Maybe what you're looking for has been right in front of you all along.
You may have noticed that the job landscape today is very different than the one we were looking at just five years ago. And although there is a lot of talk about jobs returning, the job search market is likely to remain daunting for many people.
More and more, companies and individuals are shifting away from full-time salaried jobs to hiring freelance or contract workers. Individuals have to adapt to this ongoing trend.
Let’s face it:
Making a living today is just not how it used to be. Landing a full-time job takes more time and effort, and there is no guarantee that there will be a job with your name on it. So we had better start figuring out how to make a living!
Freelancing is no longer reserved for writers or graphic designers. In a world where every job is temporary, micro-jobs may be the new norm for people in many fields. Whether you are an accountant or a teacher, every professional can create their own opportunity.
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Navigating this new environment is very challenging and intimidating for those of us who are used to the old way of doing things. However, there are 10 simple steps you can take to reboot your career for the new era:
1. Know what you are good at or what you want to do
The foundation of career success is knowing what you are good at and what you want to do. Without a specific target, your ability to successfully articulate what you are looking for is diminished.
What to do: Conduct a thorough self-assessment, ideally with the help of a career counselor or even a friend (family members are not very objective when it comes to helping you with this).
If you have a particular skill or interest that stands out from the rest, this is the place to start. One mom I know had spent so much time learning how to deal with her son’s severe allergies that she is now working on developing a small business helping other parents understand allergies after becoming a certified coach. Children with severe life threatening allergies are becoming more and more common.
2. Look around you and see what people need
Start with people in your community.
Conduct a survey of your family and friends via Facebook to see where there might be a need. Surveymonkey.com provides a free service for their basic offerings- all you need. If your community has a Yahoo group or something similar, put your questions out there. If you recognize the need, offer your services to a school, church or synagogue auctions.
That is a great way to test the waters, while also getting word out to a large group of people about your services. And if you do a decent job, the least you’ll come away with is a testimonial. The most, a new ongoing client and referral source.
3. Find the right job boards for you
Today, there are an enormous number of websites that are seeking people to complete projects of every size and dollar amount. On a site like Elance.com, you can bid for projects ranging from $100 to create a custom itinerary (which is what one creative professional did out of her passion for exotic travel) to $10,000 for website design.
According to their website, Freelancer.com helps professionals in “software, writing, data entry and design right through to engineering and the sciences, sales and marketing, and accounting and legal services.” As the captain of your career, your job is to establish a broad and diverse pipeline of work.
Don’t get turned off by the initial low rates. While you may not get paid the rate you want (or need) for your first assignment, clients are getting to know your work and will pay you more the second time around. It’s an investment in future work. You are building your portfolio of work, and you are building up your confidence to ask for more money the next time you prospect a consulting opportunity. You’re also gaining potential testimonials and referrals for more work down the line.
Where to go: TaskRabbit.com, Elance.com, Fiverr.com, 99designs.com, 3to30.com, Care.com, Freelancer.com, Solvate.com, icrunchdata.com, sologig.com, Flexibleresources.com, and other freelance marketplaces
4. Give yourself a real title
Just because you are not “employed” in the traditional sense doesn’t mean your new title is “unemployed.”
Whether you want to call yourself a freelancer or a consultant or an imagination engineer, the bottom line is that you don’t need an old-school job to give yourself a professional identity. You have a wide range of skills, and it’s up to you to determine by what skill set (or sets) you want to be known. Whether your have developed your skills through education or just good old experience, if you give yourself a title and believe in what you do, people will believe in you.
5. Find out what others are willing to pay for your skills
Shop around and find out what others are charging for their expertise.
People who work for themselves are often more candid about what they charge than employed professionals making a salary. Use freelance sites as a starting point, or check with the freelance association for your industry. Remember, you may charge a lower rate to get your business going, but as you get your name out there and your confidence and freelance experience grows, you will gradually be able to increase your rate.
6. Become social media savvy
Social media is the launch pad to establishing your visibility and credibility.
No matter where you are in your career today, everyone needs to jump on this bandwagon. Successful job search strategy relies more on self-promotion than on a passive search approach. Whether it’s The Gap or Coach, every product and business needs to market itself; the same goes for us as individuals. Establish our own personal brand and market it, boldly.
Where to go: The most popular contenders are Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, WordPress.
7. Cultivate new skills
No matter what field you are in, expanding your skill set can only enhance your services and ability to increase your income. Do the research first. Study job descriptions for your ideal job, and see what are the skill sets that you don’t possess yet. Social media may be one of those skills, or maybe it’s HTML. Identify which services are in demand on the various freelancing sites mentioned above. Retooling and keeping up with technological advances is critical if you want to be of value in the marketplace.
8. Learn the art of shameless self-promotion
When you are looking for a job, many people ask their friends to see if there are positions at their companies. While this is great, and I highly encourage you to reach out to everyone you know, it is also somewhat limiting in the case that there are no jobs available immediately.
After you have put the word out there about looking for a traditional job, you can then follow up and let everyone you know that while you are looking for full-time opportunities, you are also setting up shop as a consultant and you are available to provide XYZ services. Use good ol’ email, Facebook, and LinkedIn to market your services, initially, to your family and friends. Add in the websites mentioned earlier and you will soon start to cultivate a clientele.
9. Create your own business card
You don’t have to be “employed” by a company to have a business card. You are the business, and you should get in the mood to market yourself! Figure out your value proposition: what are the key skills you offer? Voila! You have the content for creating your own business card.
Don’t forget to create a strong LinkedIn profile and add that to your card. I recommend that you create a business profile on LinkedIn too, but you need to have a business URL for that. Trade in your Gmail account for an inexpensive domain name (www.YourName.com) at sites like namecheap.com. If you have set up a business page on Facebook (free), add that too, in addition to any other social media links that people can use to learn about you and your work.
10. Build your confidence with a group
At the core of a successful job search, whether it’s for traditional employment or for contract freelance work, is a confident and thoughtful person. No doubt, marketing yourself can result in lots of rejection, but what is a job search, after all?
This approach of marketing yourself does indeed require a thick skin, but, hey, what have you got to lose?
Find a group of cheerleaders who can support you when you’re feeling down. Better yet, create your own support group to get your new consulting or freelancing business off the ground. This is called a “Business Mastermind” group, and it’s the brainchild of Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich.
Not only are there a lot of people in the same place as you who could benefit from mutual support, but by pulling together you will gain ideas and a network of a small group of people as well as a group to be accountable to. The group can help you stay focused and confident as you work toward your goal.
They say “luck favors the prepared,” so give some of these steps a try and prepare yourself to be hired. You just never know who might need your skills. But if they don’t know you exist, they can’t hire you.
About the Author
Donna Sweidan, founder of Careerfolk, offers a unique blend of psychological counseling and concrete coaching that takes her clients on a journey from soul search to social media. She is passionate about helping people find their path, and navigate tough career transitions. Donna is an advocate for teaching the new rules for career management and how to create income security in the new economy. She speaks and trains on topics such as career change, how to become your own boss, and social media for job search and career management. Join her on Facebook.com/careerfolk and twitter.com/careerfolk.
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