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RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010—Today’s job market is not for the faint of heart. Unemployment seems stuck at just over 9%, so whether you’re laid off and looking or simply desperate to get out of a dead end job, you’ve got a lot of competition. And if you’ve just emailed your résumé in response to yet another Craigslist or job posting, take a deep breath and back away from the keyboard.

“If you’re using the right techniques, you will almost certainly find a job,” says Kate Wendleton, president of The Five O’Clock Club (, one of the nation’s premier career coaching and outplacement networks. “But online searches and job posts are a very, very small part of the equation.”

If you’re looking to take that next step, read on for a few suggestions pulled from Five O’Clock Club methodology:

Don’t jump in without a plan. Most job hunters feel like they have to find a new job…yesterday. And while, admittedly, sooner is better than later, Five O’Clock methodology stresses the importance of first taking the time to do the necessary planning. Job hunters must go through an assessment in which they answer important questions like: What kind of job do you want? Where do you want to work? Where do you see yourself in five, ten, fifteen years? The answers to these questions help job seekers realize exactly what they want and ultimately lead to quicker searches.

It’s not about what you can do. It’s about what you really, truly want to do. Many traditional outplacement services analyze the personalities of their job hunters, they analyze their skills, and then they let them start searching. Wendleton says these services are doing their clients a great disservice.

Set targets—and keep them in your sights. You have to set targets for what you want to do and where you want to work. Basically, this means narrowing down the industries you want to work in, the positions you want to hold, the geographic areas you’re willing to move to, and so forth. Five O’Clock Club members set targets as part of their assessments. From then on, they frequently hear the statement, “If your targets are wrong, your search is wrong.”

Remember, there’s no DIY in job search. The big fad for many outplacement services these days is to do everything online. They use webinars and other e-learning opportunities. They can offer long packages to their clients because they don’t require space or labor. Unfortunately, they leave job hunters without the one-on-one coaching that is necessary to keep them positive and on track.

Don’t fall prey to the “a coach is a coach is a coach” mentality. All career coaches are not created equal, says Wendleton. A coach may have ten or twenty years of career coaching experience, but if he or she is not using a proven methodology, all those years of experience might be a detriment, not an asset.

“Card” yourself. Every Five O’Clock Clubber has a special 3×5 index card that holds the personalized keys to their job hunting success. It helps them narrow down and stay focused on their most important “talking points.” You can create one for yourself, too, says Wendleton. First, your card will include the short pitch about yourself to use when you meet a new contact, in interviews, or at other events or meetings. Your card should also include three or four of your personal accomplishments in addition to the one question you are most afraid an interviewer is going to ask, along with your answer.

Shape your own interview. The unfortunate reality is that managers who are hiring don’t always ask the right questions. When this is the case, as the job hunter, you have to figure out a way to get your strengths and accomplishments into the interview. This is when it is a great time to recall all of the accomplishments you have on your index card and use them to keep the interview moving forward.

Network with the big dogs. One of the problems with the way people network is that they just talk to everyone they know. Unfortunately, everyone they know is in the same field or the same age group as them. More often than not, they are peers. They might know about jobs at their companies, but they might not have the authority to recommend you to the hiring manager. Or they might be able to put you only in positions that represent a lateral move and won’t help you advance your career.

If an interviewer doesn’t “bite,” don’t toss him back in the water. In other words, don’t just discard someone who tells you his company has no openings. If a person is at the right level and at the right company, he is just as valuable to you as someone with an opening. That’s because you can ask him this important question: If you were hiring right now, would you hire someone like me?

Don’t be afraid to be a “pest.” Follow up, follow up, and follow up again. After you interview with a company or meet with a senior-level contact, that isn’t the end of the road. You need to spend just as much time developing that relationship after you’ve met with her as you did prior to the meeting.

If you get an offer, don’t assume you’re home free. Aim to have three concurrent offers in the works at any one time. These offers don’t have to be jobs that you actually want to take, but having them in the works prevents you from slowing your search when you think you are about to get hired. It also gives you a psychological edge—the fact is, if you have only one thing in the works, the interviewer can tell.