The job market is continually evolving, growing and shrinking with the economy and the unique circumstances of each sector. As of late, wide-spread layoffs and hiring freezes have become the norm, especially in the tech sector.
What can you do as a job-seeker if your industry of choice has few openings, more applicants than positions, or is saturated with over-qualified applicants? Below are eight job search strategies to recession-proof your search.
No. 1: Focus your search
Perhaps the most strategic step you can take in your job search is to discern what you want before you start to apply.
If you start applying without first developing a vision, you may struggle to create applications that are curated enough to be persuasive. More importantly, you’re more likely to land a job that is not a fit. When you’re eager for change, it may be tempting to apply to anything, but you don’t just want a new job, you want a better job. You don’t just want change, you want to thrive. With this in mind, pausing to narrow your options to only roles that are aligned with who you are and what you want is an efficient and effective use of time. If you’re not sure what role to pursue, consider recruiting a thought partner or career coach.
No. 2: Be a competitive applicant
If you are eager to land your next role, you’ll want to be a competitive applicant. What does this mean? If you look at both the “requirements” and “preferred qualifications” on a job description, you’ll want to meet or exceed all of the qualifications.
What if you want to apply to a job, but you’re missing a qualification? You can still apply, but you’d be less competitive “stretch applicant” for that role. If you choose to apply to both competitive and stretch positions, consider the ratio. Your ratio will depend upon your sense of urgency. For instance:
Urgent (seek a job immediately) – 100% competitive
Somewhat urgent (seek a job in three to six months) – 80% competitive, 20% stretch
Not urgent (seek a job in six months to a year) – 50% competitive, 50% stretch
No. 3: Keep your role and industry, or pursue one transition at a time
Often the easiest job change is a lateral one into a similar role at a similar organization or within the same organization.
If you would like to transition both your role and your industry, consider making one transition at a time. An employer will appreciate your proven track record, and you’re more likely to meet the requirements of the job.
For example, say you currently have an administrative role in finance, but you’d like an operations role in tech. Consider transitioning to an administrative role in tech (same role, new industry) or an operations role in finance (new role, same industry). Once you’ve made this first transition, it’ll be easier to make the second transition to operations in tech.
No. 4: Go smaller
Large, brand-name companies tend to receive many more applications per role than smaller companies, which makes landing a role at one of these companies ultra-competitive. If you are one of the millions of applicants who applies to work at Google in a given year, and Google only hires 20,000 people, you have less than a 1% chance of getting hired.
If you’re not getting traction when applying to jobs at large companies, consider smaller companies in the same space.
No. 5: Stay with your company – consider job crafting
If you think there is a role within your current team or organization that would be a good fit – even if the role doesn’t currently exist – you may want to explore job crafting.
Job crafting involves imagining the role you want, drafting your own job description, considering the impacts on the organization (who will assume your responsibilities if you take a new role?), and presenting the role to your employer.
You’ll be more successful at this negotiation if you have a strong reputation or in-demand skills. But if the alternative to job crafting is quitting, consider advocating for what you want.
No. 6: Quality over quantity
Job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed make it easy enough to mass apply, but there are drawbacks to this approach. The most significant drawback? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS are computer software designed to rank and sort resumes based on overlap with a job description. If you apply without customizing your resume, the ATS may filter out your application before a human has a chance to review it. (Want to learn more about how ATS work? Check out this resource).
Instead, demonstrate the best of what you have to offer in every application. This may mean investing six to eight hours to curate each application, including researching the company, researching the role, drafting a cover letter (when applicable), refining your resume for the role, and completing any additional application questions or online forms.
No. 7: If you find something, apply
I have spoken to many job seekers who find themselves endlessly scrolling job boards, bookmarking dozens of jobs to consider, but without applying to any job. (This often happens in the case of lack of vision and clear criteria for evaluating options – see strategy No. 1.) They are often disappointed when an application window closes early or they learn that the company reviewed applications on a rolling basis and selected an early applicant.
I encourage my clients to pause their search when they find a role of interest and to focus on that role until their application is submitted.
No. 8: Be a proactive job seeker
Around half of my clients do not get their jobs via job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed. Instead of waiting to see a posting they like, they proactively pursue companies or roles they want.
How can you apply this job search strategy? It begins with developing a vision (see step No. 1). Once you know the role you’d like to have and type of company you want to work for, make a list of companies that would benefit from your talent. Then reach out to individuals at those companies directly and ask for informational interviews. Be prepared to share how you’d contribute and evidence that you can do the job (case studies, references, a curated resume).
This process can be time-intensive, but if the goal is not just a new job but a role in which you’ll thrive, the effort is a worthwhile investment.