Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
August 14, 2011

Keeping Spirits Up in a Down Job Market

Q: My job search is entering its eighth month. What am I doing wrong, or what do I need to do differently?

A:  It’s understandable for you to start getting down on yourself — searching for a job in this market can quickly become demoralizing. As the months pass, people who are unemployed tend to become demoralized and their self-esteem suffers.

But remember: Finding a job is your full-time job, and you need to perform that job better than everyone else.

That job starts with self-care, both physical and psychological. It’s hard, but you can’t lose your self confidence or your sense of what you do well — it will come across in interviews and interactions.

You can’t lose sight of why you believe that.

Next, you have to get out there — and I mean out there, not just sitting at home with your laptop looking at employment websites. You have to leave the house and network. Meet people. Ask for appointments. Go to events.  Agencies hire people, not faceless résumés from websites.

Going through the career websites of companies can be cumbersome and frustrating, says Greg Dubas, a veteran industry recruiter who recently joined Hill & Knowlton.

“You spend time filling out a résumé and hitting the send button, and you have no idea where it goes,” he says. “The  best thing you can do is network with the people who know those people, or work with the people who have direct control over what’s going on.”

That’s another thing you have to remember: Getting a job ultimately comes down to persuading someone to hire you. To do that, it’s often useful to have some help from people you know. But first, you have to ask.

Consider the types of positions you’re looking for as well. Dubas believes the picture is brighter at the moment for midlevel account manager types. “Those people are in demand,” he says. “If the person has a solid résumé, then they shouldn’t have too much trouble finding work. I’ve been finding some folks having some difficulty at the senior level. There are positions open, but they are fewer and farther between than they were a few years ago.”

Dubas recommends that senior-level people looking for higher salaries hire a recruiter, because they need help  identifying such lucrative opportunities.

These are all good pointers, but as recruiter Peter Bell of Peter Bell & Associates points out, you shouldn’t kid yourself about the state of the market.

“There are far too many reasons for this lack of jobs,” Bell says. “For several months the job market, in public relations anyway, picked up. While [there are] more opportunities than we have had for a while, there is much hesitancy out there — employers are taking more time and conducting more interviews, and candidates are nervous about being the new one in, remembering ‘last in, first out’ all too well. We are hopeful, however.”

Be prepared. It’s tough out there, which is why you need to do this right. And you can.

This Ask the Professional column originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Public Relations Tactics.

Ann Willets is president and CEO of Utopia Communications, Inc., an ethically focused PR agency. She is the immediate past chair of the Counselors Academy.

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