Steep competition for opportunities that are few and far between has forced job seekers to get creative when trying to get their foot in an employer's door.
New York-based Nova Graphics created a fold-out business card featuring a mini resume.
I'm a fan because it's not always appropriate or even comfortable to hand someone your resume — you're not about to whip it out when you bump into an old neighbor in the grocery store or while riding the subway — but it's never really awkward to offer your card.
These particular ones leave a lasting impression since they feature much more detail than just your name and number.
At Nova Graphics, 100 of these particular cards come with a price: $75 to $300 depending on size and color. The benefit, however, is having a pro handle the design and printing for you.
To save money, try creating them yourself.
VisualCV.com allows anyone to create a free media-rich online resume, which means lots of bells and whistles and much more information than you could ever fit on a single piece of paper: employment history, education, awards, letters of recommendation, writing samples, articles, artwork — whatever is applicable to your background.
The site is easy to use without any technical expertise; if I did it, anyone can. You can check out my VisualCV.
Another bonus: Having a VisualCV shows prospective employers that you're up on the latest technology. Once you create your own, you have a link to share with every contact during your job search. It's also great for building freelance and consulting work. Other sites that provide a similar service aren't nearly as robust.
One caveat: Even though I posted my photo, I don't recommend that for a job seeker because it can lead (and, sadly, does) to discrimination — even subconsciously — before you even get your foot in the door. VisualCV makes it optional, so leave it out.
Some people are taking their message to the streets by buying highway billboards.
Pasha Stocking in Connecticut spent a few thousand dollars on one, along with a Web site, hirepasha.com. She was in search of an executive assistant or marketing position, but so far she's hearing mostly from people who want help with their own job search.
Things are looking positive for Mark Heuer of Milwaukee. He returned from Iraq last year after working for a defense contractor as a procurement specialist, and he had trouble finding a new job.
He created a Web site (mark4hire.com) and then marketed it via a billboard. He won't say what (if anything) he paid, except to tell me that he worked out a favorable deal with the billboard company.
It attracted local and national media coverage, which he says has led to a couple of very strong leads that he's now interviewing for.
A bona fide success: Mark Leuner, a 48 year-old out-of-work dad in South Carolina, held a $10 handmade sign at a busy intersection, but not just any intersection. He chose the one in front of his local newspaper.
Within an hour, a reporter had captured his story. It hit the wires, which triggered TV coverage, and two weeks later he says he had a new job.
Everyone who runs billboards or creates Web sites told me they get wacky marriage proposals, lots of commission-only jobs and responses that just didn't pan out.