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by Tom Brophy | March 31, 2009


Here you are, out of work for three months despite your solid 20-year track record of employment. If you're like most job hunters, you've mailed out 116 resumes and received four responses -- mostly polite form letters.

No employer seems to want you, and you're alone, which feels horrible. Yet you're working hard at job hunting in the only way you know how, with poor results. As a human being, you have an innate need to belong, yet you don't. Family members look at you with despair, and it feels as though you're losing control. Short of having a personal emotional crisis, what can you do? Is there a solution?

Yes, if you combine a dose of common sense with a sincere willingness to use methods that have worked well in the past for countless other job hunters. The answer is about achieving small victories and building momentum from them. We all need victories to live. Up to this point, you've been experiencing daily doses of rejection, which is lethal.

As a newcomer to unemployment, you've been taking the standard approach -- sending out your resume and banking on a hiring manager to call with a $90,000-a-year job reserved just for you. This is not going to happen.

You need to start using your intellect instead of your emotions, and analyze what's happening. You're doing exactly what everyone else is doing, which makes your job hunt a numbers game. Employers with that magical opening, if it exists, receive a stack of resumes from applicants much like you. How will they find you in that pile?

Sending the Wrong Message

What message are you sending prospective employers when you mail out your resume? Isn't it: "Here is my wonderful resume. I know it's like all the others, but please single mine out and find something for me to do"?

Clearly that won't work. You need to redirect your thinking. Put yourself in the employer's shoes and imagine what would make money for him. Why does he need you and what do you bring to the table? Then make the employer an offer.

This approach is based on what thousands of unemployed professionals have told me over the years as they shared their pain and described what does and doesn't work when job hunting. Successful candidates tell me they do extensive research about potential employers and then offer those companies attractive ways to help them. Naturally, this requires knowing the company and its potential needs and determining where your skills and ability will be an asset.

Unemployed professionals have the misconception that a resume is the key to finding a new position. It isn't. Instead, unknowingly, they are relying on what's actually their greatest source of rejection. After all, haven't you sent out 116 resumes and received four responses? In other words, your mailings generated 112 rejections.

You're worth more than you think to employers. Otherwise, your last company would not have paid you what it did. But by giving yourself a daily dose of rejection, you will fall deeper into depression. If you don't address this, it may become a critical problem. You must create victories on a regular basis, or you'll become immobilized and your job search will die.

Shoveling Snow

Here's an example of how important it is to make an offer to employers. Imagine it's a Saturday in February, and snow is piled everywhere. A man comes to your door and says, "Hi, I'm Tom, and I'm pretty handy around the house. Could you could find something for me to do?" You respond politely with something like: "Gee, Tom, I can't think of anything right now, but why not leave me your phone number and I'll call you if something comes up." Sound familiar?

Several other people come to your door, make the same offer and you give them the same answer. Finally, a man knocks, introduces himself, and then says: "I'm pretty handy around the house. Tell you what, I'll shovel your driveway for $20."

The moment he makes this offer, the dynamics change. You immediately start wondering if you want to hire him for $20 to shovel your walk. He may get a "no" from you, but at least he'll get an answer.

You are a winner with great abilities, and an employer is out there, waiting for an offer. All you need is to do is use the right approach. Do your research, learn what employers need and present your proposal. It works.

-- Mr. Brophy is an unemployment counselor for the N.J. Department of Labor in Trenton. His views are his own and don't represent those of the department. His Web site is


Filed Under: Job Search