Career Development By Chris Akins / 4 years ago Before the Great Recession it was not too difficult for qualified candidates to find great career opportunities. While things are picking up, we in the US are expected to have long term unemployment rates above 6-7%, until at least 2015. Finding a job these days requires more effort, and more skill, than it did before the collapse. It can be a frustrating, demoralizing experience, but there is hope! So what do you do? First things first. If you have lost your job or are just coming into the job market, don’t panic. Despite the gloomy unemployment figures that are being tossed about, there are still jobs out there. Despite the fact that competition is fierce, companies are still hiring. Keep your chin up, and keep a positive attitude. Here are some things you can do to increase your odds of beating out the competition and finding that job you have been looking for… 1. Your resume is the key. Take the time to perfect your resume. Your resume is what gets you on the phone with a hiring manager. It must be relevant, and formatted in a way that is easy to read and highlights the skills and experiences the employer is looking for. It is a good idea to customize your resume to the jobs you are applying for. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but it is necessary, especially in an economy with so many qualified people out there competing for the same jobs. For more specifics about writing great resumes, see our post “Writing winning resumes.” 2. Don’t use a shotgun approach. A common mistake in a job search is to send out hundreds of untargeted resumes. This approach rarely works, and even if you land a job it may not be one you are particularly interested in doing for very long. A more effective approach is to do your research. Find out who is hiring, what functional skills, experience, and soft skills the employers want, and draft resumes and cover letters to target those positions. And don’t be shy about following up after you have sent in your resume and cover letter. If you do your research you should be able to find a contact number and person to call and speak to. In most cases you should be able to find the hiring manager him/herself. By making the effort you will be showing far more initiative than most job seekers, and most hiring managers will be impressed. Even if you are not offered the opportunity to interview for the job you posted for, your initiative may put you in a position to interview for others within the organization. 3. Make good use of social networking. Social networks like LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook can be valuable job search tools. If you are already a member of a social network make sure your profile is current and relevant, and ensure that your picture is suitable. Your profile and picture should portray a professional image. Don’t be afraid to advertise the fact that you are looking for a new career opportunity on your profile page. Make an effort to grow your networks as well. The larger your network, the more people you will have access to. This can be very useful when researching companies or industries, and may provide you with people you can reach out to for advice, contacts, or even interviews. 4. Be flexible on relocation. A common mistake many job seekers make is to insist on remaining in their current area. This may make sense for some, but the fact is that the if you are flexible with location, you will have more (and perhaps better) opportunities available to you. If you remain fixed on a particular location you may lengthen your job search and have to “settle” for whatever comes up instead of finding a job that realty suites you. 5. Get a recruiter… or several recruiters working for you. I often tell people who are looking for jobs to find a recruiter, or even several recruiters, to work for them. Yes, I am a recruiter… but I haven’t always been one. I gave this advice even when I was working as an executive at various companies. The reason: recruiters have direct access to hiring managers and the so-called “hidden” job market. And above all, do not lose hope. Remember: between a bad now, and a good tomorrow there is a working through it period.