With unemployment at a four-year high, job competition is stiff these days. But whether you're unemployed or simply unhappy in your current position, it's still possible to find new career opportunities.
Just ask Julie Cajigas, who received two job offers after job hunting for about two months (a short job search by most people's standards). She started her new job in mid-July as associate director of development and marketing for a nonprofit organization in Cleveland.
10 ways to improve your chances
"I think even though it's a tough economy, if you're good at what you do and you take the time to present yourself well, you'll find a job," she says.
Here are tips from Cajigas and others on landing the job you want even in a lean market.
1. Balance dream opportunities with open-mindedness
In an ideal job market, you would narrow your search to a couple of favorite companies and focus on applying for opportunities with them. But as Alexandra Levit, career expert and author of "Success for Hire," points out, "people have to be a little more flexible" in this economy. Be willing to explore opportunities outside of your industry or with companies that aren't name brands.
Cajigas, who had been working corporate communications before she switched to a nonprofit, says she followed job boards like Monster.com and CareerBoard.com and "scanned each day's jobs from start to finish, because sometimes it's hard to anticipate what a position title will be."
The job she recently accepted was advertised through her alma mater's job board.
"A lot of (career information is) offered for free to alumni," she adds.
2. Polish your resume and cover letter
You want your resume and cover letter to present you in the best possible light. Cajigas recommends showing your materials to a friend for proofreading before you send them to the company.
"It's kind of like a take-home test," she says. "Why would you fail a take-home test?"
Levit encourages job-seekers to rewrite their resume with the job description in mind.
"Make sure you're clearly addressing those issues in your resume," she stresses. "(That) probably means tweaking it for each opportunity that comes along. If you're applying for jobs that aren't in your industry, I suggest developing a functional-based resume. List your experience by skills -- project management, sales, marketing, budgeting -- so they'll be able to easily see how your experience translates (to the new industry)."
3. Network your way in
Jason Alba, CEO of job search Web site JibberJobber.com, recommends using LinkedIn to find employees at the company where you'd like to apply.
"Let's say I want to work at American Express," he explains. "I would do a search for American Express on LinkedIn and see who on my network is somehow connected to the company."
Rather than asking for a job right away, Alba recommends that you present yourself as a professional who is researching opportunities at that company.