New year, new career

Dec 11, 2009 at 1:46 p.m. ET

The United States unemployment rate came in at 10 percent in November 2009. And that was considered an improvement. Sure, today's economic state is less than desirable (to put it lightly), but that doesn't mean opportunities aren't out there for you if you want to find a new job. Whether you're a victim of the downturn looking for a break or a disgruntled employee seeking a fresh start, here's employment advice and job seeking tips to help you nail a new career.

Woman giving employment advice

Go offline

Kevin Kermes, founder of Build the Career You Deserve, a company devoted to helping people find the job they want, cautions you to avoid the job boards. "This is where most people start their job search, but it bears the least fruit," he says. "Less than 10 percent of jobs are secured through boards." Instead, Kermes advises his clients to step away from the keyboard and meet with people in person to network and establish a personal connection.

My Career
  1. Avoid the online job boards. That's where everyone searches, so it has the biggest pool of applicants. Go old school and search the newspaper ads.
  2. Pace yourself. Not every day will be a step forward – but as long as you continue to plow along, things will happen.
  3. Collect references. A good word is the secret to a good job when competition is fierce.
  4. Discover online networking. Cocktail parties and mixers are all fine and good, but online social networks are the latest breeding ground for connections.

One day at a time

One of the most important factors to a successful job search, according to Kermes, is your mindset. "How you view each day's events is extremely important," he says. He encourages job seekers to consider their takes on the bumps along the way. Do you view these situations as obstacles or opportunities? Staying positive in the wake of disappointment can mean the difference between success and breakdown.

A gold mine

"References are gold in this market," says Kermes. "Many companies are checking three to four references at the same time as a final step in the selection process. Make sure yours are prepared, and brief them on your key points -- why you are a fit for the job and what you have discussed thus far. References are an extension of your interview process."

Get social

While Kermes emphasizes one-on-one connections and networking, he still acknowledges the importance of social media in the hunt. "It is crucial to your job search. Not only is it a highly effective networking tool, but it can brand you quicker than any other free tool out there. If you haven't jumped in yet, get engaged today on LinkedIn or Twitter."

Sara Morgan, a corporate-wage slave (her words, not ours!) turned independent web developer, thinks establishing an online presence is one of the most vital things you can do when working on a new career. "Professionals today need to demonstrate that they have a firm understanding of the tools and technologies that are most important, and there is no denying the importance of the Internet."

But instead of diving head-first into the world of social media, Morgan recommends that you start slowly and spend time getting it right. "You are not going to be able to throw something up in a single night and then never look at it again," she says. "Set aside at least two weeks to spend on your web presence, and step away at times to get a fresh perspective."