Job hunting in hard times

2008

When times are tough and jobs are scarce, it is important to be strategic in how you look for a job. Flooding the market with your resume and filling out online applications hoping someone will notice you is often an exercise in futility and can leave you feeling discouraged. To be successful, you need a strategy.

Strategic job hunting requires that you follow the money and know how you can increase an employer's bottom line.

Follow the Money: Your first step is to figure out where the jobs are. In every economic downturn there are industries that are hit hardest. Begin by identifying these industries because you will be less successful in finding jobs in them. Instead target the industries that have been least affected by the bad economy.

In addition, look at the types of jobs that are being lost. Layoffs and hiring freezes may not mean that all jobs have evaporated in an industry. In some cases new opportunities may exist.

For example, people who sell financial products are losing their jobs but a whole new set of jobs is being created to help sort out the mess created by the financial industries excesses. Similarly, economic downturns can cause shifts to low-end products. Currently retail stores that sell high-end products are suffering but Wal-Mart is thriving.

It is also useful to think about which types of products and services are always in demand regardless what the state of the economy is. An example is medical services. Demand in this area may actually be growing due to the stress of the recent economic meltdown. I was recently talking to some mental health professionals who commented that they expect their business to increase in the current climate of fear and anxiety.

Know How You Can Add to an Employer's Bottom Line: When jobs are scarce, you must think of yourself as a product. It costs organizations money to employ you. Thus, you must show them that you will be worth more than what it costs them to employ you.

This involves convincing them that you can help them increase revenue, reduce expenses, develop new innovative services and products, or build a strong and committed customer base. A great book that outlines this approach is Don't Send a Resume by Jeffrey J. Fox.

To succeed in this approach you must abandon your "I" mindset, know your talents, and identify where your talents can add value to an organization. Abandon your "I" mind set. When you need a job, there is a strong temptation to see getting a job through your own eyes rather than that of a prospective employer. It is important to remember that employers aren't interested in your problems and needs. They have their own concerns.

Approach potential employers by thinking about what will help them, not what will help you. Hide your "I want a job" mindset. When employers sense that your first concern is getting a job, they consider this a red flag which suggests that you may be a burden rather than a positive addition to their organization. If you instead portray yourself as someone who will increase their bottom line in even a small way, they will be eager to hire you.

Know your talents: To add to the bottom line of an organization you must have a good idea of your talents. What types of expertise and experience do you have? What are your mini-strengths - the small things that you do really well - and what are your weaknesses? See my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Harvard Psychologist's Guide to Becoming a Superstar for an in-depth explanation of mini-strengths and how you can use them to add value.

As part of identifying your talents, review your past jobs. Which of your talents were highly valued? Where did your weaknesses limit your ability to contribute?

Identify where your talents can add value to an organization: If you understand your talents, you will soon realize that you can add value in many different types of jobs and organizations. Be bold. Don't limit yourself to what you did in the past.

As Fox in Don't Send a Resume recommends, find ways to circumvent recruiters and HR who focus on your past experience. Instead directly approach the people in organizations who will benefit from your talents.

If you can convince them that your talents are transferrable and you can add value, they will hire you. Everyone wants employees who take initiative and can help them achieve their goals.

Believe in Yourself: While job hunting can be extremely stressful, remember that all successful people face struggles in building their careers. Every superstar in my book went through hard times. They succeeded because they were strategic. They figured out how to get around the road blocks they encountered and persisted in the face of adversity.

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About The Author

Myra White
Myra White

Myra White teaches managing workplace performance and organizational behavior at Harvard University and is a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. She is the author of "Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Harvard Psychologist's Guide to Becoming a Superstar", a book based on her research into how over 60 well-known people became superstars.