Times are tough. People have been getting laid off in every industry, and friends from all over have been asking me and others for some employment tips. This is the advice I have to offer to you this Thanksgiving.
Look in an industry that you are passionate about.
If you are excited about your industry, that excitement and energy will show through in everything from your resume to your interview. Many of us up in a career path we never intended to pursue, but if you start off in the right industry, you will be self-motivated to push yourself to excel.
Research, Research, Research.
Find out what companies in your targeted field are in your area. Where are they posting their job listings? Oftentimes, they might be listed by their parent company. Look up "jobs" or "job opportunities" or "employment" along with the names of the companies and industries that interest you. Try chaining those search terms with some location terms such as the city and state your hope to work in. Find your ideal workplace and see if there are similar companies in the area. Once you start reading over job listings, find out who is doing the hiring and who you will be reporting to. See if they have published anything, blogged, spoken at conferences, etc. This can give you a good idea of what strengths they are looking for in a candidate.
Tailor your resume to take any relevant skills you have learned in the past and emphasize how they can apply to your desired position. Don't "PAD" your resume, but don't undersell yourself either. Look at other resumes in your field for inspiration. Many people put their resumes and Curriculum Vitae (CV) online, and you may find a better way of phrasing your previous work experience. Do NOT steal from other resumes or otherwise lie. Background checks and references are very thorough and are often outsourced to outside companies who will verify all the information you present them. You should also assume you will be tested on your knowledge during your interview. Spend a LOT of time reviewing your resume and have other people look it over. If you know anyone in your targeted field or someone who has the position you are looking for, have them critique it.
Resumes should have NO mistakes. Personally, I am very likely to throw out a resume if it has a misspelling, a broken link, a typo, is not properly formatted, or shows other signs of carelessness because it shows that the person applying does not pay attention to detail.
Network to increase your chances for finding opportunities.
People want to be able to make sure they get along well with those they work with and that is oftentimes not necessarily something that can come across in an interview. Let's face it. We all love personal recommendations from trusted sources. Attend conferences, gatherings, networking events, parties, hikes, meetups, and any chance to be surrounded by people in the industry you hope to work in. A lot of opportunities come from being at the right place at the right time, so be in as many of the places as many times as possible.
Listen to them and learn from them. You want to give people in your targeted industry a sense of who you are and that you are really good at what you do or are motivated enough to learn. If you are not specifically at a business function, then people will not be there to talk about business. They are there to have fun. Relax, and share some of your knowledge with them. Remain genuine and true to yourself. The point of networking is simply to increase the probability of being put in touch with the people, organizations, information, or job opportunities you are seeking. Communication skills and people skills are essential in any company and this is part of honing that skill.
Network online as well. LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, and other sites are great ways to keep in touch with all of your contacts. However, don't abuse your network of friends. Help them out as much as possible so they will be happy to help you when you need them to. Introduce your contacts to each other and create those opportunities for them. Everyone wins when opportunities are created.
Companies will research you so you should OWN those first few pages of Google results. Keep questionable stuff off the radar with an alias, get familiar with those privacy settings on those social networking sites, and make sure your real name is put in a positive light on those first few pages of Google. Learn a little bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) along with "Reputation Management" and look at what practices and techniques you can use to improve your online presence.
Look up people who currently have the job you want. Who are perceived as experts in their field? Why do you perceive them that way? Try to emulate some of their actions. If you have friends who are in the job field you want, ask them for tips and recommendations.
Present yourself professionally.
Spend the $10 a year to get your own domain name. Nowadays, you can get cheap web hosting that is functional and reliable. As far as designs and programming goes, save some cash by going with a template from some place like http://www.templatemonster.com and pay a designer to customize it for you or go with a blogging platform like WordPress which has many cheap and free templates available. Pick something clean and not too busy, and don't pick a Flash template as these are harder for search engines to index. They are also not great for copying and pasting content or for linking to particular sections. Content is more important than presentation, but the presentation should be professional. Make sure it is appropriate to the industry you are targeting.
Be really, really good at what you do.
If you are currently unemployed, this is the perfect time to go out there and read some books, news, and blogs about what is currently happening in your field. Read those Amazon book reviews and ratings to see what books come highly recommended. Post on web forums asking for advice in your field and see what people are linking to. When you come across a great resource, see what other sites link to it. These new sites may be your newest source of information. Subscribe to relevant site feeds that discuss your areas of interest. If you don't know what RSS is yet, get on it. It will give you an informational advantage. Google Reader is an easy way to keep track of site feeds. Find out what new tools and techniques people are using in your field and start practicing with them. You can list these on your resume once you are comfortable with them.
Did I mention Research?
Really learn how to search for things. Use Google Blog Search and News search for recent items. Learn how to search for similar items and items that link to particular pages.
As an example, I put in some job related terms on http://digg.com and found this interesting article on job interview tips.
Also try using the search functions of the following sites
So basically, be good at what you do. Learn how to get better at what you do. Find out who wants you and where the people in your industry spend time. Increase your online and offline presence. Learn from those around you and help them out when possible. Always present yourself appropriately. Be genuine. Finding the perfect job is all about engineering serendipity.