10 New Rules for Today's Job Hunt

The tried-and-true techniques that served you so well in the past no longer fill the bill.

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Karen Burns
If you are mid-career, out of work and looking, you’ve probably already figured this one out: The tried-and-true job-hunting techniques that served you so well in the past no longer fill the bill.

[See 15 essentials to getting hired.]

While you were faithfully toiling away for the same employer, maybe for decades, a lot changed. Today it’s a brave new world of social media and digital résumés and Google-ability. What’s more, many extremely qualified people are willing to take positions clearly “beneath” them. Some will even work for free.

What’s an experienced, qualified, truly valuable potential employee who needs a job that pays actual money like you to do? You really have only one choice: Get to know this brave new world, and conquer it.

Here are the 10 biggest differences between then and now:

[See 40 things you can't discuss at work.]

1. You can no longer depend on a résumé to get an interview. Simply mailing out résumés and then sitting back and waiting for responses was never that effective, and today it just doesn’t cut it. It’s a waste of time, paper, postage, and psychic energy.

2. Your experience matters less than it used to. This is unfair, even counter-intuitive, but people don’t want to hear about everything you did way back when. They want to hear about everything you can do, specifically, to help them today. And tomorrow.

3. You shouldn't expect to hear back. Unfortunately, this little courtesy has gone the way of the vinyl record. Keep on networking, interviewing, and researching right up until the moment you have a firm job offer in your hot little hands. Maybe even a little after.

[See 25 tips for acing the lunch interview.]

4. A résumé is no longer a comprehensive summary of your work and education history. Don’t bother to list jobs more than 15 years old. Emphasize recent accomplishments, certifications, and training.

5. More about résumés: You need a digital-friendly one that is easily uploadable, downloadable, and scannable (i.e., no bullets, boxes, boldface, unusual fonts, indenting). It should be rich in the “keywords” that employers in your field are looking for.

6. In fact, overall computer literacy is a must. Get comfortable with applying for jobs online and learn how to research on the Internet. If all this is new to you, your public library is a good place to start. Oh, and have a professional-sounding E-mail address.

7. A good idea is to go one step further and establish a lively Internet presence. Explore LinkedIn (get some stellar endorsements), Twitter, and Facebook. Become active in your field’s social media sites. Consider building your own Web site (with a career-oriented blog, professional photo, and résumé).

8. One of the first things a potential employer will do is Google you. That means you need to find out if there’s anything negative about you online. If there is something bad, try to get it removed. Your best bet may be to “bury” it with more recent, more favorable, links (see No. 7).

9. More than ever it’s about who you know, and who knows you. This is important: Finding employment nowadays is less a matter of applying for existing open positions and more about identifying needs potential employers have and demonstrating to them that you can fill these needs.  Fortunately, there are more networking venues (real life and virtual) than ever before.

10. Many interviewers/hiring managers/recruiters may be younger than you. Get used to it. Treat them with respect and learn how to speak their language. Do not say “You remind me of my son/daughter,” or “When I was your age... !"

You can do this. So go forth. And conquer!

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.