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Job hunt: More Americans hit the trail

Networking technology changes, but many tactics remain the same.

By Marilyn GardnerStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 29, 2008

HUNGRY FOR WORK: Mid-career employees were among those lining up at a job fair in Boston last week. Those not recently in the job market find some rules have changed.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor


June 8, 2007, is a date indelibly fixed in Gary Walters's memory. That's the Friday his boss at Nokia called to inform him that his job had been eliminated.

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"He told me that by the end of the day, my access to e-mail and the company network would be terminated," says Mr. Walters, who spent 10 years as a marketing manager with the firm, most recently in White Plains, N.Y.

It is a scenario repeated often these days. So far this year, 668,000 Americans have lost their jobs – with more layoffs to come in the wake of this month's turmoil on Wall Street. The unemployment rate has risen to 6.1 percent, although those with bachelor's degrees account for just 2.7 percent of the unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many fields have openings, workplace specialists say. Among them: biotechnology, healthcare, higher education, energy, engineering, green technology, and commercial construction.

"There is hiring going on," says Kip Hollister, CEO of Hollister Inc., a staffing company in Boston. "Technology is very busy." A survey from Hyrian, a recruitment provider, shows that 40 percent of job candidates receive two or more offers during their current search despite the ailing economy.

But for those who have not been in the employment market for five to 10 years, the landscape has changed dramatically. "The skills of looking for a job are different," Walters says. "I remember being much younger and driving around filling out applications all day. Now I'm doing it electronically. I would love to have a nickel for every e-mail I've sent out in the past year with a résumé attached."

Résumés have changed as well. "A résumé has to follow a particular format so it's scannable by a computer," Walters says. "If the combination of words they're looking for doesn't show up, it won't get read."

Walters has also learned the importance of keeping in touch with friends, alumni associations, and business acquaintances while cultivating new contacts. The mantra for job-seekers is network, network, network.

"There is an 85 percent probability that your next job will come from someone you know," says Scott Kane, cofounder of Gray Hair Management in Chicago. "Only 7 percent of job placements come from postings and another 7 percent from recruiters."

LinkedIn, a networking site for professionals, has become a popular tool. "LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy for people to reach out to their networks and explain what kind of job they are looking for, where, and why," says Leila Bulling Towne, an executive coach in San Francisco. "Once someone in your network gets an e-mail that you are looking for a project-management position, he is already primed to think about his contacts and can easily forward your message."