6 Ways to Stay Relevant in the Current Job Market

Tips for professionals -- just starting out or revamping their careers -- on how to remain competitive in today's working world.

Whether you are just starting out or you're a seasoned professional, if you’re considering a new job search it’s imperative that you make yourself marketable to potential employers. While this can and should include professional development -- from taking training courses to brushing up on new technologies -- don’t limit your efforts to learning. There are several equally important steps you can take right now to improve your appeal to hiring managers.

Here are six effective ways to help you stand out in today’s job market:

Identify Your Career Goals

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You should always be aware of your top career priority, regardless of whether you’re a new a grad on the hunt for a first job or you’ve been in the working world for several years. What’s the main goal you’ve set for yourself professionally? Answer this question before you launch a job search.

Career priorities change over time, so establishing some clarity in this area will help you figure out what to do next, whether it’s pursuing an advanced degree or joining a professional association. Potential employers are drawn to candidates with clear career goals.

Create an Online Presence

From social media to personal Web sites, the Internet is a big part of today’s job-search and recruitment process. Carving out a space online that highlights your professional accomplishments and career goals -- and that is easily accessible to hiring managers -- is common practice these days.

An easy way for you to establish a Web presence is by joining LinkedIn.com, a professional networking site that helps connect job-seekers with potential employers and colleagues and allows you to search job listings. Using a site such as this one helps you build credibility through your connections and endorsements from former professors, managers and co-workers, which is exactly what head-hunters are looking for. It’s free and only takes about an hour to do.

Survey the Employment Landscape

Even if you aren’t actively seeking new employment, you should still research the current job market at least once a year. Pay special attention to the types of open positions being posted in your area. Doing this will help you see which employers are hiring now, what they are looking for and how much they’re offering new hires.

In addition, make sure that you’re aware of local business news. A quick way to do this is by registering for an industry-specific newsletter or following companies of interest on social networking sites such as Twitter. It’s best to be prepared in case you unexpectedly find yourself on the hunt for a new job.

Know How Much You’re Worth

You always need to know your market price, whether you’re thinking about changing companies or planning on staying where you are indefinitely. You can’t negotiate with a new employer about a starting salary (or your current employer about a pay raise) unless you know what the market is paying other professionals who do the same type of work.

Some job postings list salary ranges; take note. Otherwise, use a site such as Payscale.com to research salary information on a variety of positions. This way you’ll be able to enter into any type of salary negotiations with a firm number at the ready.

Learn New Professional Skills

Professional development isn’t the only way to stay relevant in the current job market, but it is an important way. Amid the sea of new, young professionals -- who, by the way, are almost certainly up-to-date on the latest technologies -- it’s important for seasoned workers to remain competitive. That means staying abreast of trends -- including tech trends -- in their respective fields.

A good start: Sign up for a weekend training course at a local community college or register for a Web seminar. It helps get your brain moving, you'll get to meet other people in class who have similar interests, and you’ll learn something valuable that you can add to your resume in the process.

Network, Network, Network

Networking is a huge part of career development, but it can be overwhelming. An easy way to get started is to make a list of 15-20 people closest to you that you don’t see often. Include friends as well as business contacts. Then, invite them individually for coffee or lunch. Use these informal meetings to catch up and to also update each other on what’s happening in your careers. Who knows? Your friend or business contact may have a lead on a new job opportunity for you, or vice versa.

If you want to dip your toes in the water a little deeper, consider attending a business networking event where you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people. A quick way to find events in your area is by using search engines, such as Google or Bing, to find event listings. For example, if you’re a technical writer, try searching for the terms “technical writing association Baltimore.”

Liz Ryan
Contributing Columnist, Kiplinger.com