The news on the job front is looking even gloomier as we brace ourselves for thousands of public sector job cuts. This coupled with the news the government are looking to cut public sector redundancy payments, it looks like a tough market is set to get tougher. With some experts warning we are on the brink of a double dip recession the fight for your next position is really on. With more candidates set to flood the market how can you ensure that you stand out in the candidate crowd? Standing out from the crowd means presenting yourself, as the best candidate. The most qualified candidate does not always secure the position; the one who gives the best perception often does. Approach your job search as you would any other project. Identify the objective of the project and then plan how you are going to achieve it. Set targets and objectives to ensure that you stay on track. Preparation is key to understanding which of your skills are the most marketable. Is your CV selling those skills effectively? Have you prepared stories to discuss in interview and networking situations? In most cases job hunters make do with a CV that does not sell them effectively, add it to job boards and await recruiter contacts. This happens successfully in less than 10% of cases; have you had the initial flurry of activity that then drifts into silence? If you were tackling a project that failed to produce results you would change direction or find an alternative way round. Many people fail to do this when it comes to their own job search strategy. If things are not working then try something different. Keep the strategy focussed on a clear objective – this reduces the amount of rejection you open yourself up to. Q, I have been trying to find a position for many months and I am now considering a change in direction. Is this possible in the current climate? There are 2 schools of thought to job searching in a recession- 1) you need to stay close to centre and in a related field as this is where you will have maximum impact in the shortest time. In these times employers want people that can reduce costs and drive profit. If this is your area of expertise then you need to highlight it. 2) Change direction- redundancy can often provide the chance to try something new but you have to be sure that you are retraining or making a transition in to a market that is sustainable in this climate. Q, I am a senior executive who has not been able to find a position at Director level should I start applying for lower level positions? The difficulty for people who have been at a senior level is that they are deemed too experienced for lower level positions. If you start applying for these types of roles then the employer will simply think you will leave as soon as an appropriate position comes along. I would suggest that you need to change your approach and network your way into an appropriate role. Talk to decision makers who can create an opportunity for you. Q, I am a graduate who then completed a Masters but I am now coming up against the work experience barrier, what can I do? There are 2 things you need to do, one is start planning how you are going to secure an income. This may not be your ideal role initially however it will allow you live whilst developing a strategy to progress your career in the longer term. You can also consider intern programmes to break into your chosen market. Career planning is important at every stage of your career, ensure you do not fall into a role and then stop thinking about your next move. Q, How do I know if my job search strategy is working? Consider how long you have been job searching and how many business networking meetings and interviews you have had in this time. Most people attend many interviews and meetings before they secure a position. Only a small % of people at a mid to senior level secure their position through an advertised or online vacancy. You need to proportion your time accordingly – ensure you are not spending all of your time in front of a computer – set up alerts and check these for a few minutes each day. Your online time is better spent looking at news and sourcing industry information. Q, I really hate the job I have but I am worried that this is not the time to start job seeking, should I wait until the market is better? People are still securing positions, people still retire, go on maternity leave, emigrate and for a host of other reasons create gaps in the job market that need filling. Effective job searching does not mean putting your CV on a job board, it is identifying companies that could utilise your skill set and networking your way in. This is a long term strategy and my advice is to always be thinking about where you want to go next. This does not always mean looking outside of your current company either, internal vacancies may occur.