I recently read a CNNMoney.com article about how 1.2 million people are out of work but have become so discouraged that they’ve quit looking. The article went on to say that these non-lookers, now officially called “Discouraged Workers,” are not even counted in the unemployment statistics because they haven’t’ actively looked for new employment in more than four weeks.

Sometimes the media really ticks me off. Here’s a direct quote taken from the article: “Still, there’s not much hope out there for this segment of the unemployed. There are five workers for every available opening.” Wow, not much hope out there, so I guess the only other option is to Q-U-I-T. One question: How does one protect their home, credit score, keep food on table, and pay for the occasional $15 summer movie if we quit?

Technology has given us some tremendous conveniences. It has also caused some of us to become averse to hard work and good ‘ol fashioned elbow grease. Yes finding a good job takes HARD WORK. But so does achieving any worthwhile goal. Ask any successful author, business owner, athlete, or professional from any industry for that matter.

I can appreciate hard facts and statistics regarding who is hiring who and how the U.S. is performing economically.  But to tout quitting as an alternative like some kind of avante garde fashion trend is just plain bad press. The whole “sky is falling” mentality the media likes to quip about provides more validation for the average job seeker to simply give up.   I guess Don Henley was right, everybody loves dirty laundry!

Here’s an interesting fact: 99% of all U.S. millionaires are independent business owners and business professionals–who are very good at what they do.  Only 1% of U.S. millionaires won, inherited, or “fell” into the money in some form.  The vast majority have worked extremely hard to get where they are now.

My advice to you: do not “quit” under any circumstances.  Stopping and starting your efforts will exponentially add more time to your job search.  As a career coach who works with hundreds of individuals like you each year and conducts public speaking events for thousands more, I have worked with all sorts of tough cases.  The number one common denominator among all clients who have landed a solid position is the quality of persistence.  They simply resolved to never give up!

Today, a professional who is a specialist in a particular area or trade will win the job over a jack-of-all-trades type candidate.  The fact is that most of us do have experience and relevant skills in a number of different areas.  However, if you want to increase your chances for success in today’s highly competitive job market, you must focus your skills and expertise in one or two occupational areas known as personal brands.  All documents, communications, and positioning statements should be prepared with this in mind.

The job search mentality used to be one of carpet-bombing employers with your resume.  Not anymore.  The philosophy behind a winning approach is high quality, not high volume.  You need to clearly understand each employer’s needs and then construct a strategy as to how you will address those needs; both on paper and in-person.

Here are FIVE CUTTING-EDGE and PROVEN strategies for 2010 that will help differentiate you from the job search masses:

  1. Contacting Companies of Interest: How do you locate positions that exist only in the minds of directors, vice presidents and company leaders?  70-80% of all jobs are never advertised according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  By assembling a target list of companies and then detailing a strategy for reaching the hiring manager, mining the hidden job market can be a powerful job search technique. Employ a solid social media strategy using sites like Linked In and Twitter and utilize your personal networking contacts to reach out to key company representatives and to network your way to informational and job interviews. Compared to 200-1 odds for landing your next position via a major job board, contacting companies of interest is the only job search strategy where the odds are actually with you.
  2. The V-Letter: One such strategy to lessen your chances of ending up in the “discard stack” is called the V-Letter.  This document is a short letter that compares your qualifications with the employer’s requirements for the job.  It uses the same concept as a cover letter with the only difference being that you are replacing the middle paragraph (the “body” of the cover letter) with a “skills table” drawing parallels to the company’s requirements and what you have to offer.  It’s brief and concise enough to catch the reader’s eye with highly relevant material within those first crucial seconds. “Connect the dots” and make it crystal clear that you are a solid fit for the job.
  3. Customize Your Resume: It is absolutely imperative that your resume be customized for the specific position that you’re applying for.  Do not allow the hiring manager to make the assumption that you will be a good fit for the position. Currently, greater than 50% of all organizations are now using some sort of an automated keyword scanner which makes customizing your resume even more imperative.  Work in relevant keywords, phrases, and buzzwords (provided you can validate them!) taken directly from the job description to increase your chances.
  4. The Job Businesses Plan: A Job Business Plan is a two to three page mini-business plan you present to the prospective employer during the interview or, in certain cases, before the interview phase.  It is designed to show them that you took the time to assess their business needs, perhaps by speaking with an inside coach or the hiring manager, and have used your creativity and business intellect in designing a results-based action plan to offer solutions.
  5. The Brag Book: A Brag Book is a professional portfolio—usually a three-ring binder with page protectors—that details documented academic and professional achievements.  By employing this strategy and presenting it during an interview, you are stating to Company X that you are someone who always does more than expected, are a high-achiever, and approaches your job in a very well organized and pragmatic manner.

For the job market in 2010, more than anything else, you need to distinguish yourself from the masses.  Many published job openings on the internet can receive hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of responses. The bigger question is are these posted openings still available or even legit?  You need to package, bundle, and market yourself as the ideal fit for the position you’re applying for.  You need to market yourself as a specialist at what you do.  You need to pay special attention to details and show the prospective employer that you are not simply your average run-of-the-mill employee.

I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something, something I can use
People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry

Dirty laundry may sell eyeballs but it’s not the whole story. I work with people every day who’ve made successful career changes and have landed solid jobs. Stay focused, stay motivated, and by all means stay in the game!

Want some free samples? Contact us at [email protected] for a sample V-Letter, New Rules Resume, Job Business Plan, and Brag Book Checklist.

Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a training and consulting firm for businesses, professionals, executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at [email protected], or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net