How to get a job in a recession

With job loss announcements, pay cuts and pay freezes being almost daily news, how does one go about actually getting a job, or moving to a new role? You may be a student in your final year planning to enter the workforce; recently made redundant; or even aching for a change from your current position – but afraid to even try, leaning instead towards ‘preserving your employment’. Regardless of what stage of the workforce you find yourself, getting a job is harder now than it has been for 20 years – and I believe the approach to job hunting needs a totally new approach, due to the economic climate and two major trends – the growth of on-line personal information (social media) and the brevity of time a person tends to spend in a company (life long roles do not exist any more).

Like starting a business in tough times, getting a job in tough times is difficult – but like starting a business, the good ideas (people) will still succeed.  Markets are cyclical, this time 12 months ago the labour force held all the power – and it was all employers could do to hold on to staff, offering pay increases and generous benefits packages, coupled with recruiters constantly trying to tempt good staff (read: staff they have previously placed) into other companies. Now the employer holds all the power – for most jobs now a simple advert will garner hundreds of applicants. So how do you stand out from the crowd, get your CV past the initial screening, and land that interview?

The first reality to come to terms with, is that the CV is dying, or already dead. CV’s are a ‘dead tree media’ personal advertisement. Advertisements promote a brand or product, and all viewers know they are created by the promoter – and therefore extremely one-sided. A CV is no different – employers know you wrote it – and you are naturally biased towards self–promotion. The reality now is that a vast amount of information on you can be found on-line – and very often this information is not controlled by you and can give potential employers a shockingly honest window into your life.

You are in denial if you think any – every – potential employer today is not going to ‘Google you’. Google yourself now – are you proud of the results that show? Will these results positively or negatively affect a strangers perception of you, and encourage them to meet you as a candidate for employment?  Is it a link to your Facebook or Bebo page? Are there any links at all? Both are equally dangerous answers. Your online persona is incredibly important when it comes to achieving career success – if you want to stand out for the mass of applications to get a first interview, and also if you wish to pass an online screening for any content that might paint a less than salubrious picture of you. For most people the results are easy to manipulate – it just takes a little time and effort.

5 Steps to Standing Out from the Crowd and Getting Yourself Noticed Online

  1. Decide what your personal brand stands for. Select your areas of interest and make a list of communities, events and people to connect with. This is your target audience, and this is the audience for which you are creating content you hope will be seen by a potential employer.
  2. Setup a blog. You need a ‘home’ online, and you need to create meaningful content (this is the single most important thing you can do to get noticed). This is what you hope will show up on the first page of a search on your name – entries in your blog posting articles and commentary of your professional sphere of interest.
  3. Setup a twitter account. Twitter might not be for everyone, and it’s a little hard to understand at first. But it’s a massively growing medium for connecting, and it’s easy to participate – unlike blogging where you need to formulate long entries, each ‘tweet’ you post is limited to 140 characters. It’s called ‘micro blogging’ but instead of trying to write micro-novels, use Twitter to find other people in your sphere of interest – and see what they are talking about – news, trends, companies, other people. It’s a great way to expand your network and find new sources of knowledge.
  4. Join LinkedIn and find like minded people. Search for other  forums. LinkedIn is a great professional networking tool. Just like other social media sites, I can see the connections of people I am connected to, and if there is someone there I’d really like to meet, I can ask my connection to introduce me. That’s a very powerful tool for job hunting. For example – add me as a connection to your LinkedIn profile – then you can browse my contacts. Perhaps there’s someone there in a company you really think you can add value in; so you ask me to introduce you to my contact – that is FAR more powerful than a cold-call or randomly submitted CV. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a great replacement to your MyCV.doc – it’s a public, constantly updateable, and searchable, profile of yourself than you control. (Here’s mine for example).
  5. Start writing, commenting, connecting. Once you’ve set yourself up online, it’s time to start getting yourself out there. Read relevant articles and if you have a comment – leave one and link back to your blog. Write content on your blog – it doesn’t have to be profound – it can be a summary of new things you have learnt or come across on line. Participate in online communities, or if one doesn’t exist – create it!

When a prospective employer searches for you online now – they will see your professional profile on LinkedIn, a few articles you’ve written online, or maybe they will come across you long before you’ve submitted a job application because you’ve connected with them through you new online activities. All this shows interest above and beyond the ‘9 to 5’, it makes you stand out for the crowd and gets the employer to think you are proactive, interested and self-motivated. Immediately you are more employable than the 50 other CV’s on the persons desk with the same education and experience.

A mentor many years ago said to me ‘when you are looking for a job, looking for a job IS your full-time job’. Writing a standard CV and cover letter and sending it to recruiters and a few companies is NOT the approach that will land you your dream job. This lazy ‘blanket bomb’ approach may have worked in the past, but it won’t any more. If you not working, then you have AT LEAST 40-hours a week to spend looking for a job. Start a blog, create relevant content, promote yourself online through meaningful contribution to forums and industry communities, attend networking events in your area (or start one!), and make contact with companies you would like to work with through interacting with them where they are active, or likely keeping an eye on.

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