With all the bleak economic news and reports of massive layoffs, it's easy to lose sight of an exciting fact of work: There have never been more opportunities and possibilities for talented people than exist today. The rate of new business formation in the United States has passed more than 1 million new companies per year. Employers everywhere are looking for bright, resourceful and committed people to help their businesses grow. The best way to help the best companies find you is to become a self-directed job searcher.
Regardless of your employment experience, your target industry or the economic climate, you can get a job -- a great job -- if you are willing to work hard and know how to work smart. Here are some of the very best ideas, strategies and methods for putting your career back on the fast track.
1. Take control of your career
The average person starting work today will have 11 full-time jobs and as many as five different careers over the course of his or her lifetime. To weather the storms of lifelong career change, you must be proactive, not reactive.
Begin by seeing yourself as self-employed. See yourself as the president of a company with one employee: you. See yourself as having one product to sell in a competitive marketplace: your personal services. You are completely responsible for research and development. No matter who signs your paycheck, you are always on your own payroll. This attitude is the starting point for getting the job you want for the rest of your career.
2. Take stock of yourself
Before you go out and look for a job, do some self-reflection. Make a list of all the things you can do for which someone would be willing to pay. What have you done especially well at your previous jobs? What sort of activities in your work and your personal life do you most enjoy? The good news is that you will always do the very best at something that makes you the happiest. To help yourself follow the right career track, describe your ideal job. The greater clarity you have about exactly what it is you want to do and how much you want to earn, the easier it is for someone to hire you.
3. Understand the job market
All labor, including your own, is subject to the economic law of supply and demand. The only way to ensure you get a rewarding job is by doing something important for which there is a demand in the marketplace and in which you are difficult to replace. A change in technology, consumer preferences or the economy can make a particular talent or specialty obsolete almost overnight. You must continually upgrade your knowledge and skills and adjust your efforts so that they conform to the needs of the current job market. In a free society such as ours, everybody works on commission.
4. Don't mistake unemployment for a vacation
Look at your job search as a full-time job, taking 40 to 50 hours a week. Get up and get dressed each weekday morning as if you were going to work, eat a light, high-energy breakfast and then get going. Looking good and staying productive not only improves your attitude, but also impresses other people, both those inside your own house and those on the outside. Remember, you should never see yourself as unemployed. You are a fully employed person in a temporary state of transition.
5. Sow seeds everywhere
Most of the jobs available are not advertised. They are hidden and waiting for you to discover them. Along with regularly surfing Internet job sites, be sure to list your qualifications and interests on every site that might attract employers seeking someone like you. Visit community job fairs and talk to exhibitors. Keep an eye out for news of new product releases and then seek out key people in the company. A business expansion represents job opportunities. Gather information about a prominent individual in an organization you would like to work for. Ask that person, by phone, by e-mail or in a letter, to grant you a 10-minute informational interview. Almost invariably, your interest, knowledge and gratitude will pay off in a job offer.
Adapted from "Reinvention: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life" by Brian Tracy (AMACOM Books).
Brian Tracy is an internationally recognized leader in the art and science of motivation and empowerment. As a personal and professional development consultant and speaker, he works with Fortune 500 companies and addresses more than 250,000 people a year. He is the bestselling author of numerous books, including "Reinvention: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life."