5 Ways to Kickstart Your Own Job Recovery

Don't expect the workforce to return to what it once was. Here's how to give yourself an edge.


If you're a job seeker, community colleges are often quite nimble in keeping up with employer needs, but you may also check with employers or read online postings to see which certifications are increasingly required. One thing to remember: The recession's side effects can be a bit misleading, as many jobs are going to applicants with higher-level skills—Ph.D.'s in positions requiring only a bachelor's degree, for example. That shouldn't be perceived as a long-term trend.

If you're looking for work, have a plan. Researchers at the University of Missouri studied the efforts of 327 job seekers, ages 20 to 40, and found that developing and following a plan at the start of your job search and having positive emotions later in the search have a significant impact on success. Conscientiousness appears to be key.

Qualities such as self-discipline and dependability seemed to affect a job seeker's tendency to set goals and develop a plan, thereby influencing the number of offers received, the researchers report. "Perhaps, conscientious job seekers conducted better-quality job searches by scrutinizing their fit with prospective employers more carefully or more effectively following up with employers," the researchers report. Likewise, positive emotions may have helped job seekers behave more confidently or cope better with stress, "thereby responding more skillfully in interviews than job seekers with less positive emotions," according to the report.

The researchers recommend that job seekers set goals, monitor their progress, analyze their interview skills, and find ways to think more positively and handle bad news better. "Some of these recommendations seem like they are common sense, but they are just not that common," says researcher Daniel Turban, a professor and chair of the department of management in the University of Missouri's Robert J. Trulaske Jr. College of Business.

Put your search efforts into getting a referral. A common refrain in this recession was that of the job seeker who sent hundreds of résumés in response to online postings and never heard a peep in reply. A recent study by CareerXroads suggests why: Twenty-seven percent of external hires are found through referrals. It's one of the most efficient, cost-effective ways for companies to fill positions.

At global consulting giant Accenture, employees are among the best sources for finding new talent. Hires who are referred by employees are well qualified and "stickier"—they stay with the company longer and reduce attrition over time, says John Campagnino, Accenture's senior director of global recruitment. Candidates referred by employees are prioritized and get a "high touch" treatment, he says. Accenture offers financial rewards to employees whose referrals become successful hires. (In India, making five successful referrals gets an employee a free ticket to Mauritius, a paradisiacal island in the Indian Ocean.)

Accenture's reliance on referrals hammers home the importance of networking. The company's stipulations offer a little guidance, as well: Accenture requires that employees have firsthand experience of the individual they refer. So while Campagnino recommends that job seekers get active in social media, his recommendations lean toward interaction with the company's recruiters: connecting to the company's social media pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; joining skill-specific groups on LinkedIn and positioning yourself as an expert; introducing yourself to recruiters directly; even referring a friend for an open position that doesn't match your skills.

Be teachable once you're hired. What it takes to get hired is often very different from what it takes to stay employed. Technical skills may win you the job, but poor self-awareness and a lack of emotional intelligence can prevent promotion or even result in dismissal. In a study released in 2005, Leadership IQ studied 5,247 hiring managers at 312 companies. The managers made more than 20,000 hires in three years. The findings: Forty-six percent of newly hired employees fail within 18 months. The causes were overwhelmingly employees' lousy interpersonal skills.