Job hunting? It's a new year and time for renewed effort. The search was tough between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Retail had offered short-term and even long-term opportunities, but most companies weren't seriously focused on hiring during the holidays. Unfortunately, this coincided with last month's loss of 85,000 jobs.
Now it's time to kick the job search back into high gear. I hope December gave you a chance to breathe deep, exhale and get reinvigorated for the job hunting game. I don't say "game" lightly. Like chess, job hunting calls for strategy, finesse, timing and reading cues, in addition to skills and ability.
Before you head out again, remember to:
- Re-examine your job search strategies
- Review and update your résumé
- Tailor your résumé for each position
- Don't let frustration get the best of you
- Manage body language and keep a positive attitude
- Keep every interview fresh, as if each one's the first one
Restart your search by examining what has worked, what has not, and making adjustments. Then review your résumé. Have you developed any new skills since your last version? Did you finish some new courses or achieve other significant accomplishments that should be added? Did you do some volunteer work?
Don't just e-mail or send out that same old résumé. Make sure it's tailored for each position you apply for. The job market isn't getting easier, so be your greatest champion. Carefully look at the assets and accomplishments you bring to each position and emphasize them in your résumé. You're worth the extra effort.
Frustration can also be a major hurdle in job hunting. It's easy for long-term unemployment to make anyone feel bitter, frustrated and even hopeless about the whole process.
I've spoken to many qualified, competent, 50-plus job seekers, especially in the past two years. Some were newly unemployed and hadn't interviewed in years, including people who had built companies from the ground up, only to be bought out and lose huge amounts of money.
Some people were downsized out of their jobs; others watched their companies fold, sweeping away jobs from top to bottom. Many retirees lost substantial savings in the downturn and had to look for work. There's no shortage of frustrated older worker recession stories, including brushes with age discrimination, direct and indirect.
In addition to managing frustration, staying fresh for interviews is another enormous challenge, particularly if you've experienced long-term unemployment.
As I've talked with people jaded by rejection letters, lack of offers for jobs or even interviews, I've observed body language, attitude and commentary that come together to say, "Don't hire me — I'm not a good fit." Again, these people were experienced, competent, ready to work — and didn't have a clue they were broadcasting the wrong impression
What greater test for job seekers in this economy than handling frustration and disappointment, while projecting liveliness and interest? Yet overcoming these obstacles could make the difference in getting an offer. So keep every interview fresh and upbeat. Practice with friends, family or even by yourself in front of a mirror. An employer wants to know that you are interested in bringing skills that make his or her company successful, not that you're desperate for a job.
As you get re-energized and organized, look for additional guidance at AARP's website. And visit my monthly column, which will have more suggestions and tips for greater success in job hunting. AARP is here to help.