Jump-starting a stalled job search

If you've been looking for a job for a while, there's a good chance you're frustrated with your inability to find one. The longer you're on the hunt, the less likely it seems that you'll ever be employed, especially given today's uncertain economic climate.

But the job market remains strong for the most highly skilled IT professionals, and with the right approach, you can significantly increase your chances of landing the position you seek. Here are six ways to fend off frustration and revitalize your job search:

Revisit old possibilities. It's likely that you sent out a flurry of resumes in the early part of your search and received responses from — or even interviewed with — a few hiring managers. Even though you weren't offered a job, that doesn't mean these businesses aren't interested in hiring you now, especially if you reached the later stages of the interview process. So consider reaching out to the firms you initially contacted to express your continued interest in working there and to find out if new openings exist.

Broaden your network. One of the best ways to find a job is through people you know, because resumes from referrals often receive top billing among hiring managers. If you've been networking through friends and family and still haven't found work, it's time to expand your list of contacts. Talk to former co-workers and managers, college alumni, and members of professional organizations you belong to. Or schedule informational interviews at businesses you're interested in so you have a contact when a job opens up. It never hurts to get back in touch with people you've already spoken with, either to let them know you're still looking for a job or to more clearly specify what sort of position you hope to find.

Identify and address your weak points. Instead of making small changes in multiple areas of your job search, it's often better to step back and take a look at the search from a broader perspective. Chances are, altering one aspect of your search, based on where you're having the most problems, can have a big impact on your success with employers.

For example, say you've gone on several interviews and have even been called back for additional meetings with some companies, but you still haven't received any offers. The problem may lie solely with your interview skills — after all, your resume and cover letter are drawing heavy interest from employers. So instead of trying to "fix" something that's in good working order — your application materials — devote extra attention to your interview skills. You might review questions you've been asked by hiring managers thus far and practice your responses with a friend who can critique you.

Keep your skills fresh. It's never a bad idea to work on your skills, both technical and nontechnical. Training, whether it's an online course in a programming language or an offline workshop on business communication, can bolster your skills while keeping you productively engaged during your job search. If a certification you lack keeps popping up in job descriptions that interest you, seriously consider investing the time and money it requires.

Diversify your target employers. If you've been contacting mostly well-known corporations or companies whose names carry a lot of technology cachet, broaden your approach to include different types of employers. For example, smaller firms, nonprofits and organizations in the educational sector all have a wide range of interesting IT opportunities, and competition for these jobs may be less intense.

Consider project-based employment. Although you're probably searching for a full-time job, it might be worth considering part-time or project-based work. These engagements can not only help you build new skills, but may also introduce you to valuable contacts or even lead directly to a full-time position. In addition, many IT staffing firms offer free professional development to keep your skills up to date.

Whatever you do to jump-start your job search, be sure to give thought to all employment opportunities that come your way, even those that don't seem promising at first. For example, a position that doesn't offer the starting pay you'd hoped for might provide other benefits, such as the ability to quickly advance within the organization. You never know what will lead you to your next job, but remaining motivated and marketable will help you find it sooner.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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