Web 2.0 adds a twist to job search strategies
- 10 December, 2008 10:11
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.
Page BreakStay current in your field by reading trade publications, news articles, blogs and market research reports from firms such as Gartner. And attend a conference in your niche to build your knowledge and to network. You might find someone who can connect you to a valuable contact, or even meet your next employer.
It's also important to have the necessary management skills, such as leadership capability, project management knowledge and mentoring experience. According to a March 2007 report from Forrester Research, 55 percent of the 280 IT decision-makers polled cited project management expertise as a missing skill among techies.
Network out of the box. As tried-and-true career advice suggests, networking is key to landing a gig. Monster.com and HotJobs.com are great starting points, but many positions are never publicly posted.
So don't be embarrassed to spread the word to your friends, former colleagues and contacts. Inform them that you're currently in the market for a new job, and don't be shy about asking them to put you in touch with any of their relevant contacts. It's likely you'll be able to return the favor some day.
But don't stop in the physical world. Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as microblogging tools like Twitter, make it easy to initiate relationships with new contacts. Remember, however, that this is just a launching pad. It's up to you to develop and grow these relationships.
When you invite someone to join your social network, include a personalized note. Mention mutual friends or contacts, if any, or call attention to any specific interests that you share.
Think of activities in your past that make building bridges easy, and start with those organizations. Colleges, high schools, former employers and home towns often provide the links that allow an initial conversation to build into a potential referral.
Team up with a staffing firm. Staffing professionals closely follow the job market every day and have extensive knowledge about trends in your field and the most updated inventory of available positions. They know what skills and experience top employers are looking for and can guide you through the entire recruitment process, from searching for a job to negotiating salary and other benefits once the position is yours.
With a trusted and diverse network of hiring managers at their fingertips, staffing firms have the resources to help find suitable placements for job seekers looking for short- or long-term assignments. They have extensive information about employers' backgrounds, enabling them to match a position and company to a job seeker's skills and priorities.
Page BreakSuch firms are increasingly rolling out online resources for job seekers to tap into. At Yoh, for example, our online career database provides over 400 listings of contingent and direct hire jobs, sorted by position and location. In addition, our online career resources provide tips on subjects ranging from preparing for a telephone interview to writing a proper letter of resignation.
Upgrade your online image. Networking online begins with tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter, but there's much more to consider -- such as your digital footprint. Today, it's easy to run a Google search and instantly be connected to your various online posts, personal blog and Flickr page of photos that trace back to your college days.
In fact, according to a 2008 CareerBuilder survey, 22 percent of employers check candidates' Facebook profiles before hiring them, up from 11 percent two years ago. What's more, one-third of hiring managers rejected candidates based on what they found, CareerBuilder says.
To ensure you're not one of the candidates that gets rejected prior to an interview, be mindful of what you post online, and continually consider what others might assume or perceive from what you share. You can also protect your online persona by implementing privacy restrictions, such as displaying a limited public profile on Facebook or using invite-only photo-sharing on Flickr.
Also make an effort to connect with others who share your interests. For example, join online networks that directly relate to your personal interests or career field. For IT professionals, this might include SNetBase.com , 9Rules.com or Fark.com.
To take it a step further, visit the blogs of leading experts in your field, and post your comments or reactions. These comments are likely to turn up in a Google search if a prospective employer looks for your name. Your opinions in the comments reflect your knowledge and insights and can increase your credibility and marketability. Moreover, you'll initiate relationships with these bloggers and open yourself up to learn more and grow.
Better yet, publish your own blog, where you can provide expert insight and analysis of your field. This will surely give you a voice among your peers, and you'll be on your way to developing a community of like-minded individuals in the blogosphere.
Page BreakNegotiate wisely. "What's your salary range?" That can be a loaded question, and there are do's and don'ts when answering it. A number too low can cost you thousands of dollars, but a figure too high might take you out of the running.
Do have a clear range in mind. This involves doing your homework. Since salaries are usually tied to the competitive market, it's important to know the average pay of others in a similar field, position, experience and geographic location. Fortunately, there are a number of reliable sites to keep your salary expectations in line with market offerings.
At Glassdoor.com , visitors can view salaries of more than 14,000 companies for free. The site features candid company reviews, including detailed pros and cons of everything from work hours to culture, as well as opinions about senior management and tips on how to rise through the ranks. All posts are anonymous, but here's the catch: It's a "give-to-get" model, so be willing to share insights about your company in order to receive those about others.
PayScale.com also provides the inside scoop for job seekers, employees and employers. After visitors complete a personal profile and multipage survey, the site delivers a free PayScale Summary Report tailored to the visitor's requested company. Like at Glassdoor, profiles are anonymous and forthright.
So continue to follow that tried-and-true career advice you've relied on for years.But to leverage it for success in today's market, use social networking sites and the wealth of information on the Internet to your advantage.
You can expand your opportunities, differentiate yourself in the talent pool and tap into new resources to more effectively network, apply for positions, interview and, of course, close the deal.
Dan Cobb is senior vice president, West region, for Yoh, a leading provider of high-impact talent and outsourcing services and a unit of Day & Zimmermann. For more information, please visityoh.com.