5 methods for getting back into today’s dicey job market

"Panicking and wildly applying to jobs really works against you. So clarity first, and strategy second is really important.” . John Moore/Getty Images

When it comes to job hunting in a touch and go labour market, the unvarnished reality is that much depends on forces beyond your control, as well as a little luck. But there are steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared when your number is called.

Some are obvious, others aren’t. Some are a little scary or intimidating but will go a long, long way in getting you up off your couch and once again collecting a paycheque. We connected with a few career coaches to go over some insider intel that can aid the employed and unemployed alike.

Above all, Rule No.1: “Be proactive,” said Michele Waters, founder of Career Quest, based in Victoria, B.C.

Waters and others say the ideal sweet spot in the aftermath of a job loss is to conscientiously stop, refocus and then move forward — don’t wallow nor barrel into a frantic search for the next available job.

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“Breathe,” Sarah Vermunt, founder of Careergasm in Toronto, said. “Give yourself permission to get clarity before moving on to the rush of finding another job. Yes, it’s important to pay the bills but get the strategy piece right by first finding clarity about what is next.”

Knowledge is power

Staying on top of developments in your field, or adjacent fields you could move into, is crucial. “Evaluate your market. And evaluate it on substance, not hearsay,” Waters said.

Size up the market place, understand who’s hiring, and what exactly it is those roles are trying to achieve. It also helps to know what the regional and big-picture macro environment is like for your area of employment – what are the trends impacting the sector.

Online resources such as LinkedIn are useful services for acquiring research and data on your field, but Waters said:

“People I think are hiding behind their electronic devices when it’s really important to get out there and talk to people.”

Go to the source — talk to employers by requesting an informational meeting, maybe over a coffee. “It’s about information, not a job interview or asking for a job, but asking for information from an expert in the field.”

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Work your web

“The best thing is to go through a person’s own personal network and get names of people to talk to, rather than it being a cold call. You’re actually saying, ‘My friend has recommended I talk to you,’” Waters said.

Don’t have a direct or indirect connect? Cold call. “You could phone or email an employer and ask to chat with them for a few minutes. ‘Could we set up a time,’ and go in there with some questions.”

It sounds intimidating, and it is. But experts say more often than not you’ll get a positive reception. “People are flattered that you want to know more about what they or their company do. And I believe it’s human nature that people want to help other people,” said Carol Ellis, a career and leadership coach based in Toronto.

Most job calls never make it to a public posting, according to Ellis, therefore working connections is critical to maximizing the number of opportunities you’re exposing yourself to. And the courage and foresight to reach out and engage might just get you hired.

Talk that talk

“One thing that people don’t really do well, and it’s an easy fix, is to speak the employer’s language,” Vermunt said.

You could be an ideal fit for a role you’re applying for, but if you’re describing things in terms that don’t match the job call, you could be looked over. “You need to know how to translate the way you speak in your resume and cover letter into a way that’s digestible for the employer you’re trying to connect with,” Vermunt said.

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Take note of keywords, phrases and other tells about the language used at the company. “It makes the person reading your documents automatically feel that you’re speaking their language.”

Social media hygiene

Like it or not, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (missed any?) are a facet of modern daily life. Your online identity matters, and the content of your social media networks is being evaluated and scrutinized.

“That’s become a huge part of the puzzle. It certainly wasn’t when I was starting out,” Ellis said.

“Every single person I know who recruits goes to Facebook and looks up who you are. And some profiles can be less than desirable”

Here’s a rule of thumb: “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see.”

We’re not quite at the point where candidates lose points for not having a social media presence, Ellis said. But LinkedIn, the professional networking site, is virtually mandatory nowadays, according to recruiting experts.

Last resort

There is the option of doing some form of retraining. But the career counselling experts we spoke to all urged caution when considering that route, which can be a costly drain on time, energy and not least money.

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“First of all, take stock of your career before thinking of doing more retraining. Only engage in that if you’ve talked to at least a dozen employers and they say, ‘Yes, absolutely you need this kind of training to get into this field,’” Waters said.

Many of us are a lot more versatile than we give ourselves credit for, Careergasm’s Vermunt said. Pivoting into another line of work or testing the entrepreneurial waters by starting your own business often just requires an openness to roll the dice and commit to it.

“I have a lot of people come to me because they’re scared that they have to work in a certain field, or have assumptions about what fields they can or can’t make money in,” Vermunt said.

“You paint yourself in a corner. You’ve told yourself a story about a particular line of work that may or not be true.”

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