How to Find a Job in a “Jobless Economy”

Tips from CEOs and other business leaders

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Job seekers may be very surprised to learn that human resources pros and recruiters attend conferences to talk about “the war for talent.”

Ironically, when so many people are looking for work, many hiring managers still have a difficult time connecting with the right candidates. They pay consulting firms a lot of money to teach them how their organizations can use Facebook to connect with potential applicants, and they hope Google+ is the next great social network to tap for professional information about new hires.

[See How Your Google Profile Can Help Recruiters Find You.]

In the meantime, the average job seeker continues to plug away, applying for position after position, with little to no success in many cases. Jackie Bassett, the CEO of BT Industrials, Inc., works with the CEOs of a variety of global companies that are in growth mode. She acknowledges, “They all tell me their number-one constraint to growth is finding the right talent.” While many lost jobs are not coming back, “brand new needs have appeared that have yet to be met. The opportunity to fill any of those needs is everywhere. They just won’t be found where we used to go to look for them.”

Bassett collaborates with CEOs and with Joel Abraham, a talent manager at EMM Holdings and the author of Hired: Networking to Land the Job You Want, to help get the word out that all job seekers—from new college graduates to executives seeking jobs earning six figures—can get hired, even in today’s economy.

She explains, “CEOs, CFOs and community leaders everywhere aren’t waiting for Congress to find you a job. They are taking action now in many innovative ways. They know there are jobs out there. They know how they got where they are today. They got themselves hired and went on to create jobs they need to hire for. They are sharing their advice via career events town by town, family by family, college grad by college grad, to do whatever it takes to find the right talent they need to grow their companies and grow the economy.”

You can still land a job in a stubborn market. The trick is to avoid relying entirely on old-school mechanisms and to embrace new ways to get the word out about what you offer a hiring manager.

[See 5 Things You Can Do to Land the Interview.]

Curious how CEOs view the “jobless economy” that we seem to be stuck in? Some working with Bassett comment on concerns that are top-of-mind for many job seekers today. For example, some economists and “futurists” are predicting a shift to a contract-based work economy, where most workers will not be employees of organizations, but rather will be hired on a project-by-project basis. Steve Hill, the CFO of Burst Media, points out, "Over the last five years, we have seen a major move from traditional media to digital media. Now all media-related businesses recognize this, from newspaper, book, and magazine publishers to advertising agencies and all their clients. There are and will continue to be tremendous opportunities for creative and talented people with experience in the digital world, despite the current state of the economy. The trick for job seekers will be to gain that first experience working in this area. Schools, colleges, and start-up companies can provide those opportunities for people willing and able to work for free or part time on a contract basis."

Another difficult factor for many job seekers, whose homes may be worth less than what they owe on their mortgages, is relocating for opportunities, or being willing to retrain in growth fields. Jim Sheehan, the CFO of Ember, acknowledges that the “unemployment levels are not evenly distributed across geographic and market segments. In the Boston area, where Ember is located, we are experiencing shortages in qualified candidates for several technical positions we are looking to fill, which supports the statistic of 3 percent or lower unemployment for some segments of the job market."

While many job seekers want “safe” and “stable” opportunities and resist uncertainty, Brad Casper, the executive chairman of the board and interim CEO of Dymatize, suggests succeeding by pursuing a less-traveled path. He explains, “When looking for new opportunities for advancement, conventional wisdom normally suggests to 'follow your passions' or 'build on your strengths.’  An alternative would be to leave your comfort zone and pursue a new career path that is less traveled and perhaps a little more uncertain; . . . to leave the comfort zone and take on an opportunity that may be just slightly beyond what you think you are ready for. Intelligent risk-taking can lead to fantastic career growth."

[See A Recruiter's Tips for Job-Hunting.]

Meanwhile, not everyone resists the pull of a passionate fit with an organization. Virginia Rybski, the CEO of Regenesis Biomedical, Inc., advises, “During the job search process, it is essential to look beyond the basic criteria of location and compensation; you must follow your passion. Success in a new role is clearly dependent upon your fit within the existing culture and the level of passion and commitment you are willing to bring.  At Regenesis Biomedical, we identified a real need to help diabetes patients suffering from disease-related skin wounds and pain. The satisfaction of helping these patients and their caregivers helps fuel that fire within each of us to create passion-filled jobs for others.”  

Of course, no one advisor (even from a panel of successful professionals) has the answer for every job seeker. There’s no doubt that an important ingredient in any job seeker’s arsenal of tools is a willingness to work hard to move in the chosen career path’s direction. Consider this thought from Sarah Coppinger, a 2010 college graduate who is now a journalist working for Hometown Publications, LLC: “One thing I've learned after talking with distinguished media professionals, artists, and writers is that success only comes after discovering a passion, and then committing yourself to the hard work that follows. This takes time, as well as sacrifice. But, if you're passionate enough, the opportunities you take will outweigh the sacrifices you make.”

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.

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