January was a bit of a perplexing month for the labor market.
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The unemployment rate dropped to 9%, yet employers only added 36,000 jobs, a quarter of what was expected, and a mere fraction of the 200,000 plus per month needed to get us back to pre-recession levels. Bottom line, the anemic job market has a long way to go.
For those of you still out there trying to fight your way back into the ranks of the employed, these numbers mean that competition is still tough. Successfully competing in the current labor market means going above and beyond, job seekers need to take risks and stretch past your comfort zone. Translation: You may have to risk making a fool of yourself.
Here are some interesting and innovative ways to get yourself out there and hired:
Harness the Power of the Social Network: The big three social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become the new primary mode of communication for an entire generation. Just consider the pivotal role that Twitter has played in the current uprising in Egypt. Understanding the social network landscape and how to use it is a handy tool for job searching.
Take Eric Romer for example. As a bald and out-of-work marketer, he knew of an open marketing manager position at razor company HeadBlade that was the perfect fit for him. But he had to grab the company's attention. His first step was to start a blog (cleverly named Hire Me, HeadBlade). The blog included testimonials of why he would be the perfect hire and even a video of him shaving his head using the HeadBlade product. He then connected with the company on Twitter and began tweeting about his blog. Within eight hours of launching his cyber campaign, a hiring manager at HeadBlade gave him a call and set up an interview.
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- Pick Your Targets: Be deliberate, pick your targets and speak directly to them. Romer made sure to tailor his message specifically for the HeadBlade folks, that is what got their attention.
- Create a Campaign: Put together a clear and concise message and be sure to speak to the needs of your prospective employer. Every political campaign focuses on curing problems and so should you.
- Blast Your Message: Use the power of the social network to get your message out there. Romer made sure to connect with HeadBlade and their followers on Twitter, to get on their radar screen.
Don’t Just Facebook, Book Face Time: If you aren’t that skilled at navigating the social networking world, you may want to consider some more aggressive one-on-one tactics. One rule of thumb I’ve always followed: Find the people who have the jobs you want and get to know them.
From my own experiences, I can tell you that getting in front of the right people isn’t always easy, but if you are willing to put in the effort, it will pay off. I have literally jumped on a plane at the last minute for an overnight trip to attend a party because of the potential contacts that might be there. I have also showed up early and waited late just to meet keynote speakers at conferences that I was interested in working with. If you want an opportunity, you have to create it.
- Stalk Your Prey: To be clear, I’m not talking about binoculars and dark alleys. That said, being in the right place at the right time doesn’t have to happen by accident. Figure out where the people you need to meet hang out and go there, just don’t be weird about it.
- Use the Friends and Family Plan: Ask everyone in your immediate network who they can link you up with for a quick coffee. After a little brainstorming you will be surprised at who you have access to! Just last week my Mom was able to link me up with one of the personalities I quoted in my book. Either of us realized she had the connection until we chatted about it.
It’s no longer about the job application and the resume. It’s about making human contact, whether it’s online or in person. Do something different and be proactive. Remember, the best opportunities are the ones you create.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.