You've probably had one or several bosses who told you to "think outside the box" and "come to me with solutions, not problems."
So if you're unemployed and competing with a record number of job seekers in today's economy, you can't help but think that flashy and outrageous is the way to get noticed. And maybe it is for some people, but not everyone is willing to stand at a busy intersection wearing a sandwich-board sign that says, "Hire me!"
Where does that leave you, a job seeker who needs some way to make your résumé look more attractive than the 50 other ones in the stack?
Fear not: The rules of job seeking are in constant flux, and employers are looking for an impressive candidate, even if his or her credentials are unorthodox. The following are some examples of what other job seekers are doing to get an edge over other applicants.
1. Start a blog
Doesn't it seem as if everyone and their mother has a blog these days? Except you, that is.
Find a subject you're knowledgeable about and start writing. Compose articles that illustrate your command of the topic and that can serve as resources for someone. Over time you'll accumulate an impressive collection of work, says Lauren Milligan of ResuMAYDAY, a company that helps job seekers craft résumés.
"It doesn't really matter what type of job you are seeking; there is always an angle that will interest people," Milligan says. "If you are a financial manager, write about how a family's investment strategy should change during a recession, or how to research an investment opportunity to avoid the next Bernie Madoff. If you are an administrative professional, write about time-management strategies or online tools that help you through your day."
She stresses that you don't have to be looking for a writing job to get an employer's attention.
"Doing this will let potential employers know that you are engaged at an expert level and will gain insights into you as an employee that won't be available to other candidates," Milligan says. "It will also let employers know that you are comfortable with online tools. In other words, this is a great way to gain a competitive edge."
2. Facebook / LinkedIn / BrightFuse
Even though social networking isn't the technology fledgling it once was, it's still new on the scene in terms of job seeking. We hear about people who get caught lying on their Facebook profiles, but people are getting hired via networking sites, too. You can use your education and work history fields to create a new form of résumé. Search your friends list for valuable contacts or join professional networks that can help you find a job or at least get the word out that you're looking.
"Technology doesn't replace the networking step of the job search, but it can certainly make it easier and faster," says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career at Northeastern University's College of Business Administration. "Social networking sites can help you identify appropriate contacts for networking."
On Twitter, which is a different kind of networking site, you can leverage contacts in the same way, only you can Tweet about your job hunt and people can stumble upon your profile more easily.
Your profile or Tweets can link to your personal site, whether it's an online portfolio or blog. Not only will you make new contacts, but you'll also have a larger audience viewing the hard work you put into your site, which can impress a potential employer.
4. Virtual career fairs
If you dislike the idea of taking your suit to the cleaners and finding a sitter for the kids just to head out to a job fair, then stay at home and go online.
"[Virtual career fairs are part of] a growing trend among employers looking for a new, cost-effective way to recruit high-quality talent as well as tech-savvy job seekers," says Jennefer Traeger, who works with Unisfair, a virtual job-fair provider. The global aspect of virtual fairs removes geographic obstacles that otherwise complicate job searches.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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