Netting a job: Sing it from the rooftops
Having spent more than 10 years doing career and job-placement work in colleges and universities, I've seen first-hand the amount of competition in the job market. And, given the state of the economy and employment in the United States, those in job-search mode need to be even more astute about what it takes to successfully compete for available jobs.
While we can all talk about the economic impact, for someone in the job market, statistics become personal. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2010), "When the recession began in December 2007, there were 1.8 unemployed persons per job opening. The ratio rose to a high of 6.2 unemployed persons per open job, more than twice the highest ratio seen since the job openings and labor turnover series began. From the high of 6.2 unemployed persons per job opening in November 2009, the ratio fell to 5.0 in June 2010" (p. 1).
As you can see from this data, more people are vying for the same jobs and the level of competition for employment has grown. In order to secure a job, change jobs and even to build a better professional network, you have to use several resources to stand out from the crowd.
It's all about who you know
Although networking isn't a new idea, it's imperative if you want to get a leg up on the competition. If an interviewer has two "equally" qualified people, would that interviewer be more interested in hiring a known commodity or someone who they don't know outside of a brief interview? My experience says that they go with the person they know. So how do you get known? You need to rub shoulders with and impress as many people in your industry as possible. The good news is that you can do so through a number of avenues:
- College connections
Where are all those people that you graduated college with that are now professionals? Getting back in touch with your classmates can be immensely beneficial when you're looking for career opportunities. Alumni associations can help with putting you back in touch with the friends and acquaintances you knew from college.
- Professional associations
If you aren't already involved in professional associations, start today! This is a great place to meet people of similar backgrounds and interests. Some professional associations even have online job centers and on-site interviews at their conferences. You should also consider presenting at meetings and conferences to get your name known and impress those who may be future employers. Many of these associations cost little or nothing to join and are looking for active people to volunteer for committees or workgroups and to post ideas and comments to their forums. Responding to others' inquiries on forums online is another great way to become known for your skills and expertise.
- Social "net"working
In addition to building networks through face-to-face contact, consider building your online professional presence. In this day and age, the Internet is a powerful tool for building your network. Let the Net work for you by becoming an active member of professional online social networking sites. Sites such as LinkedIn® are a great way to connect with others and have your network advance your job search. LinkedIn is a professional networking tool that is free and helps you tap into their "...over 75 million members in over 200 countries" (LinkedIn, 2010a). Your community expands rapidly when you count up all the contacts that you can be introduced to.
- Your community at large
Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. Use your informal networks to get the word out that you are searching for a job. Consider sending your résumé or curriculum vitae and a letter of introduction to those in your social circles and ask them to pass them along to anyone who may have a need for your skills and abilities. Be your own marketing executive and don't be shy about tooting your own horn. This is a time in your life when modesty does not become you. Think of yourself as a valuable asset and use your marketing skills to enhance your candidacy.
Although finding a job these days may be a challenge, you'll be able to reconnect with past contacts that may not only yield a better professional relationship but a job that's right for you.
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