."

If you're looking to revitalize your job search, here are eight tips from Foss and Dowd-Higgins.

1. Consider your job search a full-time job.

2. Catch your breath. Calm down before you scramble to find a new plan, says Foss.

3. Know what your strengths are. "Develop your special sauce story so you can illustrate why you are a value-add to an organization," says Dowd-Higgins.

4. Focus on your competencies not just job titles.

5. Polish your interview and storytelling abilities. "A great interview is a fluid conversation -- not stock answers," says Dowd-Higgins.

6. Explore social media techniques for job search like Facebook, Twitter, a personal blog and Linkedin.

7. Craft a formal game plan. "Don't flail your way through every day. Have a plan, and a schedule for each day," says Foss.

8. Stop playing the blame game. "I can't find a job because I'm too old, I'm too fat, I'm under qualified, I'm over qualified," says Foss. "Really? You can play this game all you want, but at the end of the day? Figure out what is not working and then craft a strategy around it. If you can't find your way in through the front door, find the side door. It's all about being creative and strategic today."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do You Know the Most Important Part of a Résumé?

It's All about the Summary
Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

A tough job market means piles of applications for open positions, so it is no surprise that hiring managers are looking for ways to screen candidates quickly.

"Recruiters typically devote only 10-15 seconds to read any résumé," says Wil Lemire, director of career services at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass. To make that precious time count, job seekers need to create concise, attention-grabbing profiles that make employers want to know more.

Things to include

"Some people refer to the professional summary as the résumé equivalent of a 30-second sales pitch or an elevator speech," says Carolyn Yencharis Corcoran, assistant director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. "We recommend that our students take great care in writing this area, as it is yet another way for them to demonstrate their ability to communicate pointedly and efficiently and to exude professionalism by using industry-specific keywords in the proper context."

Experts generally favor the profile being placed right under contact information at the top of a résumé. (This well-crafted skills summary also can prove useful as a networking intro or as part of an online profile.) Among the items candidates may wish to include are:

  • Keywords that match those of the job description

  • Hard skills (professional and technical experience)

  • Soft skills (personal attributes)

  • Advanced degrees

  • Years of experience

  • Interesting achievements

  • Anything that sets one apart from other candidates

"Like any other section of your résumé, the professional summary requires some self-reflection, time and attention," Corcoran says. To get the creative juices flowing, she suggests:

  • Asking co-workers, family members, professors and friends what qualities they like most about you.

  • Thinking about positive comments you've received from employers or teachers.

  • Reflecting on awards received.

  • Remembering instances where you handled an emergency, presented or taught something, made something more efficient or contributed to a change.

Things to avoid

Cynthia Favre, director of career management at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn.,offers this precaution when creating a summary: "Don't include things that most everyone can do (such as use the Internet or Word). It actually makes the candidate look like he doesn't have useful skills."

Favre also cautions against using vague adjectives, such as "excellent" and "great." "Such words encourage the reader to compare the candidate with others. Take the phrase 'an excellent communicator.' Compared to whom? Barack Obama? Your college roommate? It is better to state the skills as factually as possible and let the reader determine if they are excellent and of value to him."

Putting your best self forward

While seasoned workers can use their skills summary to describe past job accomplishments, novice job seekers often worry that they will appear lacking. While it is inevitable that different candidates will bring different attributes to the table, the main thing is to focus on what you can contribute.

"It's important that the job seeker know what the job requirements are in order to properly sort and rank his own knowledge, skills and abilities," Lemire says. "Recent graduates should use skills and knowledge gained from part-time and summer jobs, internships, classroom projects and activities on and off campus."

Corcoran agrees that it is up to each individual to identify and present her own strengths. "While a seasoned worker will have more hands-on experience to include in a professional summary, new grads will want to highlight the things that set them apart -- such as possessing skills in the newest and latest technology, energy and drive, openness to multiple areas and an eagerness to learn."

Remember that whether this is your first job or your tenth, you only have a bit of space to get yourself noticed. Choose your words carefully, and chances are an employer will want to hear more.

Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.