desk_1Last night I attended a networking event and the topic of job searching came up. If you’ve attended networking events recently, you’ve probably noticed the same thing that I did: many (if not most) of the people that attend networking events are looking for work.

I shared a story from a speed networking event that I attended a while back. It struck me as odd how so many people looking for work didn’t think to bring business cards or resumes to the event. Others last night shared similar experiences so it got me wondering: are people taking their job search seriously?

Finding work is work. In fact, in the nine months that I looked for work in 2003, I averaged 50 hours per week looking for work. If I didn’t have interviews scheduled, I was submitting resumes, attending networking events, attending workshops to help me improve my job search skills and working on my technical skills to make me a better candidate. I had a lot of friends who were also looking for work at the time and some of them took a more relaxed approach. I remember calling one friend to see what time he wanted me to pick him up to attend a networking event and being shocked when he said he was going to skip it so he could watch some talk shows.

If you are looking for work, especially in this economic climate, you need to take your job search seriously.

It’s not enough to be a good candidate – you need to be the best candidate. Some jobs get hundreds of applicants so while it’s impressive to be in the minority selected for a phone screen, it doesn’t matter unless you get the offer. Job interviewing is one place where coming in second really is being the first loser. In some rare cases, another opening may crop up and you’ll get another chance, but don’t hold your breath.

So what can you do? Well it’s obvious that sitting on your couch watching TV isn’t the best method for getting job. You want to focus on three key areas:

  1. Market yourself as a candidate.
  2. Improve your job search related skills.
  3. Strengthen your technical skills.

Market Yourself:

When I was unemployed, I had two goals for marketing myself: apply for at least ten jobs each weekday and attend at least one networking event per week. Given the current state of things, if I were looking for work now, I’d bump up the networking events to at least three and add goals for connecting with people through social media.

Finding networking events is easy – just check the business section of your local newspaper or contact your local unemployment office. I would also consider checking out various Toastmasters clubs in the area you’re seeking work, especially corporate clubs, as they are excellent opportunities to make connections with people. To find a Toastmasters club near you, use the search box on this page and type “Toastmasters” followed by the name of your city.

Improve Your Job Search Skills:

When I was unemployed, I visited the library several times per week. I was fortunate that my local library had a huge career section. In addition to books on interviewing, resume writing and other career related topics, the library had DVDs (and VHS tapes), audio books and even events geared towards looking for work. I spent at least six hours per week watching DVDs and VHS tapes on career skills. Unfortunately, I found that most were either outdated or the material was so much like common sense that I didn’t feel like I learned much. But I did come across a few gems and got some great ideas that eventually helped me with job search. My frustration in the quality of materials caused me to create my own program on job interviewing (which is also available on CD audio).

But there are number of organizations out there that offer free or low cost job skills training. I offer my course from time to time for free, but many colleges and universities offer these services for both current students and alumni. So contact your alma mater or search the web for courses near you.

Strengthen Your Technical Skills:

This is an often overlooked requirement for getting an offer, especially if you’ve been out of work for a while. I learned this the hard way when I spent the first three months of my job search so focused on finding interviews and learning how to interview better, that I hadn’t even thought about my technical skills.

Now technical skills are the skills required to perform job duties. If you’re a doctor, for example, it’s the ability to diagnose a patient. In my case, my technical skills truly were technical because I was in information technology. In my world, there’s this thing called the technical interview which the job interview equivalent of a pop quiz in high school – only that it counts for 90% of your grade. I hadn’t written programs since leaving my job and to make matters worse, didn’t write any programs for the last seven months when I was employed. So I was eons behind the times and so far removed from programming that I stumbled on easy questions.

My solution was to get caught up. I spent two weeks using the best books, tutorials and web sites available to catch up. I not only learned the latest technologies, but everything I had done in the past started coming back to me. I even made myself extra productive by creating marketable software applications that helped me manage my job search.

Your situation is most likely different, so my approach may not work for you. But there’s still a number of things that you can do to keep your technical skills sharp such as volunteer for a non-profit, have your own consulting business, do pro bono work for friends and family or simply create your own projects to keep up with.

So these are some ways to get ahead with your job search. Just keep at it and remember that finding a job is a job in itself. It’s important to keep an optimistic attitude while looking for work – even if it seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Keep going, you’ll get there.

Are You Taking Your Job Search Seriously?
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