This Highly Competitive Market Demands New Job Search Tactics

Creating and Communicating “Your Brand” is Key


We have become keenly aware of the recent phenomenon of unemployed college graduates, 20-34 year-olds, who are among several million others termed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as available but “not seeking work”. That total, when added to the 4+% counted as unemployed, take the national percentage up to nearly 15% of the universe. Some lacking-in-empathy types joke about the hopefully short term boomerang effect of their young coming back to the nest to search and “hang out”. But without an action plan to correct their situation, many of them seem content to hope for a miracle. It seems clear that college has not prepared all for the real world of employment competition and getting their first real job is a major hurdle they were not expecting.

What is not discussed broadly is that a similar and perhaps even more painful problem occurs with 40-65+ year olds, in unsuccessful search long after their severance and unemployment benefits have ended. Those are often “under-employed” and working well below their competency levels. Obviously, the war against unemployment is ongoing and under-reported at many levels of the U.S. workforce…today more than we have seen during the past two decades of assisting those in employment transition.

For those older unemployed who have served in business management roles, the problem takes on yet another title as reported by our government, one now termed unemployed and “discouraged workers”, a group which government estimates peg at just under 1 million. A “discouraged worker”, in our experience is one who has given up search and accepts “retirement” or a part time position often well below their proven capabilities or value. That individual joins the under-employed whose ranks continue to swell. The “under-employed/discouraged” are not fully included in the national unemployment statistics.

If the above does not grab our attention, we have now identified another distressing metric for the unemployed. We have seen a sharp increase in the numbers of new employment-searchers who are currently employed managers/directors/executives. This group has seen job market signals brightening and has decided the time is right to begin their search to upgrade and improve their current full time employment, exacerbating the employment problems for the rest of those in search.

The solution to this complex malaise is elusive; it requires extra effort, improved preparation, an enlightened job hunting strategy and a major shift in tactics. The old adage clearly applies…unwise to attack a tough problem using the same approach while expecting a different result. My goal here is to assist those in search with information we use in our practice that helps a serious career seeker gain perspective and get on track for a successful search outcome.

‘Some people looking for work just can’t find it. Other people aren’t really looking very hard...The longer you’re out of the labor force, your skills depreciate [and you’re] not particularly employable.’

Allen Sanderson ~ Economist, University of Chicago


This morning I received six resumes, each requesting career assistance, from experienced and capable people in search of job improvement. While a sample of six is not statistically significant, these six are representative of resumes and search stories we receive each day. They are summarized to let our clients know what other job-hunters are saying and why they are looking. Some of the answers we will suggest to address their situations are offered here as they may be helpful to readers of this post.


  • L.F. has been in search for 3 months, the first time ever after 20 years in the health care industry. He has served 5 different employers, delivering professional services as a Medical Doctor with an MBA but now chooses to move into a new level, a corporate top management role. His motivation is 10 on a scale of 10 and he feels he can command a $100k increase in compensation. While he has had no interviews, he feels he has no obstacles standing in his way.

  • A.O., a Senior IT Engineer, has been in search for 2 months with no interviews. Armed with an MBA and a 9 out of 10 in motivation level, his goal is to leave field work and enter corporate management ranks. He has identified lack of management experience as being a problem but feels he can still command a $50k increase in compensation.

  • D.M. a V.P of brokerage operations just started in search, also armed with an MBA and looking to increase income package by $50k. His search motivation is 6 out of 10 and his specific wish is to improve his two hour each way commute. He has not been in search for the past 10 years and has changed jobs one time in his 20 year career and feels he is undervalued where he is now.


  • M.S. was a VP in logistics/supply chain/distribution management whose firm restructured 2 months ago. He has not been in search for 30 years although his network has helped him locate a number of new work opportunities over the years. Since starting his search, he has been in several interviews and not made it to a second level so far. Now, despite his advanced degree and a 9 out of 10 on the motivation scale, he feels age may work against him and he expects a $multiple k reduction in his compensation.

  • E.L. expects to get re-employed with a $5000 increase but lacks a college education and has worked his way to executive levels within the hospitality industry. He has returned from 4 years in international locations with excellent progression in his general management roles; but, he declares he requires a better fit between work demands and family life and explicitly identifies a health concern as his reason for returning to the U.S.

  • G.F just began his search a week ago after starting a services firm as CEO, with marginal success. His motivation is high but feels that his background as IT professional and then entrepreneur may indicate he is overly diversified and lacks career focus. He expects no salary increase as he looks to return to corporate work.


The common needs shared by these six individuals are more closely aligned than may be apparent. Each is not served well by the linear/chronological/functional resume that may appear inconsistent with the employment goal and rejected even before an interview can take place. The three employed have higher expectations than those unemployed, but each candidate must establish the rationale for commanding a prospective employer’s attention. They must believe and communicate their rational for being considered a preferred candidate, worthy of being interviewed. They must support their candidacies with documented career successes, problem solving achievements, valuable accomplishments to increase the probability of overcoming the obstacles and winning the battle for employer attention. The word-resume declarations must not leave the reader begging for more detail regarding value the candidate can offer and the rationale for a meeting. And that is why we insist upon creating the WebFolio that introduces searchers by way of their unique brand equity documented in their career success stories.