Career Advice: Spring Clean Your Job Search

Master the Follow-Up

"When I go to an event, my goal is to always end up with a contact and execute a follow-up, even if it's a just a 'Thank you, it was a pleasure to meet you, hope our paths cross again,'" said Paul O'Connor of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., an environmental services executive who was laid off in 2009.

"It adds a human side," he said.

More important, it ensures you leave a positive impression on people -- as well as a delicate reminder to fork over that lead they promised you over their second martini the night before.

Jessie Sawyer, a recent liberal arts grad living in Hartford, Conn., is a master at checking in with the network she's built in her short professional career. Every two months, Sawyer will e-mail her contacts -- friends and family in high places, people she's met on informational interviews and the like -- about the status of her job search.

"In some cases," said Sawyer, who's trying to line up her first salaried job so she can move out of her parents' house, "they've told me about job openings that I should look into and have endorsed me in passing my resume along to the HR department."

Following Up Works

That's how Sawyer, who blogs about her adventures in job seeking at Undepressed in a Depression, lined up her current internship at a public broadcasting TV station.

Maybe if all job seekers operated as if they were stuck living in Mom and Dad's basement they'd have this much traction in their own employment hunt.

Get Over Your Fear of Branding

I know many job seekers bristle at the suggestion that they brand themselves. Some might even think career advisors have mistaken them for cattle. But I assure you, "branding" is just a trendy catchphrase for labeling yourself as a professional who excels at Skill X, Talent Y and Niche Z before others have a chance to do so first.

For Chris Perry, a recent MBA grad from Parsippany, N.J., the interview process really began to gel when he started labeling himself a "brand and marketing generator." (Translation: He who generates creative ideas, solutions and strong relationships.)

"I incorporated my personal brand in everything, including my resume, my cover letter, my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, my e-mails and my interviews," said Perry, who recently landed his first marketing job out of his MBA program and blogs about branding at Career Rocketeer.

Apparently, it did the trick.

"In one interview, I shared my personal brand as the answer to the question, 'Why should we pick you over all of these other top candidates?'" Perry said. "My personal brand gave the interviewer something that he clearly remembered, as he mentioned it to me later that day."

Build Yourself a Website

Branding doesn't necessarily mean coming up with your own personal slogan, logo or jingle.

For Taraneh Foster, a communications professional in Portland, Ore. who was laid off last year, branding herself simply meant corralling all the pertinent details about her professional life into one place: a Web site she could direct prospective employers to.

"When you're looking for work, it's hard to know how to position yourself," said Foster, whose site outlines her professional background and features some of her work samples.

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