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I’ve been through this drill more times than I’d like to admit and, as much as I hate to say it, I’ve become something of an expert at finding work. Keeping it is another matter but more on that in another post.

I’ve been reading other blogs from folks who are “in the hunt” and watching as they try out the various strategies. Here’s what I’m doing – for better or worse.

Networking! Everyone talks about networking and it really does work. Of course, that’s only if the people you’re networking with have an opening where THEY work. This isn’t usually the case but, it never hurts to stay in touch with old co-workers. If you haven’t built a network it’s tough but better late then never. Go to LinkedIn and look them all up to connect. Call people and catch up. If you can help them, so much the better. And, don’t forget them when you’re working again.

LinkedIn: My strategy here is to try and be as visible as possible. I’ve made a point of linking in with as many people from my profession – and as many recruiters and HR people as possible. Right now I’m up to 2,200+ people. I actually have received calls from recruiters through this tactic so it does work. But, like anything, it’s a low percentage gambit.

Informational interviews: This was a great strategy fifteen years ago but seems to have grown stale. Let’s face it, most people are buried under work and the last thing they have time to do is talk to you about their company when they don’t have any openings. It might work in the right profession but, in my experience, it’s a waste of your time and theirs.

Job fairs: Another waste of time. Most companies just aren’t hiring enough people to justify being at a career fair all day talking to candidates. If they only want one person in a particular department they’ll put the requirement out on the web and pick from the candidates in the comfort of their own office. It looks good in the news, and gets them some PR points; and it justifies all the people working in HR but it won’t do much you. The only possible good thing about them is the opportunity of networking with other job hunters. Not worth it in my opinion.

Answering ads on the internet: Sure, every job opening that’s advertised gets a ton of responses. Your odds of being picked for an interview are slim. But, with a couple of resume variations on file you zing them off quickly. My strategy here is to apply for anything that I’d even remotely qualify for. If I’m overqualified they may decide they actually want someone with my background – and offer a better job. If I’m under qualified and they don’t select me I’ve only invested a few minutes of my time. One disclaimer here: You’ll see the same job being advertised over and over by the same company. If you’ve already applied don’t expect to hear from them – they’re doing it to build their pipeline, just in case they need someone, or to look good to management, or to make their competition think they’re really going gangbusters. If you haven’t applied, don’t bother.

Recruiters: My respect for recruiters is right there with used car salesmen. Let’s face it, they all work with the same pool of candidates. If you get a call from one of them, and they just have to meet you face to face, insist that they give you some idea of what the job is all about. Far to often there is no job and they’re just trying to fill their pipeline (see above) and impress their bosses with how much work they’re doing. Now, I’m not writing them off entirely. Because they’re all pretty much idiots who have no idea of what skills are required for the job their filling you can snow them fairly easily and get in to the hiring manager (if there really is a job). If that happens, you’ve just become one of a few candidates instead of one of many and your odds are increased by that much. If you play your cards right, and understand that they’re not working for your best interests, they can be useful to you.

Your resume: Everyone has an idea of what the perfect resume should look like. Since that’s the case, you’ll never get it exactly right. My strategy here is to make sure it’s clean, no spelling errors, and right to the point.

Networking groups: Many cities now have networking groups for the unemployed. If you’ve not explored this option in your area do it before trying anything else. They’ll help you kick-start a good resume, polish your interviewing skills, and give you something to do besides watching the soap operas. Whatever you do, don’t think you’ll get through this on your own, at least not as quickly as you will if you reach out for help. Meet some people, help some people, and don’t be too embarrassed to ask for help. Once your resume is polished and ready, don’t be afraid to set up several versions of it for the different types of jobs out there within your skill set. My first experience of being out of work I carried resumes with me wherever I went – and handed them out to anyone who’d ask. What I found was that these people, trying to help, would then pass them along to people they knew who actually had an opening. I appreciated that but it lost me the chance to make direct contact with the hiring manager. A better strategy is to ask your contacts to let you know if they hear of anything – get you the name and number of the person. Then you can get that resume to them once you’ve researched the company a bit.

Join a professional organization: If there’s an organization for profession consider joining them and going to the meetings. I’ll tell you now that showing up the first time and telling them you’re unemployed telegraphs the reason you joined but, what choice do you have? It’s better if you’re already a member but better late than never. Once you do get a job stay in touch with them and go to the meetings. They’ll help you progress in your career and become better at what you do. If they have a professional accreditation think about studying up and taking the test.

Targeting companies: You’ll be advised to research companies where you’d like to work and try to get in with them. We’d all like to get a job at the best company but, if they don’t have any openings you’ll be forced to take the job that’s offered to you. My best advice here is to try and Link In with people who are already working at your target companies, follow those companies on Linked In, and hope something comes up. Spending a lot of your time trying to get on the inside of these companies is a waste, unless you already know they have openings.

Placement companies: These are the people who will charge you a fee to find those “hidden” jobs. All I can say is to run from these places like your hair is on fire. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a job this way. Anything they can do for you can be had for free at a good networking group.

That’s it. The sum total of what I know about finding a job. I wish I could clue you in to the secret, sure fire, way of getting employed but it’s just a lot of hard work and digging. Don’t rely on just one strategy and balance the different approaches, say a lot of prayers, and don’t get obsessed with job hunting – try and live a balanced life while you’re out of work and don’t lose your sense of humor.