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If only job searching didn't require intensive, time-consuming personal commitment and weren't so emotionally draining.

However, the reality of today's highly competitive job market is that you have to promote yourself strategically and selectively to those who are likely to be most receptive. You need to present yourself outstandingly well, but that's not enough. You also need to focus your search on employers who can appreciate your value and are able to hire you.

In other words, if your job search is to be efficient, it must be purposeful.

The job search is mostly about marketing. You might think that skills and credentials should speak for themselves. But if the message describing your abilities and the benefits you bring to a prospective employer isn't compelling and clear, another candidate who does a better job at self-marketing will slip in ahead of you.

So do you need to "play the job search game" to be successful? Do you have to promote yourself to beat the competition?

Yes. You should be proactive, take initiative and package yourself extremely favorably to attract the employers whose attention you want to command.

Be purposeful in your job search. Having a great résumé is not enough. You still need to hit the pavement or take to the phones to establish that essential, direct, interpersonal chemistry, that good rapport that produces a dialogue exploring shared interests and ultimately generates a new career opportunity.

Therein lies the work of looking for a job. If most candidates could land a new challenge simply by sending out a ton of letters or clicking on enough online job postings, then job hunting would be transformed from the bear it is to something we all enjoy and anticipate eagerly. Hey, maybe we'd even volunteer to do it for someone else, for free!

That no one is making such offers implies that this indeed takes serious effort. Sure, friends and colleagues are prepared to provide assistance—like making introductions, suggesting referrals and providing recommendations. But the nitty-gritty, day-to-day tasks of designing and conducting a well-thought-out, carefully planned and thoroughly executed high-impact, fast-paced, results-oriented job search campaign rests on each candidate's shoulders.

Self-promotion can be a huge challenge for many otherwise savvy, capable executives. Here's how to simplify the process and accelerate campaign progress to lessen this burden and swiftly find your next career challenge:

  1. Brace yourself for the project. Understand that there is work to do and no easy way out. Ideally, you'd like to have a headhunter or recruiter find you, but you cannot count on that. What you can rely on are your own personal initiatives and efforts, designed to open doors and get your name in circulation. Remember: you are your own best sales rep. Even if an agent gets your toe inside the door, you have to put your best foot forward. That means preparing for an appointment by learning about a situation, finding out how you can provide added value and the benefits that you can bring to solving problems and growing revenues. Even if employers seek you out, you still need to demonstrate that you can deliver what they expect from winning candidates.

  2. Don't overextend yourself, because you are likely to be ineffective if you do. The key to success is to focus your job search on a limited number of specific target companies that you determine need your talents. Then, figure out a way to get inside these organizations to present yourself as a prospective contributor/team player. By investing the time to learn and understand their needs and cultural values, you will present as an unparalleled match and someone they want to find a way to hire.

  3. Be generous. In today's market, giving samples seems to be the most effective way to establish solid credibility and gain trust—an element critical to hiring decisions. By offering to conduct a project or provide detailed data on spec, candidates are frequently able to accelerate the hiring process by decreasing risk and alleviating fears harbored by potential employers. By approaching interviews as a consultant, candidates collaborate with prospective employers to reach mutually agreeable objectives. Neither party is more powerful or has excessive control; therefore, each stands to benefit from the other's being successful and getting what they need from the relationship.

  4. Be pound wise, not penny foolish. This admonishment extends to both salary negotiations and which offers you take into serious consideration. Put your pride aside for a moment and think dollars and cents. If you are currently not generating sufficient income, then any additional compensation goes in the plus column. Once you are working, you stand a better chance of proving that you are worth more. Every day that you are not working, you are actually costing yourself money.

  5. Since few candidates are fortunate enough to find volunteers lining up to assist with job search tasks, think whether you might hire professional help to defray some of the time-intensive tasks such as doing corporate research, developing a list of target employers, preparing a dynamite résumé, crafting elevator speeches and phone call introductions, and so on.

Continue reading "Five Steps to a New Job" ... Read the full article

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Debra Feldman, executive talent agent, JobWhiz, networks purposefully on behalf of senior-level executives developing targeted new contacts that produce unadvertised job leads and build positive reputations. Follow her on Twitter and like to make inside connections.