The jobless rate dropped to 3.5% in September from 3.7% in August, according to the Labor Department. That's the lowest rate since December 1969 — and it marks the second time this year that U.S. unemployment hit a 50-year low.
With continued growth in IT and health-care related occupations, among others, you could find yourself among those on the hunt for a position you like better in the new year.
Career expert Jena Viviano explains how to get your resume in shape and otherwise prepare so you're an attractive candidate for new job opportunities in 2020.
First things first: Update or complete your LinkedIn profile. Having a strong online presence and up-to-date LinkedIn profile is important, Viviano says, so prospective employers can find you.
"95% of recruiters are on LinkedIn," says Viviano. "They're using LinkedIn as a major search engine. So, the more people you're connected to, the more opportunities you will have to show up when somebody else searches for people like you."
Key elements of your profile include a professional profile picture, a headline that clearly describes your current position, a detailed summary of the kinds of opportunities you're searching for, and a fully fleshed out "experience" section.
Introduce yourself to new contacts who could provide you with helpful tips for breaking into the industry.
Your message could be as simple as: "I read an article about your company merger and would love to learn more about it and your company culture overall. I'm interested in your field and I'm curious about what your experience has been and how you landed a position at your company."
Once you've built up that roster of about 10 contacts on LinkedIn, reach out to them on a quarterly basis to say hello, ask them how they're doing, or update them on any important career updates in your life.
"It's a little bit more nuanced and it's about showcasing the value you can provide, rather than just saying, 'Hey! Here's my resume, can we hop on a phone call?' No one is going to answer that," adds Viviano.
Being in regular communication with people in your field will help you stay on top of career opportunities and remain relevant in your industry. When you're on the job hunt again, you'll have laid the groundwork a new position.
"You should not be networking only when you need something — you should be networking all the time," says Viviano.
You resume should highlight the skills and experience your dream employer is looking for. When you're reviewing your resume, start by deleting any experience that isn't relevant to your field and work that doesn't reflect your current skill level.
"The biggest problem with resumes is that most people don't know what to put on [them]. They don't know what's going to differentiate them. Your resume is like a teaser trailer, your LinkedIn is the full movie trailer, and your interview is your chance to showcase the full movie," says Viviano. "You should tweak your resume to highlight the things that are most important to the employer and will get you the interview."
You should also review the specific language you're using, suggests Viviano. She recommends dissecting job postings for positions you're interested in to help you identify important keywords and phrases.
Say you're looking at a posting for a senior managerial role. You'll want sharpen your resume by using words like "managed," "led," "headed a team of ..." and other terms that demonstrate your leadership potential and management experience.
Create a spreadsheet so you can track the different roles you're applying for. Include contact information and dates, and make sure you follow up with each hiring manager to track the status of your application.
"I highly recommend keeping an Excel spreadsheet," says Viviano. "You should have a tab that's dedicated to the jobs that you've applied for, a tab dedicated to who you're connecting with, and a tab dedicated to companies that you're interested in applying for that do not have positions available for you right now."
A huge part of nailing an interview is practicing beforehand, says Viviano. Here are her tips for interview prep.
- Increase your confidence: This is key, as you want your potential employer to perceive you as capable and a competitive candidate for the role. If you prepare in advance by doing research on the company and coming up with questions to ask your interviewer, you're more likely to come off as self-assured and well-informed, rather than nervous.
- Prepare answers to questions: "Tell me about yourself," or "Why would you be a good fit for this role?" are likely to come up in your interview, so anticipating those, and knowing what you'll say in response, is a good place to start.
- Remember it's not all about you: Viviano says a common rookie mistake is telling your entire life story during the interview. Keep it brief: Touch on who you are, what you do, and what you're excited about, career-wise.
"A lot of people go into the interview desperate for a job," she says. "But it's about flipping the coin and recognizing what your strengths are and what you have to offer, and that changes the way you approach interviews."
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