The Top 5 Job search lessons from the 2008 Recession

Take a few lessons from job markets past.

With a previously rosy job market facing the highest unemployment levels in decades due to COVID-19, many new graduates and college seniors are experiencing a sudden need to change their job search strategies. Some strategies which were not necessary only a few months ago are now critical for candidates seeking new career opportunities while competing with millions of others who are unemployed.

While this recession is dramatically worse than the 2008 recession in terms of unemployment numbers, some of the strategies which worked for job seekers then may also work now. Drawing upon the observations of those who succeeded in landing jobs during that challenging time, here are some strategies current job seekers might try:

Network much, much more.

When hundreds or even thousands of people are applying for one open job, there are a few strategies that can get your resume pulled from the pile. One of them is to ensure you build relationships (well in advance if possible) with people at your target organizations of interest. Try to connect with people for a networking or informational call before a job opens up to establish rapport without directly asking for favors. Then, if possible, try to ask your contacts if you can use their name as a referral, either by using their name in a cover letter, entering their name in the online application system as a referral, or even asking them to directly contact the hiring manager on your behalf. This, more than anything, can lead to more interviews.

Follow up.

In a favorable job market, some job seekers can take a far less proactive approach, simply applying for open jobs and waiting for a response. (In the very best job markets, candidates with rare and in-demand skills might just update their LinkedIn profile and wait for recruiters to call them.) But when you are competing with many more people, doing something a bit differently can bring your application additional attention. Following up with a hiring manager or recruiter via LinkedIn, email, or even a quick phone call–as long as you are positive, enthusiastic, professional, thoughtful, and brief–can get your resume another look and possibly a call for an interview. Try searching for the company’s LinkedIn page, then searching by job title to find the person who is most likely to be hiring for the open role, then send a message to express interest.

Get creative in your approach.

Some candidates have created compelling YouTube video clips outlining their skills, created their own websites or Github pages, or used Twitter, Instagram, or other social media to directly message top leaders in their organizations of interest. An unexpected approach to highlight your skills can be a refreshing way to get the attention of employers.

Create your own opportunity.

Try “pitching” yourself for consulting or even volunteer opportunities to expand your resume. Looking for organizations that might need your talents and contacting them via LinkedIn or even direct email to try for a short call where you can explain how you can benefit them can lead to new opportunities.

Reframe your expectations and keep a positive mindset.

It’s easy to get discouraged in such a challenging job market, but staying focused on how you can add value to others will make you more successful than focusing on the challenge you face. You may have to look in unexpected fields, and be more flexible about the next job you take. If need be, try being open to multiple part-time or “gig” jobs. Remember, this situation won’t last forever and your resilience now will make you stronger in the future when more job opportunities arise.

It’s definitely a challenging time to look for work, but with a few creative strategies, you can improve your chances of landing the right role and moving your career ahead.


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