In any market, you have to be smart about your search to land a new job. But in a bad economy, you need to be brilliant. Your job search should combine the best traditional methods with the savviest online options.
When you're answering ads on the web, zero in on specific companies' listings where you won't face the magnitude of competition on big sites like monster.com and careerbuilder.com.
1.) Don't forget the power of a smart letter and solid resume. Because of the surge in online applications, you can stand out by sending a cover letter and resume by mail. Take real care with both, making them specific in terms of your qualifications and your understanding of the new field. The cover letter should be fact-packed but conversational--you should sound like someone the hirer wants to meet.
2.) Networking is the cornerstone of any job search. Staying current with many contacts is the best way to ensure that you'll hear about openings, so go to conferences and join the local chapter of organizations. Volunteer.
3.) Talk to everybody about your job search. It's a six-degrees game. One woman got a job through an encounter in a ladies' room line. If you're shy about hitting somebody up for help at a cocktail party, ask first if there's anything you can do for the person you're talking to. Nine times out of 10, she'll reciprocate.
4.) Prepare properly for the interview. Research the company at hoovers.com. If you're switching fields, make sure you know the lingo and buzzwords of the new profession. In describing your assets, tell stories to illustrate translatable skills, like how you reorganized a department so that work could be accomplished by three people rather than five; these are more memorable than simply saying "I supervised eight people." Don't be defensive about citing life experience like volunteer work; frame the description as you would for a paid job (specific goals achieved, money raised, budget set and met, number of direct reports). Don't worry that a layoff looks bad on your resume. "There's no stigma anymore," says Betsy Werley, executive director of The Transition Network, a nonprofit that helps women make life changes. "Ninety percent of people working in America have been laid off at some point."
5.) Be smart- - and realistic -- about salary negotiation. These are tough times, but set the stage for advancement by requesting a six-month review and asking how your success will be measured. Make sure you understand the company's program for promotion. Once you're on the job, be sure the boss is aware of your accomplishments. With downsizing, the number of reports supervisors oversee has mushroomed, so you need to make sure your work stands out.