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In May, the number of Americans filing new first-time claims for unemployment benefits was back on the rise, reaching the highest levels in the past 12 months. Among those are increasing numbers of middle and senior-level management jobs. As companies streamline operations and try to reduce costs, unfortunately, many older, more experienced workers are suddenly finding themselves unemployed for the first time.
Despite a tight labor market and millions more job openings than there are job seekers, these executive-level workers are struggling to find new jobs. Despite years of experience, searches take longer, and jobs are more difficult to find.
Many companies today are using executive search firms to fill senior-level positions, often for jobs that aren’t posted publicly. Many C-level searches especially are done in secret.
For senior-level execs facing unemployment for the first time, spending your days filling out online applications isn’t likely to be productive. So, what should you do?
Expert Advice on Landing the Next Job
Here’s some advice from experts.
Create a Plan
When facing unemployment for the first time, the first step is to create a plan. “You wouldn’t embark on a business venture without a written plan, so why would you proceed with your career planning without it?” asks John Jazylo, executive recruiter at Leadership Capital Group.
Think of your job search in the same way you would approach a major project in your company and apply the same process and due diligence.
Part of your plan should include developing your elevator speech, said Laura Fries, managing director and executive vice president of Baker Tilly. You need to be able to succinctly and effectively answer questions about what you’re looking for and why you are available.
Park Your Ego
Being unemployed for the first time, especially in a senior position, can be humbling. Dana Manciagli, President of Job Search Master Class, says, “don’t let your ego get in the way of your job search.”
Succeeding in your job search will take humility, kindness, flexibility, and an “unrelenting focus on the customer: the hiring company,” she said.
LinkedIn is the social network for business and provides a great place to find, contact, and network with the right people. Make sure your online profile is in order and optimized. This means a professional picture and a fully-filled resume with accomplishments.
Executive recruiters are looking at LinkedIn daily, trying to find candidates for openings. Arnie Fertig, the founder of JobHunterCoach, said 95% of recruiters are using LinkedIn as a major sourcing tool. If you’re not active there, you may be missing an opportunity. You can also use LinkedIn to your advantage by searching for recruiters in your industry who specialize in placing senior-level executives and inviting them to connect.
Make sure you are also using the right keywords in your title and summary. Think about how recruiters would be searching and include those words to help improve your visibility.
Kyle Turk, VP of Marketing at Keynote Search, said he sees a lot of people that don’t bother to build out detailed descriptions of their experience. He says it’s important to remember this isn’t your resume. Think of it as a teaser to qualify you for consideration.
Tap Your Network
Estimates are that as many as 80% of jobs are filled through either personal or professional connections. Hopefully, you’ve cultivated a network of people in your field. If not, it’s never too late. Review your career and think about the people you’ve worked with. You’ll be surprised how many lives you’ve touched. Many will be more than willing to help.
While you can connect with them on social media, send an email or private message, or pick up the phone will likely produce better results. Let those you contact know that you are facing unemployment for the first time, and ask them to provide referrals or references. Referrals provide an implied endorsement, which can help make you stand out from other potential candidates.
Business consulting company Deloitte recommends you add a personal touch to anyone you contact, making it specific to something you had in common in the past. This avoids making it seem like you’re sending out generic emails to large groups of people. You should also be direct about your goal to increase your professional network and ask if they know of any opportunities.
Make Direct Approaches
When you hear or find out about a position you’d like, take the direct approach. While you may want to fill out online applications, a more effective way to direct outreach to hiring managers and targeted individuals.
Rob Croner, vice president of senior executive services at CCI Consulting said there are two key strategies when making a direct approach:
- Target with a clear connection between your skills and experience and the organization’s needs.
- Pay attention to the breadth and depth of the outreach. Finding the right fit is a matter of connecting with enough people.
Manage Your Resume
Look at your resume with fresh eyes. While you need to demonstrate your past experience, your resume must tell the story of why you’re the right person for the job. Tailor the story of your job history to create the narrative. This may mean having a template resume that you can customize for each job. Steve Nicholls, Managing Director of Executive Connexions, said executives “all think their CV is great, but they need to be really clear on what they want to do next.”
If you are applying for a job online, keep in mind that 75% of recruiters and 98% of Fortune 500 companies are now using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen candidates. If your resume isn’t ATS-friendly, it may never be seen by a human recruiter. Make sure any relevant keywords, skills, and credentials required for the job are listed appropriately.
“I recommend applicants have multiple resumes tailored to the specific jobs they’re applying to, incorporating relevant keywords from each job post’s expected duties, responsibilities and skills sections,” said Carrier Morris at Indeed.
The last tip may be the toughest, especially for senior-level executives used to working at a fast pace: be patient.
According to Julianne Franke, career coach at BlueSteps Executive Career Services, it can take executives an average of one month for every $10,000 of salary to land the next job.
Additional: The Best Ways to Get an Interview Through a Job Board