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.
A group of job seekers started the New England Job Show on public access television. While not too many people are watching, the buzz around the initiative is helping the participants get noticed.
In Tulsa, Okla., Neighborhood Newspapers, which publishes 12 local papers, has offered free ads to job seekers for as long as it takes to get hired. The program is just two weeks old, but already it has about 100 postings and is making plans to expand to other markets.
Dave Wilson, 59-year-old who has worked in building materials, bought radio time in Las Vegas. His 60-second resume ad has generated supportive e-mails and at least one interview.
The station manager at KXNT in Las Vegas told me job seekers should be creative and reach out to local radio and newspapers, since such outlets are part of the fabric of their communities.
Take a chance and contact yours to see if you can start a mini movement. Stress that you're an individual — not a corporate giant with deep pockets — and you may get a break or even a free ad.
While billboards and media buys get an A for effort, they have near-failing rates for results. These are optional ways to re-energize your search and get you out there hustling, but don't count on gimmicks to generate a solid job offer.
Beverly Shepherd of Virginia lost her job as a marketing manager at a local newspaper in January. She's since offered a cash reward for anyone who introduces her to her next employer: $800 for a salary of $80,000, up to a hefty $6,000 for a position paying $120,000.
She's gotten no results yet, but she's hopeful.
Atlanta's Michael Checkoway offered a minimum prize of $2,000 cash to the person who introduced him to his next boss — and he got quite a bit of local media coverage that resulted in 300 e-mails.
Most people, he said, didn't get it. They'd write, "Hey check out the government jobs on this Web site" -- not exactly the specificity he expected.
Eventually, when he realized this wasn't going to pan out, he got a job on his own and didn't have to spend a penny.
My concern with a finder's fee is that you may stop hustling on your own if you assume someone else is doing the legwork. Just because you dangle a carrot doesn't mean people will hop into action for you. Only you can get yourself hired. And if you're going to offer a reward, it doesn't have to break the bank. Buy coffee for great lead and spring for dinner if you get the job.
Finally, keep a job journal. The power of the pen is the best way to keep track of your daily progress, as well as all of your leads. It also allows you to reflect on all that you're doing. Find one small thing to celebrate every day; it's lots of teeny victories that will lead to the big one.