CLAUDIA-TERESA POU – MEDILL NEWS SERVICE
At a time when job losses are rampant and more and more Americans are finding themselves out of work, I decided to write an article that could potentially be helpful to a number of people.
What are steps job seekers can take to get a job amid the recession? I called a staffing agency to find out more.
Taz Wilson, the owner of AltaStaff LLC, a boutique-staffing agency in Chicago, spoke to me about the job search during this economic crisis. Her agency has seen a 30-40 percent increase in job seekers, especially in the last month.
“It’s every single career level and industry,” Wilson said. “It really is across the board.”
So what’s some of the advice she gives her clients? She compiled a list of the top ten ways to market yourself to potential employers amid the recession:
1. The importance of your resume. Wilson knows it may sound cliché, but the importance of an error-free resume is crucial in any job search. She also advises her clients to highlight achievements of their past jobs, instead of just listing job functions. For example, if you helped a former employer beat out a competitor, add it! If you helped boost sales by 5 percent, add that too! Be as descriptive as possible. “You’ll shine over a lot of candidates,” she says.
2. Start joining professional networks. “LinkedIn is probably one of the best tools,” Wilson said. She advises job-seekers to link to as many people as possible—this will exponentially expand your circle of connections.
3. Research companies and career paths through the information available. Where have employees of a company you want to work for worked before? What skills is a company looking for? Where is the company recruiting? For example, if you really want to work for Company A that recruits new employees from Company B – go work for Company B and learn the skills necessary to work for Company A. “You’ll be more marketable,” she advised. “All that information is available.”
4. Join professional groups or memberships. If you like marketing, join the American Marketing Association. There are groups or memberships out there for all kinds of interests, she said. These professional groups give you access to events, job banks and postings, and a whole network of people who can guide you and connect you. “It’s a very engaged group of people,” she added.
5. Ask for information and help. When you connect with people in your network, Wilson says to ask them for advice instead of just asking them to help you with a specific job. She advises her clients to ask questions such as: Can you help me find out more information? Can you guide me? What did you do? Can you give me some ideas? But keep in mind: narrowing your questions to one job will narrow your chances, she said.
6. If you’re having trouble getting a job, VOLUNTEER. Yes, this includes unpaid internships. “It is probably the best way to get into a company, meet people and get involved,” she stated. You’ll expand your network and keep up your skills, even if it’s volunteering afternoons, three times a week, she added.
7. Use the city workforce development. Wilson says she probably wouldn’t have listed the program as one of the top ways to get a job before the recession hit. Now amid the recession, clients have told her it has been very helpful. The program offers resources, counseling and help. It also sets benchmarks for job seekers, implementing weekly goals. The program helps with general job search tools.
8. Broaden your job search. Only 5 percent of jobs are found through a staffing agency and only 5 to 10 percent of jobs are found through the Internet. The rest are found through networking and people you know. “Use your personal networks and apply the staffing agencies and online research to these network,” she said.
9. Invest in a professional wardrobe. Get out of those sweats! Everyday when you leave the house, dress up a little bit. You never know who you’re going to run into at the grocery store or while you’re making copies of your resume. You’ll have a much better presentation and be much more confident. Getting up in the morning, getting dressed and getting polished will improve your mental state and get you into a professional mindset.
10. ORGANIZE. Get yourself as organized as possible. Prepare a spreadsheet. Who did you talk to? What day? What time? Where have you applied? You don’t want to submit to more than one job — this is very important in the era of “resume spam.” There is a feature that blocks resumes that spam a company (i.e. candidates who have applied to multiple jobs within the company).
Overall, Wilson advises her clients to follow up with companies, employment agencies and personal contacts. Be proactive. Email is key. It is the most wonderful nonintrusive way, she said, to communicate. “It doesn’t interfere with daily life.” However, if someone prefers a phone call to email, you want to make sure you have all those details.