Eight great job-search tips for a tough market

Here’s the good news: It is never too late to find your dream job. Consider lifelong learner Colonel Harland Sanders. Later famed for—you guessed it—founding KFC, at age 40 Sanders was selling chicken out of his home. At age 65, his only restaurant failed.

So Sanders took the $105 from his first Social Security check and his famous recipe for fried chicken and scouted out franchise locations. Now, 70 years later, there are more than 15,000 KFC restaurants in 105 countries. It’s never too late to set and pursue a goal.

Here’s the challenge:  While much improved, it’s still a tough job market, with one third of Americans reporting that they will be job hunting this year.  So, if you’re one of the millions who has resolved to find that dream job, here are eight tips to help you remain competitive:

Focus: Before you begin, picture your ideal professional life. Do you want to work part- or full-time? In a small office, a mid-sized company or a large corporation? Do you want to relocate? If not, how far are you willing to drive? What kind of salary do you want? What kind do you need? Are there careers that will let you pursue your life passions or develop your strengths? Take some time to really think about these things. Write down your thoughts and the goals that come from them.

Plan: Before you jump into your search, make a plan.  List five companies you really want to work for, the geographic locations you like, company size, public vs. privately owned. Keep that plan in one place (like a notebook or a Word document) and update it regularly. 

Treat the Job Search Process Like a Job: Finding a job is a full-time job. Make sure that when you start your search, you’re not letting your current responsibilities wane. Schedule your day, set goals and objectives. What you put into your job search is what you get out of it.

Don’t Just “Do Your Homework”—Really Study!  Always research the organization prior to interviewing. Learn about the company’s successes, accolades and competitors. Research a role in that development. Finally, research the company on the Better Business Bureau website and set up Google Alerts for each of your top employment prospects.

Leverage your Online Presence:  Today, as many as 92 percent of employers and recruiters use social networks to find job candidates – yet only 38 percent of job seekers report regular use of LinkedIn to find work. For competitive job seekers, ensure that you are constantly building your online connections, joining groups related to your industry, regularly updating your status and keeping your profile information and credentials fresh. When filling an open job, 47 percent of recruiters review a candidate’s public profiles before deciding to contact them for an initial conversation. Would a Google search of your name earn you an interview?

Don’t forget the basics. Set a professional voicemail on your phone, keep business cards with you at all times and ensure you’re using a professional email address. Even if you love cats, your future employer probably won’t be impressed by kittyluvr8@gmail. Unless you’re applying for the Humane Society. Which brings me to another point:

Tailor:  Your job search is not one size fits all. What works for one company, might not work for another.

Evolve: The job search is continuously changing.  What tools and processes work now, might not work in six months.  Research continuously, utilize different job search tools, and improve yourself after interviews.