Experts weigh in with what you need to do to stand out in today's tough job market.Are you experienced in your field, but also unemployed? Have you been trying to get back into your profession for a while with no luck? You need a competitive edge - and you need one fast.
After all, the world is changing faster than ever before, and it's important to keep up, says Phil Dunn, president of Synapse Services, a Web technologies and marketing company. Dunn and other experts we spoke to in fields ranging from education to computer software to finance say that no matter what field you're in - or trying to get back into - you need to use today's tools to attract clients or employers.
"You need to have a LinkedIn account with some sort of history and lots of your professional experience in there," says Dunn. "Bonus points for sharing articles, videos, [and other examples] that demonstrate how you're keeping on top of your industry's trends."
In addition, the experts say staying up-to-date on certificates, degrees, computer program languages, and other skills in your field is as important as experience. So if you're out of the workforce and want to know what you can do to improve your chances of getting back in it, read on for specific advice from experts in various fields.
MarketingGot work? If not, but you're ready to climb back into the marketing saddle, there are a few things you can do to give yourself an edge.
Marketing pros are the whiz kids who use everything from conventional media to social media campaigns to promote products and services. And according to Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, marketing has never been more valuable to business. So how do you stand out? Funny you should ask...
How to Stand Out: "It's now imperative that you have some sort of experience with a variety of tools that may or may not be outside your comfort zone," says Dunn. He lists Photoshop or Pixlr (for those who don't want to spend the money), InDesign, Illustrator, MailChimp, or Constant Contact, WordPress and/or Squarespace.
"And in general, you need to be able to manage social media pages and profiles," he says. "This could mean mastering something as low-budget as Hootsuite or going further up the chain into the more sophisticated tools from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Eloqua, Marketo, and the like," he says.
Potential Career to Go After: Marketing Manager. These are the masterminds who oversee advertising campaigns to help companies gain new and loyal customers as well as generate interest in a product or service, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.
If you have a background in marketing, but would like to pursue a job as a marketing manager, you'll want to make sure you have a bachelor's degree. The Department of Labor says most marketing managers have one and helpful coursework includes business law, management, economics, mathematics, and statistics.
FinanceThe financial crash and recent recession was tough on financial portfolios, so if you were in the business of financial advising, there's a chance you lost clients, or your job.
Getting back in the game as the economy recovers "requires a mixture of credentials, experience, marketing, and people skills," says Connie Yan, a marketing associate with Symmetry Partners, LLC, an investment advisory firm registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. And that's just a start...
How to Stand Out: "There's little doubt that the financial advisory field is a competitive industry, so any way that you can differentiate yourself from the competition is a plus," says Yan. "Obtaining an educational designation such as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is an excellent way to separate yourself from the pack."
Jeff Rose, CFP, CEO and founder of Alliance Wealth Management, LLC, says some personal marketing and promotion skills are also key. "My big takeaway is that struggling advisors need to learn how to leverage social media to generate a constant stream of referrals, as well as build greater trust amongst existing clients," he says. It should be noted that several experts gave this same advice. In financial parlance, that's a strong "buy it."
Potential Career to Go After: Personal Financial Advisor. Want to help individuals or organizations make sound investments, whether it's about stocks or bonds? That, along with giving other crucial financial advice, is what financial advisors do, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.
If you're not yet a personal financial advisor, but would like to pursue the career, the Department of Labor says these professionals typically need a bachelor's degree. The Department also adds this: "Although employers usually do not require a specific field of study for personal financial advisors, a degree in finance, economics, accounting, business, mathematics, or law is good preparation for this occupation."
Software and TechnologyWhen looking for prospective new hires, many software company executives feel that degrees and certificates merely get applicants in the "consider" category. Why? Technology professionals need to demonstrate competence in more ways than one.
"Experienced and unemployed software engineers generally need to acquire and demonstrate that they have new technical skills. Hiring managers need to see the work product," says Lorin Davie, a former hiring manager for software developers and founder of software firm Axilent. And how do you do that?
How to Stand Out: "While you're unemployed, take the time to write a new iPhone app, or to build a new Web service. It doesn't matter if you don't sell a single copy, it's the experience you'll gain from the venture. Savvy employers will see that you've been keeping your skills sharp and couldn't care less that you did or didn't do that for another employer," says Brian Geisel of Geisel Software, a Web and mobile app development company.
Open source projects are great calling cards as well, say many employers. "Go where the A Player software developers go: Attend your local city's User Groups, join online groups such as Github, contribute, and be active on Stackoverflow. Create some sample code work that you can share with potential employers that shows off your coding abilities," says Kelly Geary, a recruiter for Headspring, a leading custom software, systems integration, and mobile app development company.
Potential Career to Go After: Software Developer. Software developers create new computer applications or the underlying systems that run computer networks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.
If you're interested in this career, but not sure you have the educational qualifications, you should know that according to the Department of Labor, software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related subject, although a degree in math is also accepted.
EducationMentoring the next generation is a noble profession, but if you're finding it tough to land a teaching position, there are certain specific things you can do to up your chances, experts say.
A big one is to accept the fact that you may need to commute long distances or even move, says Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and writer of About.com's Guide to Human Resources. "Teaching is one job that is very regional, so teachers may need to look far outside their local schools for jobs," she says. But that's not all...
How to Stand Out: Specificity is vital to standing out in this field, says Tracy Brisson, author of "Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter: How to Create an Extraordinary Resume and Hook Your Dream Job." "Customize your resume to highlight your specific accomplishments," she says. "I toss all resumes that just indicate the teacher participated in student teaching without any details like how many students, grade, or specific projects."
In addition, strategic certificates could give you an advantage. "Get a certificate or degree or experience in teaching English as a Foreign Language, as ESL students are pretty much the norm in all schools today," says Christy Grimste, director of international teacher recruitment at Educators Overseas, a teacher placement company for schools around the world.
"A TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) can be earned online by native English speakers," says Grimste. Staying active with children is also key: Volunteering at a local school or children's club tells employers you love what you do, she says.
Potential Career to Go After: Elementary School Teacher. Do you see yourself guiding young students in their discovery of abstract concepts? How about planning classroom activities and using a variety of learning tools and approaches? That's what elementary school teachers do, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Education Program.
Elementary and kindergarten school teachers must have a bachelor's degree in education and be licensed if they want to teach in public schools, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Other requirements vary by state, some of which might require a bachelor's degree in the specific subject to be taught, such as math or science.
Public RelationsEver heard the saying "Perception is reality"? Well, those in the public relations field are often the ones creating that perceived reality. Public relations (PR) people work on advertising campaigns, and are a company's liaison to the press, helping their employers put forth the image and branding that garners more customers, says Dunn.
But Dunn also says that thanks to technology, the reality for PR has changed considerably over the past decade. So if you want to jump back into this world, you might need a reality check...
How to Stand Out: "PR is now about blogging, videos, audio, and social media. Basically, high-quality content production and blasting social media channels. The days of blasting press releases are over, and even the big players in press releases - PR Newswire, Business Wire, etc. - have adapted accordingly," he says. "Other good tools for them are surveying solutions like Survey Monkey."
Another key to success is the personal connection, he says. "Good PR can start with a back and forth conversation on a topic or some good data to move on," says Dunn. So if you're out of work, keep up on all of your connections, because that's good PR for you, he says.
Potential Career to Go After: Public Relations Specialist. These PR pros help companies and individuals maintain a favorable public image by doing everything from creating material for media releases to raising funds, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.
According to the Department of Labor, public relations specialists usually need a bachelor's degree. Employers typically want candidates who have studied public relations, communications, journalism, English, or business.