5 Ways to Outhustle Your Competition and Land a Job in a Tight Economy
5 Ways to Outhustle Your Competition and Land a Job in a Tight Economy

As we’ve seen, this year’s economy has gotten off to a rocky start, with multiple companies (particularly large technology firms) announcing reductions in force. Thankfully, the impact of these layoffs has been mitigated to some degree by other positive economic news, such as a glowing recent jobs report. Even so, it’s hard not to feel anxious about your career security and near-term job prospects.

How should you respond when the job market experiences a downturn? Honestly, based on 30 years of experience as a career coach watching people go through both good and bad job markets, my recommendation is pretty simple. Bear down, recognize the extra degree of challenge you're facing in a tight economy, and step up your game. Along these lines, here’s my advice on five ways to outhustle your competition and land a job in a tight market.

1. Create a data-driven job-hunting plan — and stick to it

When marketing yourself for a new opportunity, you don't want to wing it or leave things to chance. For the best results, set up a daily routine that plays to your strengths and motivates you to focus on reaching your goals each week.

This approach requires creating a tracking tool to set goals, record your ongoing progress, and take notes on all your job submissions and networking activities. However, this framework doesn’t have to be complicated. It might be as simple as a basic Excel spreadsheet or Google Docs file you create. Or it could also be a paper-based system or adaptation of a CRM or project management tool you’ve used in the past. The key is to keep your tracking system simple enough that you don’t avoid it or focus more energy on tracking tasks than actually doing them.

As for measuring your efforts, I’d encourage your game plan to include clear metrics about how many resume submissions you’ll complete each day or week, how many people you’ll contact from a networking standpoint and how many companies you’ll approach about potential hiring needs. Commit yourself to engaging in a certain amount of outreach activities each day versus focusing on actions (such as spending time online, conducting research or polishing up your resume) that won’t generate interviewing opportunities in and of themselves.

2. Don’t wait for opportunities — create them

When facing a tight job market, accepting that a sizable percentage of jobs never get advertised is critical. While millions of people get hired through want ads every year, experts agree that 70-80% of job offers don’t take place through published channels. These positions are filled under the radar through referrals or are occasionally created out of thin air by enterprising candidates pitching their skills to the right company at the right time.

For example, I recently had a client inform me he finally landed his dream job, not through a resume application — since he’d sent hundreds of those out with little response — but by being bold, identifying a department that interested him at a local company, and reaching out directly to the manager of the department to share his credentials. One thing led to another, and before he knew it, the manager had said, "I'm so glad you found us!" and extended the type of offer he'd been chasing for more than a year.

In a typical job market, you might get away with simply sending in resumes for posted positions — but in a tighter market, the savviest professionals get out of their comfort zone and try a series of direct, creative methods for getting themselves on an employer's radar.

3. Recognize that job hunting is a numbers game — and play it

At the start of my career, my mentor (a highly successful former sales professional) drilled into my head that job hunting is primarily a numbers game. It involves beating the bushes aggressively until you find a "customer" who needs your skills, talents and capabilities.

Given this reality, it's safe to say you might need to accumulate 10, 50 or 100 "no" answers from employers until you get the final coveted "yes" response which is even more reason to plant tons of seeds in the market, with as many potential employers as possible, versus taking things slowly.

If it helps, compare yourself to the average job hunter who sends out a handful of resumes per week or focuses on meeting the 3-per-week submission rate needed to qualify for unemployment. If you routinely reach out to twice or three times as many employers, leads and contacts as that individual, isn't it likely you'll experience far better results?

With more than 300,000 employers in Washington state alone, as well as the fact that each of your networking contacts probably knows hundreds of other people, it's doubtful you'll run out of potential targets.

4. Don't just pay lip service to networking — actually do it

Another critical area that I'd encourage you to focus on when the economy retracts a bit is networking. While many people talk a good game about using their contacts to find work, I've observed that many folks continue to cut corners in this regard, often due to a reluctance to ask for help or out of a fervent hope that a published job will materialize with little effort.

There are just no two ways about it, however. If you want to maximize your odds of turning up opportunities, you owe it to yourself to systematically reach out to everybody you know and let them know you're on the hunt.

Ask people directly for referrals, don't just imply you want them. Get involved in online groups, community meetups and professional organizations. And leverage the power of LinkedIn to find friends-of-friends (second-degree connections) that hold management roles in the field you're targeting or work for the companies you're most interested in joining.

When the market is tight, many jobs go "underground," so to speak. Your goal should be to create a group of dozens — if not hundreds — of people who are actively keeping their eyes open on your behalf.

5. Identify new skills that will get you paid — and acquire them

Lastly, if you suspect your search for employment will take longer than usual, consider flipping the script and using some of your free time to make yourself MORE marketable to potential organizations.

Research the current trends in your field and determine which skills, capabilities and technical tools are in demand. What training options can you tap into? What unique qualifications might help you get ahead? What new credentials do you now have the capacity to acquire that you couldn’t previously while you were working?

With so many new learning platforms and methods available in the modern world, it's easy to figure out how to upskill and give yourself an edge over the competition. No professional field or body of knowledge is static. Needs change and evolve, and the folks who get out in front of these trends — and continually reinvest in themselves — are the ones that usually end up on top, even when the economy decides to go on a roller-coaster ride!

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Author Matt Youngquist

Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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