Change Your Job Prospects with These 5 Tips

The jobless rate fell to 6.7% in December 2013–good news for our economy. However, many people are underemployed or unemployed. If you’re one of those, the newest unemployment rate doesn’t assuage your discouraged feelings.

It’s time to embrace a new season of action and opportunity. You need to get energized! The way to counteract “modest improvement” in the jobs market is by making a major improvement in yourself and your tactics.

Here are five ways to change your job prospects.

Come out of your shell.
You’ve probably spent lots of time at home, online, surfing job sites for leads. Now you need a new tactic. Commit to dining out at least one meal a day–breakfast, lunch, or dinner–with someone who has professional connections or advice for you. (Breakfast is the cheapest meal for treating.) Visit the favorite watering hole in your desired industry at happy hour, and sip a seltzer while you make new acquaintances. Bring business cards with you everywhere you go–even to gym. Jobs, and the people who know about them, aren’t in your apartment. They’re out there waiting to find you.

Do a resume makeover.
Polish up your resume by replacing humdrum copy that begs the question “So what?” with power words and phrases. Here are some that employers love: achievements, awards, coached, detail-oriented, experience, fostered excellent working relationships, hard worker, high energy, innovative, organized, outperformed, people skills, quick study, results, team player. Have three people you respect read and react to your resume. Make it strong, compelling, and memorable.

Spruce up your image.
If you still have the same hairstyle you had in college–or worse, in high school!–it’s time to upgrade your look. Bland and boring is not the image you want to broadcast when every job has ten competitors clamoring to wow an interviewer. While you’re at it, remember everything your friends ever told you about your most flattering colors. Now pair a killer jacket with some well-cut pants or a skirt using your power colors, accessories, and one interesting detail, such as a piece of jewelry or an edgy tie that makes your look different and striking.

Leverage your college connections.
You know all those alumni events your alma mater throws in your area (lectures, mixers, conferences, fund-raisers)? These people are in YOUR tribe. They’re well connected, and you already have an “in” with them. Make it a point to hobnob with fellow alumni. Get and give lots of business cards, talk about your career aspirations, and don’t forget to follow up. This is one of the best and easiest ways to generate solid job leads. By the way, old professors and advisers are also great people to get back in touch with. They’re on your side and want you to succeed.

Become an interview master.
Let’s face it. Even if you’re the most talented, experienced, charming, attractive person you know, you have to kill it in the interview to beat out all the competitors who want it as badly as you do. Find out everything about the company from their website, articles, annual report, and any contacts you may have there. Make a list of questions they might ask you, and practice answering them in front of the mirror. You can even record it on your smart phone and critique your poise, vocabulary, and tone. Figure out what you have to offer, and make this the focus of your preparation and delivery. Be well rested, arrive early, and look sharp for the interview.

Pick up more job interviewing tips and clever ways to boost your personal brand in 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions and The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire, Even if You’re Not.

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