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Stuck in the Nineties: is your jobhunting technique sooooo last-century?

Finding employment in the new millennium, Part One

Are you a casualty of the latest recession? Or stuck in a dead-end job? Or just plain ready for a change? Okay, time to dust off the job-hunting skills and trade your current horizons in for some broader, brighter ones.

The bad news is that the rules have changed (yet again) since you first learned the tricks of the trade. The good news is that if you take a little time to get the hang of the new ones, you will have tools for getting your search out there that the twentieth century never dreamt of.

In newsletters to come, we will spend more time and detail on the techniques that will get you to the head of the pack, when your dream job is at stake.

What’s In, What’s Out, What’s Going to Put You in Front of the Pack…

Out: Paper Resumes

In: Digital Resumes

Leading the Pack: Online Portfolios

Remember agonizing over whether to use cream, gray or white cardstock for your resume? Tri-fold it in a business envelope, or send it flat in a manila envelope? Forget all that. Most HR people, recruiters and employment portals expect an electronic resume in Word or PDF format. For bonus points, put together an .rtf (Rich Text Format) version that still looks clean and readable with all the fancy fonts and formatting stripped off; many online submission forms only accept .rtf. For super-bonus credit, ensure that your resume is clean, simple and readable enough for viewing on smart phones, tablets, and other small-screen portable reading devices. Many HR professionals sift through resumes while commuting, or waiting for a meeting to start, or other “on the fly” locations.

The communication tool that will really give you an edge is the online portfolio. This isn’t a single place/thing; it’s samples of your work and your output that a prospective employer can view through LinkedIn, or your website, or other online source. Anyone can look good in a resume, but with a portfolio, an employer really gets to see what you can do.

Out: Generic references for all jobs

In: References chosen on a position-by-position basis

Leading the Pack: Recommendations and testimonials

We still routinely see candidates providing a single set of two or three references from which they never stray. But more and more employers are interested in getting a sense of your work style, and how you’ll “fit” with their team. Listen keenly during an interview to hear what they are most interested in. Your ability to solve problems? Your ability to interact positively with people at all levels of the organization? Your ability to manage client-facing relationships? If possible, choose and offer references who can speak to those areas of interest.

Many candidates now offer a testimonials sheet in addition to their resume, containing specific praise about specific accomplishments and skills from bosses, clients and coworkers. LinkedIn includes a feature for coworkers to recommend you, and vice versa.

Out: Working the room

In: Professional networking

Leading the Pack: Personal branding

Did people really go to parties and shuffle around trading career aspirations and promises to call one another? And did it ever come across as anything but an attempt to use other people for your own purposes? Perhaps that’s why so many IT and Engineering professionals shy away from “networking”. But give the idea another look; you’re probably networking already and don’t know it.

Do you belong to any professional groups? Get together in online forums where people trade questions and answers and discussion? Give some thought to how you come across in online discussion venues, because recruiters frequently sift through them looking for subject matter experts who articulate ideas well. Do you remember people you enjoyed working with before and wouldn’t mind working with again? Consider using social networking tools like LinkedIn to refresh relationships with old coworkers. They can bring you to the attention of hiring managers, with personal recommendations about your performance.

To take it to the next level, stop and think about your “personal brand”. What is the most valuable, stand-out thing about you, where an employer is concerned? Are you the person who can turn around a troubled project? Are you the go-to for complex technical issues? Are you the one who can keep a client relationship positive even when things are going wrong? Look at old performance appraisals and talk to co-workers; you may be surprised to find that routine aspects of your work are what they prize the most for their team. Then, find ways to reinforce that message in your resume, your online presence, your introductory emails.

Next issue: three more ways in which you can reap the benefits of taking your job hunt into the twenty-first century.

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