How to Get Hired in a Down Economy

by Shareem Kilkenny

All indications are pointing to a 2013 job market that is at least as rough as 2012. Whatever improvements there will be, will be subtle. According to a mid-December Reuters News report, the U.S. unemployment rate could level off at around 7.7 percent, or even turn higher depending on how fast discouraged job seekers return to the job hunt. The bottom line unfortunately is that if you’ve recently separated from the military, or will be over the next year, the job picture may not look any rosier for the foreseeable future. So what does this mean if you’re separating from the military in 2013? It means that competition in the civilian job market will be fierce. But here’s a list of my top ten tips on how to get hired in 2013.

  1. First of all, you must be hungrier than the competition. Yes, this is a competition, and the sooner you realize and accept that the better. You’re literally competing with millions of others in your line of work for each job. That means, you must get up earlier than the rest; network with more people; apply for more jobs than the rest; and go to bed later than the rest. Treat applying for jobs like a job in it of itself, and you must be ready and willing to be the hardest worker out there. Try making at least 3-5 networking calls a day. Aim to attend one networking event a week; and then follow-up with the people you meet. Following up immediately after you meet someone or learn of an opportunity will greatly increase your chances of being referred forward. If you treat the job search like a part-time, sometimey, network when the mood strikes, apply for jobs when you feel like it thing, the results will show.
  2. Be faster than the competition. Many people still refuse to use the internet for job searches; and instead prefer to wait for the Sunday paper to flip through the jobs section over a cup of coffee. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing all resources available to conduct your search; however, you must recognize that with the expanded use of the internet, the world is closer than it’s ever been. That means that the Warehouse Manager position that just opened up five blocks from your home, just received an application from someone five states away – before you even saw it advertised in the local newspaper. If you don’t have the internet at home, go to your public library, employment office, or friend’s home.
  3. Try something new. The same old stuff will no longer cut it. To get a job in a bad economy, you have to be more creative than ever. Try new and different keyword searches as you look for jobs online. Attend networking events in different industries, towns or social circles—you might surprise yourself. If you always use a certain newspaper or website, start searching in other mediums. If you’re used to only searching major companies, research smaller ones, or visa-versa. If you only look in one city or town, try expanding your search to other areas. If relocation is a viable option, you should certainly not limit yourself to your immediate area. Just because you had your heart set on finding a job as an aircraft mechanic in Jacksonville, Florida, doesn’t mean that the circumstances are working in your favor at the time.
  4. Be smarter than the competition. So you were an administrative assistant in the Navy…that’s great. But what makes you special from all the other administrative assistants that are applying for the job? Take some time to think about what it is that you can do, or what have you accomplished that the competition has not? Some vets operate under the assumption that simply mentioning the fact that they served in the military will make employers grovel over them. Think again. In the civilian world, if you can’t clearly demonstrate that you’re bringing a unique skill and ability to improve their bottom line, they’ll politely thank you for your service, and move on to the next candidate.
  5. Keep getting smarter. Just because you aren’t working fulltime, doesn’t mean you can’t be adding to your résumé. Seek opportunities to volunteer in your community – particularly if it’s in your line of work or something related. When it comes to technological advances, the military isn’t always on the cutting edge. So your skills may have begun to fall behind. Therefore, attending seminars and workshops will keep you up-to-date on the latest changes and technological advances in your field. In addition, these events are also tremendous networking opportunities. Sign up for classes – even if they’re just certificate programs. They not only make you smarter, but it shows potential employers, that you’re an ambitious individual, and someone who’s willing to continually improve themselves. Even if the classes aren’t field-specific, employers love to see that you’ve taken ‘down-time’ to improve in areas such as communication skills (written and oral), team-building, managerial skills, leadership skills, critical thinking, organizational skills, just to list a few areas.
  6. Don’t pass up ‘good enough’ or even ‘ok’ while waiting for ‘perfect’. Just because you achieved a high rank in the military, and had a lot of responsibility, doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a position with equivalent stature when you make your exit. Passing up on opportunities while waiting for the perfect position could mean you end up out of work for longer than you expect, or than your finances can support. If several months or even years go by without employment, that also means that your skills and network is diminishing. Accepting an entry level, part-time, or even an internship position doesn’t have to last forever; and it serve as a stepping stone towards achieving your ultimate goal. These positions can also be great way to start with a company with which you want a permanent job.  It’s increasingly common for employers offer interns and part-time employees full-time positions – particularly in a bad economy. This may happen more in a bad economy, because it allows employers to streamline the hiring process, by testing out the intern to see if they would be a good fit. Volunteering is also a great way to grow your network while also adding skills to your résumé.
  7. Be patient. Your job search will probably take longer than it would in a strong economy. Even in a strong economy, it can take a while for organizations to hire people, sometimes 2 to 6 months or more. Most of the vets I speak with are shocked when they remain unemployed for several months after separating from the military. When my husband separated from the Army in 2006, he literally had two job offers within the first month, and turned down a couple others. However, times have changed, and the job market is not nearly as lucrative today. It’s not uncommon for well qualified vets to go six months or longer without as much as an interview – especially if they aren’t approaching the job search with the right frame of mind; and making sure they’re taking all the necessary step to be competitive.
  8. Abandon the idea of a “generic” résumé. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all résumé.” Taking the time to tailor your résumé to fit the exact requirements expressed in the job posting will significantly increase your chances of getting the interview. Make sure your résumé has as many keywords from the job posting as possible. If you would like me (Shareem Kilkenny) to evaluate your résumé, and provide some feedback on the content and appearance, simply upload it to or email it to For a list of résumé-writing tips visit
  9. Utilize your local and federal government resources. The Department of Veterans Affairs has countless resources available for job seekers. Unfortunately many veterans are unaware of them, so consequently they go unused, and the funding for programs go unutilized year-in and year-out. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is partnering up with countless organizations to host career fairs around the countries specifically targeting veterans.  For more information visit: US Chamber of Commerce | Hiring Our Heroes; or Department of Veterans Affairs Career Resources
  10. Last but not least, stay positive. Though it can certainly be frustrating, it’s very important to remain positive. This is sometimes easier said than done, but when doubt starts to creep in, it could lead to bewilderment or even depression. This in turn could lead you to give up searching all together.

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