Looking for a job? Or a better job? Or a second job? A lot of people are these days. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rose to 13 percent for African Americans in August.
In my professional work as jobs specialist and employer, I’ve found that some jobseekers have little to no knowledge of how to properly search for and secure employment. We do not possess magic wands that open doors to economic prosperity with no research or work required. The job market is an extremely competitive place. The more you can do to help distinguish yourself from other applicants, the more you increase the likelihood that you may be hired.
Here are some simple, but highly effective things you can do to make yourself stand out in the crowd.
Create or update your resume. Your resume introduces you to perspective employers and includes your education, experience and work history. You may need more than one resume and cover letter for each position you seek, but customize them. There are resume templates available online that will guide your building one. Be sure to include volunteer activities so that there are as few extended gaps between periods of employment as possible.
Brush up on your basic computer skills. Many job applications are completed online on the company’s website or emailed in. This requires basic computer skills. Today, employers are weeding resumes out simply by keywords in your resume. Use colorful and concrete language in your resume to best describe your skills.
Be able to talk about your goals. How will the position you are applying for help you reach those goals. What do you ultimately want to do in this particular job and/or industry? Be prepared to answer those questions.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s important that you be able to identify and discuss your strengths and weaknesses as an employee, as perspective employers often ask this very question. We can help.
Dress for success. Simply put, look like you want the job – someone the employer would want to hire. If you need to update your wardrobe, talk with friends or check out local nonprofits that provide professional clothing for jobseekers. Your appearance should signal that you are ready to go to work.
Get out and talk with people. Put the time in online to find out who is hiring, but don’t let that be the only searching for employment you do. Networking is key to finding out where jobs are available. Don’t be too proud to let people know you are looking for work and what your qualifications are. Build your own network of people who can help you reach your goal.
Educate yourself on the your prospective employer. Never enter an interview blindly. Know what the company does and how they value to the community, as well as what you can bring to their company.
(Herbert Lester, Ph.D. is executive director of Kairos Services, Inc., a nonprofit specializing in workforce development to help people secure employment to enable self-sufficiency. For more information, visit www.kairosmemphis.org.)