The Job Seeker Catch 22

The Job Seeker Catch 22

Peter Weddle

Billions of words have been written about job search tools and tactics to succeed in today's challenging job market. Job board dos and don'ts. Twitter. Facebook. Building a personal brand. Improving your "find-ability." This advice has its uses when you're trying to find a new job, but the truth is that little of it will work if your overall career is in trouble. Simply put, given the current economy, don't bother looking for work if you have a lazy career.

In today's job market, come as you are has been replaced by come as you need to be. The old days of searching for employment with basic qualifications are gone. If you're unemployed, you need to improve your career credentials before you'll have any shot of finding a new job.

It doesn't matter if you got great performance reviews at your last employer. Or if you have a track record of being loyal, dependable and hard working. And it's totally irrelevant that your last employer may have gone out of business or downsized your department – along with any other explanations you have about why you're unemployed.

The reality is that employers view people without jobs as damaged goods. It's not fair. It's certainly not true. And it sucks. But it is reality. You won't find many recruiters willing to admit it, and many will work hard to avoid the appearance of bias. But deep inside, it's there. When a company is presented with a choice between two equally qualified candidates, one employed and the other out of work, their offer will more often go to the person who already has a job. It's the job seeker's version of a Catch 22.

So what can you do to avoid the job seeker Catch 22? Simple – reinvent yourself. It doesn't matter how well educated, trained or senior you are in your field, to beat unemployment you need to change your image in the job market. The best way to do this is by fixing your career. By building up its fitness. There are many techniques involved in doing it, but perhaps the most important is improving your professional expertise to be more competitive in the marketplace. So go back to school. Right now. Even as you look for a new job.

How to Build Career Fitness

Revitalizing your career in the middle of a job search involves two important steps:

You might, for example, take a course in a second language at a local community college or attend a new certification program offered by your professional or trade association. You can choose almost any topic, as long as it enhances your ability to contribute on-the-job.

Note it in the Summary, and include the name of the course, the school offering it and the certificate or degree you'll earn in the Education section, along with the notation "On-going."

  1. Acquire new skills or refresh ones you already have.
  2. Include the fact that you're back in school on your resume.

These two simple steps will not only enhance your skill set, making you a more valuable employee, but taking a training program during your job search demonstrates attributes employers are desperately looking for in a candidate: resolve, fortitude and determination. And even more important, it shows that you understand the changing needs of today's economy, and take personal responsibility for keeping yourself up to date with the latest training.

Become that person, make that transformation, and the playing field will level. You may be unemployed, but you'll no longer be at a disadvantage when compared to candidates with jobs. You'll have reinvented yourself as a career activist, a person who is committed to continuous self-improvement no matter how senior or experienced they may be. This is the type of job seeker who has the right skills and the attributes to be a champion at work, no matter what the job market is like.

Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.

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Life At Work