How To Get A Great Job Right Now In Today's Awful Economy

michele joel

The job market is still awful.

Nearly one in 10 Americans is unemployed and even more are “under-employed.”  Job listings are at startling lows relative to the size of the workforce.

And, as one job hunter on our site painfully described, finding a job is as difficult as it is humbling.

But there are still jobs to get — the trick is finding out about them and then landing one.

How do you do that?

Here, we bring you profiles of 10 people who recently landed killer jobs despite the odds–and, more importantly, how they did it.

From cold introductions via LinkedIn to prolific networking to online resume posting to relentless follow-ups, here are the specifics on how 10 real people found work in today’s awful economy.

Jason Krebs: Be highly visible in your industry, so your reputation extends far beyond your current (or last) job

Current job: EVP, ScanScout (video advertising), New York City

Old job: Co-founder, president sales & marketing, ShortTail Media (online brand advertising technology), New York City

Time looking: 2 months; started new role February 1

How it happened: Krebs, 38, says his position wasn't required as ShortTail transitioned from a media focus to a technology function. 'My partner and I decided that I should leave as an operator while remaining on the board.'

Just before leaving ShortTail, ScanScout CEO Bill Day called Krebs about a job; he started the day after leaving ShortTail. Krebs says Day had probably heard about his role change from a common investor, General Catalyst.

What worked: 'An edge was certainly that I have a familiarity with the people in the company, the board and the market. I've known some of them for 10 years,' says Krebs, who had already had visibility from writing a MediaPost column, being on panels, getting quoted in industry articles, and more. That, says Krebs, 'allowed there to be a 'public record' of my points of view which would allow for a more informed decision on my capabilities.'

Krebs says the interview was also key: 'The manner in which I described what I've done in the past, combined with my vision of what needs to happen next in the industry and how their organisation can benefit, gave them a level of comfort that I can help the company achieve its goals.'

John Collier: Network like mad, especially with industry investors who know what is going on at dozens of companies

Current job: VP Business Development, Zoomino (online content augmentation engine), New York City

Old job: Co-founder & CEO, FreshNotes (web recommendation engine start-up), New Haven, Connecticut

Time looking: 4 months; started new role October 27

How it happened: Collier, 30, was helping run software start-up FreshNotes in 2009 when funding was cut. After a month of winding-down operations, he began to look for new opportunities in late May.

In June and July, Collier spoke with a number of companies about potential positions, but having 'no compelling offers yet in hand,' he took a consulting project with a private equity firm in Southfield, Michigan.

Before leaving for Michigan, Collier had met with a venture capital firm after an introduction from his first boss out of college, who had remained a mentor. That friend knew one of the partners at the venture capital firm because their daughters were in the same pre-school. 'The VCs were familiar with Zoomino and thought that we might be a good match,' he says. 'Meeting with a venture capital firm is a really great way to get linked to interesting tech companies that may be a bit below the radar.'

The introduction to Zoomino's CEO was made by one of the VC partners, who knew Zoomino was looking for someone to run U.S. business development.

In the end, Collier had three compelling but very different options, including a large tech company and an investment firm. He decided to join Zoomino because he was 'just too excited about the product and team to pass it up.'

What worked: For Zoomino, Collier says he increased his chances by bringing in a deal for the company during preliminary discussions about his potential role. 'For the company, it provided a chance to observe my business development process and see results,' he says. 'For me, the real customer validation of Zoomino's value proposition as perceived during the sales process and measured after implementation was invaluable.'

For finding positions in general, Collier, a Harvard MBA, says his alumni networks were key. 'While I never received any responses from the general job boards, I had solid results with the alumni job board from my graduate school.'

Collier also had success finding jobs on search engines like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com and then applying directly through the respective company websites.

Finally, Collier brushed up on his interview skills. 'I noticed that it took me a little while to become good at interviewing again. I began with a couple of weak interviews and needed to review some guides and have a little practice to get back up to speed,' he says. 'Even through I was at a more advanced stage of my career, I found it was helpful to not rely upon experience and prep with the same vigor that I did for jobs out of college.'

Michele Joel: Post your resume everywhere online, get interviews, and then follow up relentlessly

Current job: Associate Managing Director, TheInfoPro (IT advisory and research firm), New York City

Old job: Senior Product Manager, Revolution Money, St. Petersburg, Florida

Time looking: 1 year; started new role November 2

How it happened: Joel, 32, was relocated to New York City in June 2008 by Revolution Money, but they cut the staff in half a week before her move. Joel used her part-time business consultancy, GoldBug Group, to make ends meet while she hunted for jobs in her new city.

Joel, a University of Tampa MBA, posted her resume on Ladders.com, Monster, CareerBuilder. She also subscribed to LinkedIn to network, cold call and introduce herself. She'd often set up informal, informational meetings over coffee, for which she paid.

Posted on several boards, her resume posted caught the eye of a recruiter for the TheInfoPro position. Joel interviewed in March and was hired in November. 'I thought I would really excel and offered a lot of great insight, so I kept pursuing and following up,' says Joel. 'I worked on various consulting projects in the interim until I heard a final word back.'

What worked: Joel says working on prior consulting projects gave her the edge she needed. 'When I started GoldBug Group, five years ago, I decided to do a few pro-bono accounts to gain experience,' she says. 'Those accounts, while 'free' I dedicated 120% of my energy to starting a foundation for my consulting practice, since their recommendation and future word-of-mouth was more valuable than any short-term profit.'

Yasmine Parrish: Take an internship to get your foot in the door

Caitlin Coburn: Talk to anyone who will listen, even in the 3AM bathroom line at the bar

Current job: Connections Associate at MediaVest (marketing/brand building), New York City

Old job: Syracuse University communications undergrad, Syracuse, New York

Time looking: 6 months; started new role in January 2009

How it happened: Fresh out of college, Coburn, 24, made ends meet by working in a restaurant in Manhattan and 'pretty much talked to anyone who would listen' to make advertising contacts.

Nowhere was off limits: 'Three AM bathroom line at the bar? Got two interviews that way.' She also emailed Syracuse alums from the school's alumni database; chatted up friends of friends; and took 'every interview I could get my hands on.'

Finally, a complex web got Coburn a job. She was referred to MediaVest through -- get ready for it -- a friend of her college roommate's current roommate.

What worked: 'Once I had my interviews I think I made it pretty apparent that I had spent enough time 'finding myself' after college and was really ready to work hard,' says Coburn. 'And I'm sure my experience with media/advertising in school and internships helped out too.'

Larry Allen: Think of great product ideas and pitch them to industry friends

Bridget Williams: Make a list of all the companies you might want to work at and everyone you know who can make an introduction

Current job: VP, Business Development, The Business Insider, New York City

Old job: VP Publisher Sales, ShortTail Media (brand advertising online), New York City

Time looking: 1 month; started new role January 4

How it happened: Williams, 40, was laid off when the New York office of ShortTail was closed in December. To begin the job hunt, she made a list of the companies she wanted to work for and figured out who she knew at each through her network of contacts. Williams also took two consulting jobs to keep money coming in and to avoid a rushed decision on her next role.

One of the companies on the list was Business Insider, which she knew because the site was a client of ShortTail. Williams also knew that Jason Krebs, President of ShortTail, was friendly with Julie Hansen, COO of Business Insider. So, Krebs made email introduction to Hansen, and Williams landed and interview. Lucky for us, she was hired.

What worked: Williams didn't waste any time upon learning she would be let go. Using her network, she had 25 in-person meetings or phone calls in first week of her search. That was helped by her former boss, the President of ShortTail, who volunteered to make introductions for her. Williams also says she was clear about what she wanted, which meant saying no to some suggestions.

Jabari Smith: Be flexible. Apply for a much wider range of jobs than you think you might want

Current job: Program Coordinator, iMentor (mentoring non-profit), New York City

Old job: Assistant Language Teacher and Internationalization Ambassador, Japanese Exchange & Teaching (JET) Programme, Japan

Time looking: 11 months; started new role December 7

How it happened: Smith, 24, decided not to re-contract for a 3rd year in Japan and moved back to his native New Orleans to look for work. Over the summer, he noticed that a classmate at Howard University changed her LinkedIn profile to iMentor, putting the company on his radar. Smith and the friend were reunited in October 2009 at homecoming, where he asked more about the non-profit. There happened to be an opening, and he submitted his resume and cover letter soon thereafter. Smith had an offer in November after flying to New York for an interview.

What worked: Smith says his 'diverse background of organizational, leadership, and international classroom and exchange experience gave me an edge over other candidates for the job.'

The 11 month job-search was a humbling process, says Smith, but the key is flexibility. 'My advice to others seeking employment would be to expand and strengthen your personal brand by applying to a wider range of jobs that appeal to your personal interests.'

Alec Pollak: Figure out which companies are hiring and then reach out to everyone you know at the companies

Current job: VP, Creative Director at The Third Act, Digitas (brand content platform), New York City

Old job: Chief Creative Officer, For Your Imagination (video production and promotion), New York City

Time looking: 3 months; started new role January 15

How it happened: Pollak, 38, says he and his boss mutually decided for him to leave because For Your Imagination was changing by 'adapting to the market' and was 'no longer making best use of my skills.'

Pollak had heard about Digitas while still at FYI when the two companies met to talk partnerships. When he started looking for work, he noticed several ads online for openings at Digitas while scanning online job boards, mostly Monster.com and company specific sites, including Digitas. From there, Pollak emailed his old contact and mentioned the online listings; she eventually told him about a possible job in her department.

What worked: Pollak says he knew just what he wanted to tell Digitas. For his interview, he talked about the 'industry and about her needs and generally about what I was looking to do and where I'd come from.' He adds: 'I was able to paraphrase my resume and tell a few anecdotes about my career that demonstrated my experience.'

Next, Pollak had a 'great' conversation with the head of the department. 'It became obvious that The Third Act is excited to employ people with diverse skills,' he says. 'As my background included just that kind of mix, I was soon offered the opportunity to come join their team.'

Lana Gersten: Put those creative dreams on hold and join an industry that's actually hiring

Current job: Senior Associate, Group Gordon Strategic Communications (PR firm), New York City

Old job: Freelance journalist, New York City and Chicago

Time looking: About 6 months; started new role November 2

How it happened: Gersten, 26, was a freelance journalist for almost a year after graduating from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism in May 2008. She worked mostly for the Jewish Daily Forward in New York as a contributing writer and later for a tech news site in Chicago, but wanted a full time job and a steady pay check, which freelancing didn't offer.

A long networking chain got Gersten her job. She received an email from her brother-in-law, who received an email from his boss (who worked with Group Gordon on a PR campaign), who received an email from Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon, about a job opening in PR.

'It was a very round-about way,' says Gersten, 'but I used the small connection, put the reference in the first sentence of my cover letter and ended up getting a call the following day to schedule an interview.'

What worked: Gersten says her journalism degree gave an edge because she could offer the PR firm something that they valued -- 'good writing skills, knowledge of the media landscape and the ability to effectively communicate with journalists.'

She adds 'I was also persistent, kept in touch and followed up for months after my initial interview.'

Summary: How to find a job

Tools and techniques the group used to find open positions:

  • Talk to old bosses
  • Search your old school's job boards
  • Use LinkedIn, TheLadders.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com; then apply directly through company websites
  • Pitch new business ideas to contact
  • Watch career-related profile changes on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
  • Make a list of dream companies and figure out connections at each
  • Tell friends to forward job emails they get -- but be specific about what you want
  • Talk to venture capitalist and other industry experts
  • Talk to anyone who will listen, anytime

Summary: How to actually GET the job

Techniques the group used to land a specific position:

  • Build a reputation within the industry that is larger than any one employer
  • Look sharp (duh--you're selling)
  • Bring a killer portfolio
  • Take trial assignments for low or no pay -- and ace them
  • Use prior experience -- even pro bono -- to sell yourself
  • Find people you know who work at the company or get introductions to them
  • Be enthusiastic (no one wants to hire Eeyore)
  • Take your interview as seriously as you did during your senior year in college
  • Follow up relentlessly, close the deal

And, of course, remember the...

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