Over the past 12 months, I’ve worked closely with several people who are trying to find work. Another week of unemployment is another week of worrying how they will pay for their basic living expenses.
With every good job lead or interview, there’s hope. With every unreturned call or rejection, there’s heartache.
So, the jobless numbers are very sobering and very real to me:
6.2 million people on unemployment.
6.5 million jobs slashed from the labor market.
This is the only recession since the Great Depression that has wiped out all job growth from the previous business cycle, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. Further, with less than one job opening for every five job seekers, unemployed workers are getting stuck in unemployment for long periods: 29 percent have been jobless for over half a year.
In an increasingly crowded field of job applicants, how can you make your resume rise to the top of the pile?
For one, get some help. Here’s a good recommendation. For $16.99 you can find some great tips and strategies for landing a job in “Job Hunting for Dummies” by Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive of Robert Half International, a large specialized staffing firm.
“Job Hunting for Dummies,” this month’s Color of Money Book Club selection, packs a lot of information in 358 pages. Like many books in the Wiley “Dummies” series, it’s easy to read in nugget-sized chunks.
Messmer, who has offered career counseling for years, gives some key advice at the beginning of the book, which is a second edition.
First, as the statistics I listed show, you are not alone. Why is that important? Because not having a job doesn’t mean you are a failure.
“Included in this vast constituency of job seekers are people from every walk of life: blue-collar workers and white-collar workers, high school dropouts and Ph.D.s, engineers and scientists, and people of all ages, races, and religions.”
It’s also important to know you are not alone, because it shatters a common job-hunting myth that is self-defeating: Being unemployed puts you at a tremendous disadvantage.
“Employers today understand that there are many reasons someone may be unemployed,” Messmer writes.
Don’t brood about your situation.
“Whatever sequence of events, whatever twists of fate, whatever unfortunate choices or strings of bad luck or internal politics may have landed you in your current situation — all that is history,” he writes.
“Keep looking ahead, not behind you.”
Everything you do during your job search could lead to employment.
“Every phone call you make, every person you meet, every meeting you attend, and every article you read — has the potential to produce the one lead that will eventually result in your being hired for a job.”
Finally, Messmer says, “The easiest way to get the help you need is to ask for it. The worst thing that can happen is that someone might say no.”
What a great pep talk.
Now that you’re pumped, what should you do?
Get organized, Messmer writes in the first chapter.
“Many people who are looking for jobs — perhaps because they figure that their situation is only ‘temporary’ — never really get themselves properly organized,” he writes.
However, be careful of letting the organizing trap you into busywork.
Messmer said he met one job seeker who spent nearly two weeks creating a database of the names of people at almost 300 companies. The problem was, he didn’t contact a single person on the list.
“Your job search is not simply to keep busy,”
Messmer writes. “It’s to make sure that the things you’re doing to keep busy are producing meaningful results.”
In six sections, Messmer walks job searchers though getting organized, writing resumes and cover letters, drumming up job leads, and interviewing.
I can’t promise you this book will land you a job, but the information will give you some useful tools and tips. And it may restore your hope that you won’t be unemployed for long.
Washington Post Writers Group