Finding employment in the current anemic labor market demands the time and energy of a full-time job, but experts warn that becoming too preoccupied with your search and making it the only focus in your life can actually work against you.
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“It’s really important to feel engaged and productive during the job search,” says Shawnice Meador, director of career management and leadership development for MBA@UNC.
There are a host of short-term strategies that will not only boost your resume, but keep your morale up as you search for your next big thing. Here’s what experts suggest:
Volunteer to Fill Resume Gaps
An unemployment gap can be discouraging to potential employers, so fill that space with volunteer work that relates to your career.
For example, out-of-work attorneys could offer pro bono services to keep their skills fresh and help someone out. Another option is to find a cause that is important to you and putting your professional skills, like marketing, accounting or recruitment, to work.
“Volunteering helps you feel like you are making a difference to someone or something in a substantial way,” says Meador. “It’s also a nice thing to talk about on an interview when people ask what you’ve been doing since your last job.”
Build Your Personal Brand
Your online footprint plays a major role in your job search. Companies are not only looking for the candidates with the best skills, but they also want someone who will fit in with their culture, which means they are reviewing your social network sites before even calling you in for an interview.
“With culture fit becoming a high priority for many employers, showcasing one’s personality can truly give job seekers a leading edge over the competition,” says Kerry Schofield, co-founder and chief psychometrics officer of career website Good.Co. “While many job seekers do a great job at showcasing their expertise and passion for their industry, they forget one important component of personal branding – personality.”
To help establish your brand, expert recommend making sure your personality and experience shine through on your social media pages, whether that means highlighting your love of sky diving or showcasing your commitment to your children or community. That personal brand should also be weaved into your cover letter and mentioned in your resume.
“Highlighting your personal hobbies is an excellent way for potential employers to learn more about you,” says Schofield. “Even something as simple as a penchant for Sudoku or participation in a dodge ball team can say a lot about your personality.”
Blog Your Knowledge
Being an active participant on the social media websites of professional groups is a way to share your knowledge, make connections and showcase your expertise.
Creating your own website that offers interesting articles along with your own commentary and thoughts can help showcase your skills. But be careful with how much you share online, warns Meador.
“Hiring employers pay attention, so stay on the positive side. Be very careful about gossiping or being negative in the blogging world.”
Refresh Your Mindset and Your Resume
One of the first things the newly-laid off do is fire off a slew of resumes to potential employers. And while it’s good to be proactive, being calculated in your approach is better. Experts recommend taking the time to step back and assess where you’ve been and where you want to go. Ask yourself: Do you truly love your profession, or is this an opportunity to make a much needed change?
Take the time to freshen up your resume and your profile on professional networking websites like LinkedIn before sending out resumes.
Kathy Harris, managing partner at executive search firm Harris Allied, recommends creating your resume from scratch instead of editing an old one.
“What was important to you five years ago is not important to the job you are seeking now,” she says. “Update your LinkedIn profile, update any professional accreditations and clean up your Facebook page of anything that might turn off a potential employer.”