January 3, 2011 By Debra Donston-Miller
At the beginning of a new year we're full of resolutions — to lose weight, to exercise, to be a better person. But what are your job hunting resolutions? TheLadders asked recruiters, career coaches, resume writers and other experts to recommend 10 promises that, if kept, will pay off in 2011.
1. Grow Your Network
Networking is a no-brainer, but in the new year you should examine how you are networking. Paula Loop, U.S. global recruiting leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggests networking close to home — literally. "Understand that your network can begin with one's friends and family and is the first step in extending those relationships," she said. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," recommends focusing on "influencers" but refraining from directly asking them for a job. "These are people who are in the loop with respect to industry trends, opportunities and career insights," he said. "Don't approach them for a job. If you approached me with that request, I'd say no and so would they. Instead, view them as mentors or advisers to whom you reach out for direction, perspective and ideas."
2. Set Up Informational Interviews
Informational interviews can and do work. "Not only will informational interviews help you practice interviewing before the real deal, they will also help you learn about the company, career path and industry," said Chris Perry, associate brand manager at Reckitt Benckiser and founder of Career Rocketeer, a career search and personal branding blog. "[Informational interviews] will also connect you with professionals who may be and/or who may know the hiring managers for different positions in their organizations." Caroline Dowd-Higgins, director of career and professional development at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, agreed, saying that informational interviews, and “job shadow” opportunities, often lead to jobs. Perry recommends that job seekers set a goal of scheduling at least two informational interviews per week.
3. Be a Joiner
Joining a trade association or user group associated with your industry can help open doors to a new job. "Whether you are currently employed or not, opportunities flow from being around like-minded people, and professional associations and communities are where you need to be," said Dave Sanford, executive vice president of client relations for Winter, Wyman, a recruiting firm, where he oversees the firm's consultative selling, new account development and customer relations. "They are a great way to uncover hidden jobs, to further your knowledge and to make new relationships." Career coach Cohen cautions that job seekers should be selective in terms of which groups to join: "Be shrewd as to which will support your job search," he said. "New-member committee, no; career panels and events, yes."
4. Polish Your Personal Brand
In the new year, take time to polish your personal brand (or to create one, if you haven't already). "Write down your differentiating strengths and ask your friends, family, colleagues and managers to do the same for you," said Career Rocketeer's Perry. "Identify the top three to five overlapping strengths that you feel both represent you and will support the career direction you want to pursue. Once you have these, find a word or phrase that can become your personal brand and that represents these strengths. Develop a short pitch that can follow your brand, describing your strengths in more detail. Then, incorporate your brand into everything you do, including your profiles, your resume, your interviews and all other career outputs."
5. Get Smart(er)
There's perhaps no better time to take classes or gain new certifications than when you are out of work. First, you have the time to do it and, second, any training that you can get will make you more attractive to potential employers and could open new career avenues. "Set stretch goals," said Cohen. "This can happen in a variety of ways; for example, by taking classes, getting a certification or writing an article for an industry publication. If you're currently receiving unemployment benefits, you may be eligible for free tuition for classes and certificate programs through your state's department of labor. It takes time, so plan now."
6. Ask for Help
With so many people out of work, there can be a stigma around unemployment — even if it is only in your own mind. It's important, say experts, to not isolate yourself. "As human beings, we don't like to admit that we don't have all the answers, and it's uncomfortable for most people to ask for help, especially from those outside your inner circle," said Winter, Wyman's Sanford. "Asking for assistance and advice is the heart of networking and the single most important thing a person looking for a new job should do. Your next opportunity could come via a tip or chance encounter with a former boss, colleague, neighbor, recruiter, barber or golf buddy. But you will never hear about it if they don't know you are looking, even passively. You need to be courageous enough to talk to people you meet about what you ultimately want instead of regretting that you didn't mention it sooner."
7. Get Physical
The job hunt requires stamina, and acing an interview is as much about how you present yourself as it is about what's on your resume. Searching for a job is a job in itself, but that doesn't mean you should neglect your physical health. "The more physically fit you are, the more energy you have for the job search, and the more confidence you exude to a decision maker. Get off your butt and get physical. If you can't afford a fitness center, then head out at least once a day for a 20- to 30-minute jog or walk or run," said Richard Deems, co-author of the book, "Make Job Loss Work for You."
Career Advice from TheLadders
8. Follow Through on Following Up
No one said searching for a job would be easy. There's networking and keeping on top of job sites and customizing your resume for every possible position and making phone calls and… well, you get the picture. But it doesn't stop there. Following up is key, which makes it all the more surprising that more people don't do it. That's a big mistake, says Darcy Eikenberg, a leadership and workplace coach, but also a big opportunity for those who do. "A leader I worked with interviewed several people for a new position and was impressed with the candidates," she said. "He told each candidate who didn't get the job to touch base in a couple of months to stay in touch, since he knew there would be new opportunities emerging in the organization. It's been five months and none have called, even with the direct invitation to do so. In our easily distracted environments, failure to follow up is at an all-time high, so if you follow up fearlessly, you'll be the one who stands out."
9. Increase Your Profile
Dowd-Higgins recommends developing strong online profiles on the top job-searching and professional networking sites. Carisa Miklusak, principal of Ingenium Consulting Group and co-founder of SoMedios, an emerging media solutions organization, goes further to suggest that job seekers use social media every step of the way. Starting out, she said, social media is a useful way to research the culture of companies that interest you. While a corporate Web site can certainly provide extensive information about an organization, its social media presence can often offer more insight into the culture and the way it interacts with employees, partners and customers.
10. Be More Open
Job seekers often think too narrowly. "Don't lock yourself into job titles. Be open and play to your strengths," said Dowd-Higgins.
Thinking outside the box in terms of how you can apply your skills and experience may be the promise kept that leads to new job promises in 2011.
Debra Donston-Miller covers work-life issues and difficult job-search situations for TheLadders.