Looking for work? Don't 'stand out'; stand tall with skills

Carla Ockerman-Hunter, a certified Master Career Counselor and president of Lexington career development company Career Span, answered a few questions last week that many job-seekers might have in mind.

1. With so many job-seekers around, what can a person do to stand out?

"Rather than expending energy trying to 'stand out,' a job-seeker must place emphasis on confidently 'standing tall' with a skill set. Intentionally being able to articulate your top five skills and how they match an organization's need can naturally differentiate you from the pack."

2. What is perhaps the most valuable component of a résumé or accomplishments to tout?

"Design, develop and direct a résumé toward achieving the employer's specific goals with your tangible results. The purpose of a résumé is to get an interview. It should never look like a dry history document. Rather it is a dynamic tool to entice the decision-maker to say, 'I want to meet the professional I've read about on paper in person.'."

3. How should job-seekers approach and communicate with potential employers, given that many businesses may be inundated with applications?

"Your best initial approach is from within the company. An inside "matchmaker" can facilitate the process in a way you can't. My husband experienced downsizing and one of his friends, who worked for a company that he targeted, took his résumé to a hiring manager. This paved the path to an interview, but my husband had to prove he was a match. It worked."

4. How valuable is a presence on social networking tools such as LinkedIn?

"I've seen a rise in clients getting leads and offers through LinkedIn because it is a tool reflecting professionalism in three ways: technological savvy, the ability to effectively communicate skills and demonstrating a diversity of relationships. A minimum of 25 contacts is essential to really take off."

6. What are some common mistakes that people make?

"1. Not investing time and energy in continuous learning. No one can 'coast.' It is imperative to be on the cutting edge of your professional development as an indispensable trailblazer rather than as a dispensable caboose (remember those?). Make learning a priority.

2. Not investing time in relationships that can support and connect you to opportunities.

3. Not investing sufficient time in the search. Typically, 30 hours of job search effort are required weekly for the average person to find employment. Expect one month for every $10K you want to make. This means four months for a $40K salary range. Those who do it faster are connected to a larger community of colleagues."

7. What are your other recommendations for those searching for jobs?

"Give time, talent and energy to community organizations you believe in. Serve on a board, be a mentor and expend resources looking beyond yourself. It is amazing what will happen."