By Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers, a job search and social media strategist, career coach, resume writer, author, and speaker
“The only constant is change.” This oft-quoted anecdote perfectly captures an important reality job seekers should internalize. In a rapidly changing, but slow growing economy, the most successful job seekers will be those who can easily shift and adapt to current trends and employers’ needs.
If you want to be successful in this economy, follow these five key tips:
Research constantly. Job seekers can access a plethora of information and content about their industries, target companies, or their fields in general; everything is available at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger. Assume employers have added new requirements in descriptions of jobs you have been doing for years. Without investigating the market, you may be applying for positions with key factors missing from your resume.
Keep up-to-date with what thought leaders in your field are discussing, and keep a close eye on major topics discussed at your professional association meetings. If the keynote speaker covers information unfamiliar to you, it’s a sign that you are falling behind in your industry and that you’ll need to catch up quickly.
Continue your education. Luckily, if you do find that you’re missing some important skills, there are more options now than ever before to catch up. Of course, you can always enroll in formal training via classes at your local college or university or via professional training programs. However, depending on what information you need to learn, it’s equally likely that a self-directed professional can find YouTube videos covering the subject matter and get up-to-speed quickly.
Use social media as a constant source of new information and resources, too. If you feel a little out-of-touch, it’s possible you can follow key industry players to feel more connected to what is going on in your field. Google the names of important industry professionals in your field; see if they have blogs, or if they maintain Twitter or Google+ feeds. You may also want to consider connecting on LinkedIn and keeping up with their updates there. You can learn a lot by plugging in where people are actively sharing information and ideas.
Identify your transferable skills. If your job is no longer in demand, and you’ve been pounding the pavement to no avail, it may be time to start shifting gears. Many in-demand jobs today didn’t even exist several years ago, and it’s possible your job is not going to come back into vogue. Analyze the skills you used at your past jobs and determine your best strengths. Then, research new, high-growth fields to determine if there may be good matches for you to do something brand new with your career.
Don’t look like a dinosaur. As the economy changes, so do job search materials. If you haven’t looked for a job in a while, you’ll want to study up on how resumes and marketing materials have changed, possibly drastically, since you were last in the market for a new position. For example, if your resume has an objective, focuses on what you need instead of how you can help the employer and doesn’t include keywords that will cause a computerized applicant tracking system (ATS) to flag your materials, you are likely missing out on many opportunities.
Scan job descriptions and online sites from your employers to hone in on the words your target employers use to describe the skills and accomplishments they want in an employee. Then, make sure your materials address those specifics in a very pointed way. Do not assume anything you don’t state will be obvious to someone who reads your resume; a computer is likely to scan it before human eyes ever see it.
Network and use social media tools. In the old days, networking meant attending in-person meetings and balancing a glass in one hand while trying to shake an important potential contact’s hand with the other. In-person networking is still important, but savvy job seekers also use social media tools as part of their arsenal of marketing materials.
The vast majority of U.S. companies (92%) are using social networks and media to find talent in 2012, up from 78% five years ago, according to Jobvite’s research. If you do not have an optimized LinkedIn profile and are not actively engaged in online professional communities, you’re missing an important opportunity to connect with decision makers who could hire or refer you for jobs. When you use tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook professionally, you have a chance to demonstrate your expertise and grow your network, which is crucial for successful job seekers today.