Are You Armed and Ready for a Job Search?

A new survey reveals most job seekers need help in even the basic elements of a job search.

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Your job search requires more skills and knowledge than you might imagine. According to a recent survey by talent mobility consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, 76 percent of job seekers admitted they need improvement in these key areas: résumé writing, targeting jobs, interviewing skills, networking techniques, using social media and writing cover letters. But today's job search is going to take more than basic skills, so be sure to brush up on the new competencies required for today's proactive marketing campaign. If you assume you can submit your résumé to job postings and land a job in a couple of weeks, think again.

Don't underestimate social media. According to the LHH study, only 7 percent of the respondents thought they needed help with their social media skills, while 33 percent believed their résumé needed help. According to Peter Alcide, the firm's president and chief operating officer, "Many of us lack the self-awareness to understand which skills we need to improve and how to improve those skills."

Don't discount the importance of a professional, on-brand social media presence. Begin increasing your familiarity with LinkedIn first. Take advantage of its portfolio-like features and group discussions, and maximize the keywords in your title, summary and experience sections. LinkedIn is the "go-to" hub for recruiters and hiring managers, however, they are searching for information online too. Take control of the information you provide online and build a strong professional presence to ensure the best information is discovered first. Social media isn't just about what you had for breakfast, it is strategic marketing and relationship building rolled into one.

Proactive prospecting. If you were launching a new product into the market, you would have a detailed plan outlining how you would introduce it to potential customers. You are that new product, so ask yourself: "Who are my potential customers?" In other words, who are the companies that need you to solve their problems? When you identify companies that need your skills, it enables you to proactively market yourself to hiring managers and inside connections instead of waiting for a job to become posted. Initiating outreach efforts before a job is publicly announced also gives you greater exposure because you aren't competing with hundreds of applicants for the hiring manager's attention.

Time management and expectations. Setting a realistic time frame for landing your next job helps prevent frustration and sets the pace. Employers are taking longer to fill vacant jobs, some even claim they are having difficulty finding the right talent. There's an old rule of thumb that suggests it takes one month for every $10,000 you made to find your next job. If you made $60,000, a conservative estimate is that it would take approximately six months to secure a new job. This should help you budget and plan for the long-haul ahead. Treating your job search like a full-time job requires more than just going through the motions of filling out online applications and submitting résumés. It means using a calendar to schedule your activity every day. It also means creating a project timeline and developing a system to ensure important follow-up actions don't slip through the cracks. You are building a new routine and habits that require you to stick with this often uncomfortable new system for at least 30 days.

Don't fly solo. If you think you can search for a job alone, the answer is, you can't. According to Alcide, job seekers struggle in their job search because they lack the guidance and support needed to be effective. Because your job search is likely to take longer than you want, you're going to need a wingman or two for ideas, advice and the occasional pep-talk. Joining a job club or enlisting the help of a coach can make all the difference to your securing a job quickly.

Networking: The no. 1 skill everyone still needs to master. Networking is not sending an email blast to all your contacts informing them of your quest for a new job. Only 11 percent of the respondents to the survey admitted they needed more help in this area. Could this be because networking is one of the most misunderstood concepts? It is inconceivable that such a low percentage of job seekers think they need help, especially because more than one third of the U.S. population is made up of networking-adverse introverts. This isn't a one-time transaction – effective networking has to begin before you need a new job. It is establishing trusting, long-lasting relationships and this happens when you exchange mutually beneficial information. The take-away here is don't overestimate your networking prowess.

This isn't rocket science. You don't need an advanced degree in a job search, but you do need to understand proactive techniques and understand what is expected by recruiters and hiring managers today. You will need to put forth more effort than ever before. It would be wise to conduct a quick self assessment of your job search preparedness and be sure to measure your strengths in time and project management, proactive marketing and learning more about social media. Luckily, there is no shortage of information online. Alcide states: "A lack of preparedness, skill and confidence in developing a résumé, uncovering job leads or conducting an interview will lengthen the time a job seeker remains unemployed."

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.