10 Guerrilla strategies for a tough job market

With layoffs continuing to be front page news, job seekers who have been hit in the head by a big clue-brick are wondering how they are going to land anything.  I’m especially concerned because recruiters are telling me they are getting hundreds of resumes the instant they post a job.  So, what are a few tips that will help you differentiate yourself in this market?

1. High-power your resume and interviewing by illustrating quantifiable results.

2. Follow the money.  If congress just passed a stimulus package, scrutinize the bill to see where the money is going to go.  Then target those agencies for new jobs.  Same thing goes for mayoral declarations, new tax levies, state-wide initiatives, and other new laws that mandate things (and are funded).  If you are in the private sector, look for press releases that mention new launches of products.  Set up google alerts and start following interesting people on twitter (try the GovTwit Directory of government folks on twitter for starters). Staying ahead of the curve is great, especially in an economy that keeps throwing curve balls.

3. Talk to people before you need them.  If possible, get an internal referral or recommendation for any job you apply to. 

4. Cold call or cold email– or write actual letters.  Kevin Donlin’s Simple Job Search System is intriguing in that he pushes people to write actual snail mail letters, and uses the same techniques that get people to read junk mail to help you get meetings that lead to job offers.  You can request a free e-book from him (and then he’ll email you once or twice a week for a while, so know that before you request it…). 

5. Find a buddy or support network.  This technique works for other self-motivated projects, like losing weight or running a marathon (or even quitting drugs or alcohol!).  If someone else holds you accountable for your search process, you will feel guilty enough to keep on trying.  Find another person and set up a meeting time at least once per week to report on what you each have done to try to find a job.  This technique has been used successfully by organizations like the Five O’Clock Club for years. 

6. Be the very first one to apply, and then follow up.  Consider that jobs are getting 500+ applications during short windows of time, and that you are likely to be competing against people who have recently been laid off who have years of experience.  But don’t let that bother you!  Instead, distinguish yourself by being the polite, bright, enthusiastic and friendly candidate who follows up to make sure they know you are excited about the job.  Easier said than done, especially when your unemployment check is running low.  But try to channel the anxiety into positive enthusiasm as much as possible.

7. Become flexible.  Are you willing to relocate?  Are you open to starting at a lower salary?  Perhaps a part-time job or consulting gig will get you through; and maybe by getting your foot in the door, you’ll land the job you really want. 

Example: One of the top recruiters at the State Department said in a conference that if a federal job is listed at GS 5, 7, and 9, you should apply at all three levels.  The recruiters will read through all the applications, and pick the top candidates within each pay grade.  Obviously if you are overqualified for GS 5, you will be the top person in that pay grade.  But maybe you won’t be considered for GS 9 because you’ll be competing with many others with more experience than you have.  Consider starting at the lower pay grade and getting yourself promoted to the top of the scale.  That’s how this top recruiter at the State Department started: GS 5.  Now she’s in the Senior Executive Service.

Consider the long-term benefits of the job: better networking connections, more relevant experience, or improved skills that will lead you where you want to go.

8. Establish your brand, even if you’re not working.  Can’t find a paid job?  Try volunteering.  Start writing a blog.  Get yourself known on Twitter.  Put your face out there so people start to know about you.  Don’t be worried that you’re not working for money– you are establishing yourself as a known quantity.  Ask for endorsements on Linkedin.com.  You are on Linkedin.com, aren’t you?  Of course you are.

9. Get organized!  Give yourself real, measureable goals, and organize your contacts and applications somehow.  Maybe an Excel file or Outlook program will work for you; or maybe you should try a great tool like Jibberjobber.

10. Don’t lose hope.  Check out the free articles like this one  from the Five O’Clock Club about how to sustain a long job search.

2 thoughts on “10 Guerrilla strategies for a tough job market

  1. Heather, a very timely and important post. Very interesting about how the resumes are screened for graded jobs! #8 is very good, though it’s hard to pick!

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