"Good Morning America" sent me on what some would consider an impossible mission.
The target: Meet the Joseph Family from Texas: mom Shannon, who has an MBA degree and marketing experience; dad Butch, an IT professional; daughter, Jordan and son, Joshua.
Both parents were employed in New Orleans, but after Hurricane Katrina the family was forced to relocate to Texas where employment hasn't been easy to find.
The goal: Get Mom and Dad jobs. I worked with Shannon every day for three weeks until we achieved concrete results. She accepted a position in Enterprise Rent-a-Car's management training program.
Our boot camp regimen can be applied to anyone seeking employment. Print these 10 key steps for yourself or e-mail them today to a job-seeking friend.
Find a buddy. Shannon and I talked or e-mailed every day, multiple times a day. She knew I'd be expecting updates and status reports on the things I had her doing. Find someone to whom you'll feel accountable and ask that person to be your buddy or coach through the process. That sense of accountability to another person keeps you on track, especially if that person is really cheering for your success.
Determine what's not working. I had to figure out immediately what wasn't working for Shannon, especially since she had been trying for so long. Come up with three to five reasons you'd attribute to your lack of success and then play devil's advocate.
Force yourself to figure out why those theories are flawed and what you can do to fix them. For example, many people say cold calling doesn't work. Maybe several of their calls haven't been returned, but that's no reason to completely give up on that method of networking.
Establish a can-do attitude. What I liked best about Shannon was that she assured me she'd do anything and everything I suggested -- without excuses. Many times people ask for job advice, and I get a lot of "yes, but …" responses: "Oh I've tried that …" "Oh that doesn't work…" "Oh when I have time…"
With Shannon, what we established from day one was that there'd be no excuses, and she was willing to hustle. She promised to be positive, no pessimism.
Get a resume review. If you're sending out the same resume and getting no bites, that document might need some work. Get another opinion or two or five. Have the three smartest people you know and trust review your resume. Ask them to find three things they think you should change. Ask if it celebrates your successes or simply rehashes your previous experience. These resume templates may be of help to you.
Step away from the computer. Shannon spent every day for the past year searching and applying for jobs online. The result of all of that time and effort? Two phone interviews. That's terrible.
If you're doing something for three months, six months or a year with no results, that's a red flag that you've got to make a change. Online job searching is a great way to find out who's hiring. But once you apply, you can't sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You have to find an internal referral or make cold calls to figure out who the recruiter is. Work the phone instead of waiting for a call.
Revisit your goals to adjust for realistic expectations. If the job of your dreams isn't forthcoming, you might have to change your goals, especially if generating an income and getting back to work is a priority.
Shannon went from targeting that midlevel marketing role to saying that at age 40 what she wanted most was a stable environment where she'd be celebrated, not just tolerated, and where she could grow her career. So evaluate who's hiring and what's hot in your area, and go for that rather than your rigid and narrow vision of what you may think you want.
Practice interview skills. If you're not getting past the phone screen, maybe your interview skills aren't great. If the in-person interviews never result in call backs, you should ask for candid feedback about how you did and what you might be able to do better going forward. Don't be shy about asking for such comments after the fact. Practice commonly asked interview questions until you're confident about your responses.
Create lots of new connections. Get out of the house. Shannon was so isolated -- all day alone in front of a computer. And what's the first thing someone sees on her resume? A gap in employment. So that's not a resume that jumps out at them. It's one to pass over.
But what's impossible to pass over is her ebullient personality and the passion she exudes. Her smile is infectious, and we needed to market that by getting her in front of decision makers or people with access to decision makers.
For Shannon, that meant attending a career fair, joining a professional association, signing up for local networking events and talking to neighbors -- many of whom she had never really met. She needed to get more involved in her kids' schools to meet the parents. The answer to whom do you know is a lot more people than you think.
Keep a daily dairy. It's important to monitor your progress so you can revisit the seeds you've planted. When you make calls, send e-mails or apply online, you must set a time to follow up on those activities. If you see you've been trying the same people or same resources over and over with no results, that pattern will signal time for a change.
Celebrate the small victories. To maintain your momentum, you'll have to reward yourself along the way. Land a phone interview, an informational meeting or a solid lead. Buy yourself some flowers, treat yourself to a manicure or add some sprinkles to your ice-cream cone. The point is to do something small for yourself to keep your spirits up, even when the grueling job search tries to get you down.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at www.womenforhire.com..