"This is a good time to lose my job," an acquaintance proclaimed recently. "Now I can take a long-deserved vacation. I'm going to the beach for the holiday, and then we are going to spend a good chunk of my severance package on that trip to London I've always wanted."
Interwoven into the conversation she offered other justifications for putting off a job search:
"I'm just too overwhelmed to begin a job search now."
"Nobody hires during the summer."
"I don't have a résumé, and I don't know where to begin to put one together."
To be sure, she may feel incapable emotionally of starting a search now. The beach and London certainly are places to escape the realities of the moment. But still, summertime is excellent for starting a job search: figuring out the next logical step in one's professional life, researching opportunities and putting together a plan to guide the whole searching process.
While people often feel like summer is a slow hiring season, it is also a major time for families to relocate so that they will be set for the new school year.
Moreover, we are witnessing a major resurgence in hiring, with the U.S. unemployment diving to the lowest rate since the Great Recession.
The Labor Department reports that the economy added 288,000 jobs in June, for a total of more than a million new jobs in 2014 thus far. Information technology is red hot, but employers report having difficulty filling IT job vacancies, according to a recent Robert Half International survey.
This is arguably the best season for job hunters in years, and it's no time to sit on the job-hunting sidelines. Whether you're recently unemployed, stymied in your current job or have opted out of the job market out of frustration, now is the time ramp up your search.
Here are six tips to guide your process:
1. Get going. Numerous studies show that the longer you're out of work the harder it is to find work. Your chances are best within the first six months of unemployment. While the weather is warm and you might want to just chill for the summer, doing so wastes precious job-hunting time. Putting your job hunt on hold is likely to make it more difficult to find success later.
2. Think marathon, not sprint. One common mistake people have at the beginning of a job hunt is identifying a job or two that seems ideal and hurrying to apply without adequate preparation. Of course, some people may be lucky in landing that first opportunity, but most won't. Gear up for a multi-month process.
Just as a successful runner practices continuously, stretches and wears the correct shoes and clothing, so too must the job hunter. It takes carefully practicing your message, stretching the reach of your network and presenting yourself appropriately.
3. Perfect your tactics. A success-based résumé, LinkedIn profile, branding statement and elevator pitch are all crucial and tactical elements of a job hunt. So too are social media and in-person networking. It is worth investing your time and effort to sharpen your message and skills with all these arrows that should be in your job-hunting quiver.
4. Don't confuse tactics with strategy. If you only operate at a tactical level, you will likely waste a great deal of time and overlook valuable opportunities. You can kill endless time when you loose yourself online, even at valuable websites like LinkedIn.
It is critically important to develop a strategy of how to integrate your tactics into an overall plan that you will find workable. There is no one right strategy or methodology. Think about how to invest your time, what professional networking opportunities are available, other individual constraints with which you contend and how to leverage and sequence the use of all the tools in your quiver in conjunction with each other to create an effective strategy.
5. Volunteering is a job, albeit without a paycheck. This is a perfect time to volunteer for a community organization, a nonprofit or a cause in which you believe. It's a way that many people can utilize their skills and keep them fresh, plus add new skills.
When you devote a significant amount of time to volunteer work, it's totally appropriate to list it as an unpaid job on your résumé. And, it is often the case that when these organizations have a job to fill they will first look to those who have shown a devotion to their cause.
6. Always keep your antenna up for networking opportunities. Even if you are at a summertime party with friends, take time to get to know people you haven't met before. Explore things and people you may have in common, take pains to learn how you can help others, and you may be amazed to see new possibilities for valuable contacts develop spontaneously.
When you take advantage of this season, you may find yourself humming that wonderful Gershwin melody, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, and be filled with the hope of its lyrics:
"One of these mornings You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky"
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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