With the U.S. unemployment rate at a four-year high, $100K+ job searches are often taking six months or longer — and many executive jobseekers have become discouraged. Here’s some advice for those of you who find yourselves in this boat:
1. Take three days off — completely off – As executives who have been out of work for several months know, searching for a job is no vacation. For most, the stress level of searching is higher than that of even the most demanding job. Making the pressure worse is the fact that $100K+ professionals are often their family’s sole breadwinner. So before you attempt to recharge your job search, you should first step away from the computer, get out of the house, clear your head and recharge your body and mind.
2. Turn off CNBC and throw away the newspaper business section – Certainly, it’s useful to keep up with business news that might lend direction to your job search; unfortunately, most out-of-work executives overdo their news consumption. During a down economy, this can be dangerous to your psyche — because the media tends to pile on the doom and gloom. Don’t let CNBC give you an excuse for not finding a job.
3. Reduce your use of online job boards – This might seem like the last thing you should do when you’re having trouble finding a job, but the fact is, most jobseekers are spending too much time searching online – and they’re ending up feeling frustrated and isolated as a result. According to Kelton Research, most online jobseekers spend an average of 50 hours per month searching the Web for jobs. That’s too much time — particularly for $100K+ jobseekers, who are only interested in a small subset of the jobs they must wade through. Restrict your searches to an hour per day, at most, so you can use your time more productively.
4. Get third-party critiques of your resume and interview skills – If you’re qualified for the $100K+ jobs you’re applying for, there must be some reason you’re not getting them. Now’s the time to put ego aside and seek help from friends and associates. Hire a professional resume writer to spiff up your vitae. Stage mock interviews and seek candid feedback. Some people assume that executive jobseekers, because of their experience level, don’t need help preparing for interviews – but I’ve found this is simply not the case. Executive jobseekers are expected to have a high level of knowledge about the company where they’re interviewing, to ask great questions, and to have powerful but concise answers to almost anything thrown at them. Preparation and practice are essential.
5. Consider executive temping – Executive temping is a fast-growing field, and is relied on by many companies during periods of economic uncertainty. If you have in-demand skills like IT or accounting, it’s a great way to network, to keep your skills sharp – and to get your foot in the door with a future employer. And by working through a staffing firm, you don’t have to put your own consulting shingle up — which tells people you are looking for a full-time job.
6. Widen your search parameters – Many jobseekers have a very focused idea of who they are and what their next job should be — which is not always a bad thing. But if your search has stalled, you’re better off broadening your search across industries and job titles. For example, when searching online, enter a keyword like ‘marketing’ rather than a more specific one like ‘vice president of marketing communications.’ By expanding your search criteria, you will win more job interviews — which will sharpen your interview skills and could lead to a job that (perhaps surprisingly) is perfect for you.
7. Network in unexpected places – online and off – Networking is the single most important part of your job search, because most openings are never advertised – including more than 75 percent of executive jobs. Most $100K+ jobseekers are aware of referral groups and industry networking mixers; many also use online networking sites for professionals, like LinkedIn. While these are valuable, don’t restrict your networking to these ‘official’ activities. You might be just as likely to make a connection that leads to your next job at a church meeting or a dinner party. Online, try social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Finally, consider volunteering; it’s not only a great way to network, but it’s a fulfilling use of your time while you’re between jobs.
8. Deepen your network – In addition to broadening your network, it’s equally important to deepen your network. Call former colleagues, bosses or clients and ask them to lunch or to a ball game. Spend time really listening to the people you meet at industry events, and follow up afterwards — for example, by sending them an e-mail linking to a news story that reminded you of your discussion with them. How far someone is willing to go to help you in your search — or even whether they will remember you when they hear of an opening — is directly related to your ability to build real relationships. And that’s a far better way to spend your time than poring endlessly over job-board listings.