We've lost 760,000 jobs since January and unemployment is at a five-year high. Yet hiring across the country has hardly come to a complete halt. Jobs exist, but fewer openings and more competition mean they're not all easy to come by. If you're out of work, your task is to get into "extreme job search" mode.
Drop the self-imposed limitations. While everyone has specific standards on where and when they'd like to work, be wary of limiting your chances with thoughts such as "I can only work in this industry. I can only accept a job at this salary level. I can only work this particular shift." The more flexible you are and the more diverse your outreach efforts, the more opportunity you'll have to choose from.
Maintain a clear focus. Don't say, "I'll take anything." Nobody will hire someone who's desperate. You might tell five different companies that you have five different goals, but you want to maintain razorlike focus with each of them. Mask any sense of panic or desperation because a confident and upbeat person will get hired before the one who's sulking because of baggage.
Explore opportunities within your functional area of expertise as well as your industry. For example, an accountant at a CPA firm could explore positions at other firms or in-house accounting positions at corporations. That accountant could also apply her expertise in another direction such as recruiting because she's been in the trenches and knows what's involved in the role so she could assist firms in finding good talent.
Look at alternative sources for job leads. Don't rely solely on job boards. For example, LinkedIn.com has new jobs posted daily even though it's not a job board. I send out weekly job leads — with the e-mail addresses of the recruiters — on my free Twitter feed. (twitter.com/toryjohnson) Attend career fairs and open houses that are advertised in the Help Wanted section or online even if you're not excited about the participating employers. You never know whom you'll meet, so keep an open mind.
Respond to "overqualified." Don't look like a deer in the headlights when someone says you're overqualified -- often code for "you're too old." Normally applicants simply hang up or move on. They don't respond with an attempt to get the recruiter to reconsider. Push back ever so gently, but firmly, and say, "One benefit of someone with my experience is that I've been around long enough to know better than to apply for a position where I'd be bored. I've researched this opportunity and I'm confident that you'd be pleasantly surprised at what a good match I'd be, so I'm hoping we can continue this dialogue. I don't mind giving you more experience than you need because I'd use it to help mentor others."
Clearly label a career change. If you're switching fields, make sure the objective summary on your resume reflects that desired shift.
Don't rely on your resume to sell yourself. Focus on putting your face to your resume. After you apply online, find someone at the company to connect with. Use professional organizations, alumni relations, LinkedIn.com, friends, family, former colleagues and so on to find someone who works at the company you're targeting. Internal referrals can help you get noticed. If you can't find one, then cold-call the person you'd be working for to express your strong interest in the position and be ready to explain why you'd be an asset. Rehearse before calling.
Never put all your eggs in one basket. One job might seem great, but don't rely on it. You must have lots of sticks in the fire at any given time. Register with local placement agencies and headhunters in your area, but don't rely on them to get you a job. You must rely only on yourself to make it happen.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Her Web site is www.womenforhire.com.