Arriving at the office early to avoid traffic and get a jump on e-mail, I started the day like any other. With a second cup of hot tea steaming my face, I noticed it was nearly 8:30 a.m. when the phone rang.
I smiled and said hello to my vice president and then instinctively knew my smile was about to be vaporized - and so was I. Due to an acquisition by my employer, the majority of my department was being wiped out. I was being laid off.
Wrong place, wrong time. The whole thing took less than 60 seconds. After hanging up the phone I found that several co-workers had received the same call. What now? Time to begin our tough new job - searching for a job.
Layoffs have hit hard across nearly every job sector, including marine. The number of boat dealerships is down 30 percent, there are 3 percent fewer boatbuilders and there is less work for independent contractors. Given the grim reality, how do you find a job in a tough market? To help me get organized, I worked with an excellent job- placement company and refreshed resources I had used in a previous job hunt.
I knew as I began my search that I needed to prepare for a rough ride on a roller coaster of emotions. Highs, lows and flurries of frustration would be part of landing a new job. Finding a position in a gritty economy requires a lot of hard work. How do you crank up your job search? What should you do first? I recommend that your approach include the following five crucial steps:
1. Become easy to know and find. Who are you and what do you do? These questions aren't only for idle chatter while sucking down a long-neck beer. When you're looking for a job you must provide compelling responses lasting 20 seconds or less. That's right - you need to create and have a personal commercial ready to go.
Develop your professional pitch by first writing a powerful résumé. Don't go it alone. At a minimum, find a great résumé and job search book on Amazon. If you hire someone to write your résumé, ask around for recommendations and be careful - avoid pricey résumé writers and online résumé-blasting services, which yield limited results.
Post your résumé on major online job boards, including CareerBuilder, Monster, Simply Hired and sites focused on the marine and boating business so recruiters can find you. Look for job postings in Soundings Trade Only and other trade journals. Use your résumé to write your 20-second commercial, which you'll want to memorize and be ready to share.
Have personal business cards printed to further prime your professional persona; go to www.vistaprint.com or www.123print.com for free or economical options. Now you've increased the ability for employers to find you. You have a résumé, personal commercial and business cards, and you're posted on job-search sites. You're off to a super start.
2. Strategize your search and online presence. Where would you like to work? Are you an independent contractor or do you prefer to work for a dealership, manufacturer or other marine business? When looking for a job, avoid "spray and pray." Be visible but don't wildly spray your résumé everywhere and pray for responses.
Select target companies and opportunities suited to your skills. Search job postings on target company websites while networking with contacts at those companies through friends and LinkedIn.
Not on LinkedIn yet? You should be. Beyond résumé posting on major online job sites, expand your Web presence with a robust profile on LinkedIn that's rich with keywords and multiple connections. Recruiters search keywords on LinkedIn to find candidates. Other online options include creating a personal website; posting a knowledgeable tweet, opinion or paper on an industry blog; or doing a YouTube video demonstrating your skills, particularly if you are an independent contractor or artisan in the marine industry.
How do you look on Facebook? Delete any controversial or compromising postings now.
3. Power up your skills. Is your expertise up to date? Seek training to become more marketable by acquiring certifications in your craft, or take a computer, marketing or sales class. County governments offer free funding to help pay for job-related training; call your county employment office to find out more.
I qualified for funding and acquired additional technology certifications and it was both fun and worthwhile.
What's your passion in life or your favorite hobby? Volunteer in an area you love and feature it on your résumé. If you're employed and looking for a new position, pep up your résumé by volunteering for more responsibility.
4. Invest in you. Energizing your skills is a stellar step in self-investment and so is generally investing in your career. Hire expert advice from a career coach or industry mentor to provide invaluable job-search guidance. Check with friends for recommendations; I did and I connected with a terrific coach.
A career mentor can help bring laser focus to your search and guide you through such details as phone presence, e-mail and follow-up protocol, and salary negotiations. Invest in a sharp interviewing wardrobe, an updated haircut and other visible, yet subliminal, cues to encourage hearing, "We want to hire you."
5. Seriously circulate. Beyond your résumé, the other most important job search step is networking. Circulate and network several times a week across a broad range of contacts. Join a networking group or start your own. Google "Meetup Groups" with your city name to find options. Network at trade association meetings, seminars and boat shows.
Networking keeps you connected, lifts up your outlook with shared ideas and helps you survive the rough ride when your emotional roller coaster takes a sharp dip. Seriously circulating means weekly attendance at a minimum of two job-search networking groups; network one on one over coffee as well. Starbucks' revenues have surged with networkers in job-search mode. Your bowling league or other social clubs can help here, too.
After you've landed your new job, don't blow off networking. Make it a regular part of your professional upkeep. I networked like crazy during my job search; a casual remark from a peer in one of my networking groups eventually led to my new job.
Looking for a job is a full-time job and can take several months. Devote at least 40 hours a week to it. Dedicating time to finding a job will help your new job find you faster. After you find a job, keep your résumé, skills and networking connections fresh because national projections indicate it will be another five years before 5 percent unemployment returns. There are massive volumes of job-search resources available to build on the basics I've shared here.
If you receive the dreaded phone call or pink slip, use these five crucial steps to get your job search in gear and help you ride out the rough job market. Eventually you'll be well-positioned for a smooth landing in your next great job.
Mary Elston has spent more than 20 years in management in the transportation, consulting and technology industries. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of the book, "Master Your Middle Management Universe, How to Succeed with Moga Moga Management Using 3 Easy Steps." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.