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June 14, 2010

Navigating the New Normal Job Market

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Navigating the New Normal Job Market

Caroline Dowd-Higgins, Career & Professional Development Services

Years ago before the dawn of the internet and personal computers that were easily accessible, job seekers would pound the proverbial pavement to land jobs. Don't get me wrong, technology is an amazing resource but it has created a new generation of people that do not utilize person-to-person communication as the significant skill and important job searching strategy that it is.

With the realities of the most difficult job market since the Great Depression, I urge my private clients and students to get out from behind their computers and be seen in the job market. Applying for hundreds of positions via websites and job boards cannot replace the power of meeting with people in-person and showcasing your strengths and professional competencies.

Here are five strategies to prepare you for this new normal in the job market.

1. Develop Your Brand - You must showcase your strengths and define your "special sauce" in this competitive job arena. Market your unique combination of values, passions and talents and develop your story about why this is a valuable commodity. If you need a jump start, query people in your circle of trust and ask them what makes you special. Ultimately you are in control of your personal brand but gathering input from others can be a great point of departure.

2. Polish Your Professional Tool Kit - Make sure your resume showcases your skills and experiences and customize new versions to fit each opportunity you pursue. Create a professional portfolio to illustrate accomplishments and transferable skills. Include references and endorsements from professionals that speak highly of your work. Be sure to have a personal or networking business card with your name, phone, and email so you can use it as an effective relationship building tool.

3. Sharpen Your Communication Skills - Think before you speak and be ready to communicate your points effectively and with humble confidence. Be mindful of your body language and showcase a pleasant and professional persona. Utilize clear diction; speak slowly and with an audible volume that engages your audience. Avoid filler phrases such as "like" and "um" and don't be afraid to smile and inject a little humor into the conversation when appropriate. Show your personality and be authentic.

4. Build Relationships not Just Networks - Get out from behind your computer and meet people! Job boards and online applications should take up only 10% of your job search time while the rest should be spent developing or stewarding valuable relationships. Use online resume distribution and posting tools to save time and organize your search efforts. Seek out informational interviews and build your community of professionals so you can be seen (literally) as a top notch candidate.

5. Showcase Your Resilience - Employers want to see that you can bounce back and recover quickly from adversity. If you were downsized out of your last job, pick yourself up and get back on that proverbial career horse. Showcase this adaptive skill to show others that you are scrappy, flexible, and able to recover from a set back with a positive attitude and a game plan. There is no room in this job market for a negative attitude and badmouthing your former employer is the kiss of death. Put your game face on and forge ahead with confidence.

This new normal has given job seekers a great opportunity to get back to basics by using personal communication to demonstrate their unique competencies and to display their strengths before they even apply for a job. Most careers will require you to communicate with people in some capacity. Why not utilize this valuable skill set up front and show those in your network that you can communicate like a professional. It just might distinguish you from your competition.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins pens a career transition blog called "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" ( She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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