Here's How to Break Through During Your Job Search

(Traci Boutwell/U.S. Army photo)

What do you do when you've tried every strategy you can think of but still haven't found a job?

While beating your head against the wall is certainly an understandable reaction, it won't solve your problem. But what will, or at least might?

"When you feel like you've tapped out your last option, you need to think about yourself as a product launch that the market didn't seem to take to," said Diane Danielson, author of "Table Talk: The Savvy Girl's Alternative to Networking" and founder and executive director of the Downtown Women's Clubs in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. "You need to pull the product off the market and tweak it."

Identify Your Niche

"While it's human nature to say you do everything, that approach ends up yielding fewer opportunities," Danielson said. "So clearly define a niche where you have experience. Not only will this help solidify what you do in your own mind -- and keep your confidence up -- but it can also be easily conveyed to and remembered by others."

For example, if you've worked as a teacher and would like to use your considerable writing and editing skills in your next job, look for companies that produce educational books, or nonprofit agencies with educational missions. Then sell these organizations on the fact that you're a writer/editor with expertise in education.

Get into a Sales Mindset

"You need to pretend you're in sales, because you are," said Deborah Brown-Volkman, president of Surpass Your Dreams, a career-coaching company in Long Beach, New York. "Get some sales books and learn how to create a 30-second pitch and handle objections. Learn how to spin what you've done so the interviewer or someone you meet at a networking function knows exactly what you want and what's in it for the company you want to work for."

Critically Analyze How You Use Your Time and Energy

Lots of job seekers say they're doing everything they're supposed to be doing to look for work, says Damian Birkel, founder of Professionals in Transition, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based nonprofit that helps people find jobs. But Birkel notes that job seekers often need to adjust the mix of their search activities.

"Many times when you talk about the allocation of job-search time, most of it is spent answering ads both electronic and in the paper," said Birkel, who lost his job twice in a 10-year period and survived three corporate downsizings in the years that followed. "Another way to think of it is that 100% of the people are responding to the job openings. Meanwhile, there is the vast and hidden job market."

Seek Outside Counsel

Particularly if you're one of the many Americans who has been job hunting for months, or even a year or more, you may simply need some help from a third-party, neutral observer like a counselor, therapist, coach or clergyperson. Many cities offer affordable options if you're willing to seek them.

"During one three-month run of unemployment, I found a great psychologist at a place that charged a sliding-scale fee," said Bob Johnson, director of communications at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City and a self-described "king of unsuccessful job searches in the past."

"On the morning of our first appointment, I called to cancel, because I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed," Johnson said. "Thank God she called back and managed to convince me to drag my butt into Manhattan and go see her."

Johnson says the psychologist gave him a fresh perspective on what he was doing. She didn't help him land a job immediately, he says. But perhaps more importantly, "she helped me see the forest for the trees."

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