Web 2.0 adds a twist to job search strategies

Tips to outshine your competitors in today's job market

With unemployment at a 14-year high and 240,000 workers laid off in October alone, many Americans are scrambling to update their resumes and turning to job boards and networking sites. Some are panicking as they try to devise new ways to get in front of employers. But even in trying times like these, prospective employees shouldn't completely reinvent their job-seeking styles.

Indeed, much of the tried-and-true career advice we've all heard is relevant in your next job search. To outshine your competitors and win the gig in today's economy, here's a secret to success: Don't abandon the steadfast career tips passed down from generations, but rather, refine them -- with a keen eye for the value in Web 2.0 tools like social networking.

Whether you're one of many IT professionals out of work or among the few making career leaps despite rocky economic times, consider these five ways to express your candidacy with flair.

Self-assess to stand out. Assess your core strengths, as well as qualities that will set you apart from the competition. Then strategize ways to emphasize these qualities in your resume, cover letter and the interviewing process.

For example, tailor the experience, skills and education sections of your resume to the position you're applying for. Use keywords from the job posting, employer's Web site and any related articles on the company.

Also, be specific with numbers. List how many employees you've managed, systems you've administered or applications you've developed.

Letters of reference can also set you apart, if they are particularly compelling and give an accurate description and concrete examples of your talent, work ethic or past successes. Try reaching out to references who have expertise that relates to the field or company you're applying for. Your prospective employer might take confidence in knowing you were trained or mentored by others with similar goals, interests and objectives.

Keep your skills a step ahead. To stand out and stay on the cutting edge, demonstrate fluency in state-of-the-art technical and functional skills as well as the standard competencies a specific role demands.

If you're a Visual Basic programmer, for example, don't settle for expertise in ASP.Net, VB.Net and SQL. Enhance that with experience in data warehouses, OLAP analysis tools and Business Objects reporting. For a Java application developer, Fatwire CMS experience is a plus.

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