If your job search hasn't been going as well as you would like, you're certainly not alone. The national jobless rate remains in the double digits at 10 percent, and Florida's unemployment rate is even higher at 11.5 percent. As frustrating and depressing as this situation continues to be, there are steps you can take to strengthen your position in 2010. Consider these tips.
1 Understand this job market. While the jobless figures are disheartening, certain positions continue to be in high demand. According to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, the following 25 positions had the most online help-wanted ads in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties in October: 1) Registered nurses; 2) physical therapists; 3) occupational therapists; 4) occupational therapist assistants; 5) speech-language pathologists; 6) retail salespersons; 7) customer service representatives; 8) physical therapist assistants; 9) first-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers; 10) computer systems analysts; 11) medical and health services managers; 12) telemarketers; 13) computer support specialists; 14) licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses; 15) sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products; 16) sales representatives, all other services; 17) Web developers; 18) insurance sales agents; 19) advertising sales agents; 20) sales managers; 21) sales agents, financial services; 22) executive secretaries and administrative assistants; 23) first-line supervisors/managers of office and administrative support workers; 24) network and computer systems administrators; 25) sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products.
2 Do additional research on your own. An examination of occupational data can help you learn about other industries that are still hiring despite the downturn in the economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/OCO/) can be extremely helpful. You also can find good information by visiting this site and clicking on "Career Posters": www.floridajobs.org/workforce/os_employ_serv.html.
3Get training if you simply must enter a new field. As painful as it might be to switch gears and abandon a career field you love, it might be necessary. This Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation Web site can help you determine how to get the necessary education — in two years or less — to qualify for high-demand jobs: www.floridajobs.org/etpl/.
4Take other steps to make yourself more marketable. It could be worth your while to meet with counselors at local colleges and universities to see what sorts of educational programs and financial aid might be available to you during this time of transition.
5Visit a One-Stop Career Center. Another way to get all sorts of job-related assistance and tap into training opportunities is to contact a One-Stop Career Center (www.careeronestop.org, toll-free 1-877-348-0502).
6Network as though your life depended on it. It's easier to snag a job if you know someone on the inside. Think about all the friends, colleagues and contacts you've made in your industry. Let them know you're looking for work and ask them whether they know of any openings. Also, take a minute to reflect on former colleagues who successfully switched careers. Talk to them about whether you could make a similar switch, especially if jobs are scarce in your current field.
7Go to the right parties. Tag along with professional contacts to New Year's Eve or other parties where you might run into people who could be helpful in your job search. But remain professional and don't drink too much at such gatherings.
8Head out to a job fair. The WorkNet Pinellas Professional Mixer is coming up on Feb. 10 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Why not go? For additional details about this and other job fairs, visit these Web sites: www.worknetpinellas.org/worknet_wednesday/ and www.floridajobs.org/workforce/os_job_fairs.html.
9Rehearse your responses to the employers you'll meet. At job fairs, prospective employers may ask you, "What are you looking for?" Be aware that responding with a breathless "Anything!" won't be as helpful to you as a concise, specific answer that spells out what you want and plays up your experience.
10 Practice answers to tough job-interview questions. All of these efforts will likely help you score some job interviews — and you should prepare now by crafting answers to challenging questions such as "Why are you not working right now?" Rehearse a concise response that explains your situation. Interviewers really are likely to understand — especially if you don't sound bitter or resentful.
Laura T. Coffey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Florida Agency for Workplace Innovation (www.floridajobs.org and www.employflorida.com); Career Collective (http://careercollective.net/)