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Posted: April 23, 2012

Top 10 job-search tips for challenging times

Don't expect results overnight

Sue Hinkin

The good news is that the U.S. economy is in growth mode; the bad news is that it’s the weakest economic expansion since the 1940’s.  Landing a new job in today’s market will require more preparation, planning and perseverance than ever before. 

1.  Get started
As in exercising, dieting or any other challenging personal endeavor, the first step is the most difficult.  Take it. Now.

2. Make a Plan
A focused job search will yield the best results. Keep complete records of your research, your contacts, applications and follow-up.  Need planning help?  Get assistance from a pro at a college or university Career Center.  Services are free for students and free or low cost for alumni. Other public and private resources are available on the Internet.

3. Know Your Strengths & Challenges
Knowing yourself and what you have to offer will lead you to a more satisfying job and a better career fit for long term job and career satisfaction.

4. Hone Self-Marketing Materials
Sell yourself and your skills. Have a perfect resume or CV, cover letter, business card, LinkedIn profile or portfolio ready to go.  Try a practice mock interview—somewhat scary but highly effective.

5. Network
Most job opportunities come through someone you know. Whether it’s a friend of a friend or your mother-in-law, let EVERYONE know you are looking.  Use your 30-second “elevator’ pitch on whoever will listen. 

6. Think Like an Entrepreneur
Consider opportunities that might be a bit outside of your comfort zone.  Make a list of your transferrable skills.  Think about a wider array of industries that could use what you have to offer. 

7. Be Realistic About Your Expectations
Candidates often cause themselves a great deal of frustration and disappointment because they have unrealistic expectations when applying for jobs.  Aiming too high, particularly in an extremely competitive market,  can just lead to a longer time of being unemployed.

8. Do Your Research
Carefully research your target organizations. The scattergun approach rarely produces positive results. Employer’s common complaints about job hunters are that “they haven’t taken the time to understand what we do and know how they can contribute to our goals.”

9. Say Thank You and Follow-Up
After an interview or other significant contact with a potential employer, a thank you note, whether hand-written or via e-mail, will remind them of you and reinforce your value.  Continue to follow-up appropriately.

10. Persist
Anything worth working toward is going to take time.  When you begin to get discouraged and want to give up, seek support from others, regroup, revise, and keep going.

Sue Hinkin is the Executive Director of Career Services at the University of Denver.  She has worked in career services in a variety of institutions of higher education including Michigan State University, DeVry University and Savannah College of Art and Design.  A graduate of the American Film Institute, Sue also had a career in the entertainment industry in Southern California.

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