Resolutions: 3 tips to kick-start your job hunt

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by Eileen AJ Connelly
AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP)—You’ve let most of January pass by, and you still haven’t revised your resume.

Don’t despair. There’s still a long way to go in 2012, and you can still keep your resolution to find a new job.

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JOB HUNTING—Daniela Silvero, left, an admissions officer at ASA College, discusses job opportunities with Patrick Rosarie, who is seeking a job in IT, during JobEXPO’s job fair on Jan. 25, in New York.

It is true that unemployment remains high, but don’t let the idea of competition keep you from looking for different work, particularly if you are in mid-career. Many companies complain about needing to fill positions, but getting few qualified applicants.

The lack of skilled candidates is a problem even in some parts of the financial industry, which has been hit hard in the past year as banks struggle recover from the economic meltdown.

Applications flow steadily for entry level positions at Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank, for example. But Jim Young, director of talent acquisition there said the bank must recruit to fill higher-level spots, because the number of qualified job seekers doesn’t meet demand.

Whether you’re starting out in your career or looking to transition to a new job, here are three tips for a successful search:

1. Focus on your accomplishments

Writing a resume that focuses on your responsibilities is a classic mistake. For example, “Led a team of seven staffers responsible for product development,” doesn’t highlight what you’ve got to show for your work. Instead, tweak the wording to say something like, “Led a team of seven in developing a new product that brought in $3 million in sales.”

“You’ve only got seconds to impress someone that you’ve got something that other applicants do not have,” Young said.

2. Target your application

Generic resumes and plain vanilla cover letters won’t cut it in today’s market. You need to tailor both to make it clear you’re the right person for the job and the company you’re targeting. Use background research on the company and key words from the job advertisement to highlight your skills and make it clear you’ve got the skills for the position. For example, if you learn that the company uses a particular type of software that you’re an expert with, mentioning that in your application materials can give you an edge.

3. Use all available tools to network

Talking with someone about a potential employer can give you important insight into how it operates and whether you would want to work there. If you’re able to use that connection as a reference or to pass along your application, you have an even better chance of getting noticed.

These days, networking involves not only traditional methods, like professional and social organizations, but also creating an effective online presence. Use social networks, such as LinkedIn, for example, to reach out to employees of a company that interests you to learn about its operations and any potential openings. Most people will be happy to answer a few questions for a new acquaintance. After you’ve established a relationship, they may be willing to go the extra mile to help you land a job.

But don’t rely solely on virtual networking over the old-fashioned face-to-face kind. Nothing beats a tip or a recommendation from someone who really knows you and can vouch for your abilities.

Additional Tips:

Survey your social networks: Are your privacy settings secure on Facebook? Are there photos posted that could sabotage your job hunt or comments that you’d prefer not to show to a prospective employer? Are you presenting yourself as a professional on LinkedIn and utilizing Twitter in a smart manner? Before you dive into a job search, make sure a Google search of your name produces the image you’d like to project.

Go back to school: Your college or graduate school career services center is a good place to start a hunt. You’ll find advice for writing resumes and cover letters, interview preparation and other helpful hints on their websites, see Virginia Tech’s. http://www.career.vt.edu/ . Additional services such as job alerts and free or low-cost career counseling may also be available.

Fill your time: If you’re out of work, find some way to show potential employers that you’re keeping your skills up to date. That might mean volunteering with an organization that can use your expertise. Pick a charity you support and ask if they can use your professional skills. If you don’t have a group in mind, take a peek at the service and volunteering page on your local government’s website. Another option is to seek out programs like The Taproot Foundation, http://www.taprootfoundation.org/, which pairs professionals with marketing, technology and management skills and organizations that need that expertise.

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