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Diversify your job search

By Dave Willmer
October 13, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - If you're seeking work in today's competitive IT environment, you've probably received some conflicting advice about the best ways to go about finding it. Some colleagues and friends may swear by online networking tools such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Others may insist that you're doomed without an enthusiastic referral from an insider. Job boards, IT trade publications and even employer Web sites all have their advocates as well.

Dave Willmer
Dave Willmer

The reality is that it's difficult to predict exactly where your next job will come from. You may spend hours painstakingly targeting your résumé and cover letter to match numerous openings, only to eventually find a position thanks to a casual conversation with your cousin's neighbor's friend. By exploring a broad range of paths, you give yourself an advantage over professionals who stick to one or two well-traveled routes.

Choosing your tactics

Taking a multipronged approach doesn't mean you should blindly pursue every possible source of job leads. On the contrary: The sheer number of ways to find technology employment makes it essential to carefully select the methods you'll be investing your time in.

You might start by surveying friends and colleagues (using Facebook, for example) about how they arrived at their current position. Some of their answers might surprise you, triggering novel ideas for reaching employers.

Every source of job leads has its advantages and disadvantages. Try to establish a mix of tools — specialized and general, large and small, local and national, online and off. Keep in mind that in general, the smaller and more specialized the source, the less time you're likely to spend sifting through irrelevant leads. The same applies to geographic focus: The want ads in a local business publication may feel passé, but their intense local focus may make them worth a look.

Another way to broaden the range of opportunities available to you is to register with a specialized IT staffing firm. Such firms effectively double your job search efforts, rather than interrupting your own networking and research. Their long-standing relationships with employers enable them to connect you with opportunities that may not be posted elsewhere. Staffing firms also provide career advice and training to help you enhance your marketability.

Trace your steps

A multifaceted job search can quickly become overwhelming if you don't keep track of your efforts. Take a few minutes out of each day to update a document or spreadsheet in which you briefly note the source of any new potential opportunity, the action taken and any planned next steps. Doing so might feel unnecessary, but it will help you identify redundant efforts and dead ends. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment on days when you don't receive encouraging responses from network contacts or potential employers.

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