Unemployment remains high. Millions of mid-career workers continue in a long-term job search. Yet employer surveys reveal "trouble" filling job openings.
There's a disconnect between what employers seek and who the job hunters are.
Employers, particularly in large companies, typically want perfect candidates to fill niche jobs. They want people who are experienced (but not expensive) and talented, as well as techno-savvy, flexible, energetic and ready to do specialized work.
Given the applicant screening systems in many large organizations, it's hard for mature applicants to make a case that their skills are adaptable and, most important, current.
Older workers have to convince hirers that they're willing, if not eager, to work for less money and that they're fine with downscaling their titles or responsibilities.
Because that's not easy, these two job-hunting tips need to be sent again and again:
• People you know — not formal application processes — provide your best chance for re-employment.
• Small and midsize employers are likely to be more receptive to hiring you.
Any job posting you find is going to be found by hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants. Your application needs an advocate to pluck it from the pile.
You need to go to association meetings, use LinkedIn and send e-mails to former co-workers and other people you know to let them know the nature of your job search.
Through personal contacts, you're more likely to learn about opportunities in small and midsize companies. They may not have the Web presence or name recognition of big firms. They don't staff tables at job fairs. But they have hiring needs.
And because there aren't as many job definitions in small organizations, they're more likely to want workers who have broader experience and a mature work ethic.
Bottom line: Personal contact is likely to be more productive than sending out resumes or filling in application blanks.
Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at the Kansas City Star.