Competition for jobs is fierce. We spoke to two experts at helping people get and stay hired: Charles Purdy, senior editor at Monster and Hot Jobs; and Darby Scism, director of Loyola University's career development center. Here are some of their words of wisdom.
1. Network, network, network
Networking is more than just pressing palms or getting on LinkedIn. Purdy advises attending conferences — volunteering to work the check-in table if you can't afford to go — as well as commenting on online forums and starting a career-focused blog. You want to be known as "a mover and a shaker and an opinion-haver in your industry," he said.
2. Fill resume gaps
You can't hide that you've been laid off, but if you volunteer or take classes at a local community college while you're looking for a new gig, your resume can still sparkle. Scism said college loans also can be offset in some cases during long-term volunteer commitments such as AmeriCorps.
3. Don't wait
If you're still in school, get started on networking, writing your resume and searching for a job. If you're out of school and working, don't assume your job is safe. Even if you're happily employed, Purdy said, "lay groundwork for a future where you may have been laid off."
4. Be specific
It's important to be able to prove what you say about yourself. In interviews, give detailed examples of your strong suits (for example, don't just say, "I'm detail-oriented." Be prepared to tell a story about some time when that skill came in handy.)
5. Do your research
Purdy says that not only should you know about the company for which you're applying, but you also should be ready to tell a potential employer why hiring you would solve a "problem." "Every open job is a problem," he said, and the company wants to know how you'd be the solution.
6. Don't let it get you down
"Stay active, stay busy and motivated," Purdy says. It can be incredibly stressful to be unemployed or fearful of your job status, but it's important to avoid getting bogged down. Get away from the computer sometimes, Purdy said, and volunteer or take classes, even if they're not in your field. Helping others can sometimes help get your mind off your troubles.
7. Broaden your horizons
You might dream of being a brain surgeon or a sports agent, and that might be where you wind up eventually. But in the meantime, Scism urges, see if there's a way to explore your chosen industry without huge outlays of time and money.