Getting ahead in a recession: five tips to sharpen up your job-hunt

Timothy Barber
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JOB hunting is a painful process at the best of times, and even more so during a recession. We spoke to Michael Moran, chief executive of career development company Fairplace, for tips on how to get to the next step on the career ladder.<br /><br /><strong>1. UNDERSTAND THE SKILLS YOU HAVE</strong><br />In order to sell yourself to potential employers, you need to have a very clear understanding of what your core skills are &ndash; but it can be very difficult to work these out for yourself, so ask your friends and colleagues. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ll think of two or three things about yourself, but other people who know you and have worked with you will be able to give you a much broader picture,&rdquo; says Moran. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also important not just to identify your achievements, but to think clearly about how and why you achieved them.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>2. UNDERSTAND THE SKILLS YOU NEED</strong><br />You need to have a clear idea of the trajectory you intend your career to take. Moran recommends visualising where you would like to be in three years&rsquo; time, and what your ideal job would be. Think about what qualities and skills the ideal candidate would have, and think about how you would score out of 10 against that. &ldquo;This way you&rsquo;ll be able to identify the gaps in your armoury, and look for roles that will help you fill those gaps, so that you can aim for that ideal job in a few years&rsquo; time. You need to be proactively moving towards it, and having that target will make you a stronger candidate in the meantime,&rdquo; says Moran.<br /><br /><strong>3. GET NETWORKING</strong><br />The importance of networking can&rsquo;t be overestimated: 80 per cent of jobs are secured through networking, rather than advertised positions. &ldquo;You need a professional network of 100 to 200 people, consisting of colleagues, clients, customers, suppliers, and friends with similar careers to yours,&rdquo; Moran says. Divide these into people who have the influence to introduce you to opportunities; those who can tell you about openings; and people you know less well, but who may be useful. The latter are the part of your network you need to work on. Websites like LinkedIn and ZoomInfo enable you to see who in a company you need to connect to, and who you know who can get you there.<br /><br /><strong>4. FOLLOW UP THE INTERVIEW</strong><br />If you manage to get an interview, the temptation afterwards is to sit back and wait helplessly, but you can still improve your chances. You should find out &nbsp;during the interview what the challenges and opportunities are for the business, so think further about what your response is to these. A couple of days later, send the interviewer a letter or email stating your ideas. &ldquo;This makes you a very impressive candidate, because it shows you&rsquo;re keen, proactive and switched on,&rdquo; says Moran.<br /><br /><strong>5. DON&rsquo;T TAKE JUST ANY JOB</strong><br />It&rsquo;s tempting to take the first job that comes along. But taking a role that doesn&rsquo;t progress your career, risks merely replicating skills you have rather than building on them, and driving yourself into a cul de sac. &ldquo;People in jobs that they don&rsquo;t enjoy, or at organisations with whom they don&rsquo;t feel comfortable, are bound to underachieve anyway,&rdquo; Moran explains. &ldquo;If you take the wrong job, it can terminally affect your chances of getting back on track, even when the market improves.&rdquo;