Over the past few weeks, I've received dozens of questions from job seekers around America.
Yes, if you're like most people looking for work, times are tough.
So … why be like most people?
Think about it. If the things most people do to find a job don't work, why do those things?
The best advice I can give any job seeker anywhere is simply this: Look at what most people are doing to find a job. Then consider doing the opposite.
That's Guerrilla Job Hunting in a nutshell.
Now, having said that, here are my answers to three job-search questions with broad appeal.
How many apply to you and your job search?
Question #1: "I had to close my business and look for a job. What can I do with my skills?"
Answer: Here's a tip: Use one of the major employment web sites to generate ideas for you.
Example: I went to a monstrously big job board and searched for these three skills: writing + training + German. This brought back 11 job openings nationwide, including German Help Desk Analyst, Customer Service Associate, and Web Editor/Writer.
This brainstorming exercise can help you select potential jobs to go after next, no matter what job you had before. You can then approach people in your network with a focused list of job titles, making it more likely they can help you find something.
Question #2: "How can I improve my networking? I've been networking for months, but it hasn't produced a job."
Answer: First of all, I dislike the term networking because it's freighted with unpleasant connotations for so many people who have had slow results -- or no results -- doing it.
Here's a thought experiment: Forget everything you know about networking. In fact, stop networking altogether for a week.
Instead, start helping other people get what they want. Give freely of your information, personal contacts, expertise, knowledge, time, etc.
Example: Pick 10 people you know who are connected to people you'd like to meet. Spend an afternoon researching the needs of these "top 10" contacts. You can even call them and ask, "What would help you do your job better?" Then make a plan to help them get what they want.
When you focus on helping others, your ego is removed from the equation, which makes you less self-conscious and more relaxed. That's because, while not everyone is a natural networker, everyone can help another person. Done right, that's what networking actually is -- helping other people so much that they're happy to take your calls and send you job leads.
Question #3: "How can I stand out in today's hyper-crowded job market?"
Answer: Try unconventional, "guerrilla" job search methods to get the attention of employers.
Here are three examples of tactics used by creative job seekers to land job interviews ...
"One Michigan man mailed cover letters with two aspirins taped atop each. His opening sentence: "Your customer service headaches are over!" This message resonated with employers, who called to interview him.
"A Las Vegas man mailed a paperweight and cover letter to an employer in California. The paperweight was a miniature of the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. His cover letter began: "Not everyone who lives in Vegas wants to stay in Vegas," playing off the famous slogan, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." As a result, he was flown to a job interview.
"One aspiring assistant basketball coach mailed the right hand from a store mannequin to the coach he wanted to work for. Rolled up and gripped in the hand was his cover letter, which began: "I can be your right hand man." He was hired.
Do any of these methods strike you as gimmicky or too offbeat to work in your industry? Fine. Don't believe me.
Try mailing something unusual along with your resume and cover letter to three companies you have no intention of working for, to test these ideas for yourself.
Despite being carpet-bombed by bad news on a daily basis, you can find a job in this economy, if you're willing to try new things that take you out of your comfort zone.
You may feel comfortable zapping out resumes by email or applying for jobs online in your sweats. But how's that working for you?
Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com