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(BPT) – The economy is starting to turn around, but competition for open jobs remains fierce. For job hunters, the mental and financial stresses mount every day they remain unemployed. To keep job-search momentum high and attitudes positive, it’s important to follow a few simple steps from the experts.

“Hunting for a job can quickly start to feel like a never-ending journey,” says employment expert Chasity Trzop, Regional Director of Career Services at Brown Mackie College – Louisville. “As America emerges from the Great Recession, early signs of job growth are appearing, but there is still unprecedented competition when it comes to finding employment.”

If you’re looking for a job, follow Trzop’s top seven rules for job searching and you’ll put yourself on the fast track to employment:

Rule No. 1: Get offline and score some face time

“When I talk with graduates who are discouraged, the first question I ask is, ‘What are you doing?’ Many times they’re on the computer applying online as a primary form of job searching,” says Trzop. While the computer can be instrumental, a good job search utilizes additional tactics. In addition to passive job search tactics, such as doing online applications where there is heavy competition, also incorporate activities such as face-to-face informational interviews.

Rule No. 2: Treat job searching like a job

While working with graduates, Trzop reminds them that searching for a job is a job in itself, and should be treated as such. A good rule of thumb is to do 10 things each day in support of your job search. “Five of those things can be done online, like finding and applying for jobs, and writing emails to strengthen your career network. The other five things should be personal contact with people who may be able to help,” says Trzop.

Rule No. 3: Join professional associations and network

Students at Brown Mackie College – Louisville learn the importance of building professional networks, and the same holds true for any job hunter. The affiliations are indispensable when searching for employment. Attending association functions or business open houses puts you in front of people who may be hiring. “No one knows how wonderful you are if you’re hiding behind your computer,” Trzop says.

Rule No. 4: Volunteer or apprentice without pay

Volunteering to work without pay may sound like the antithesis of job searching, but in reality it’s a great way to make connections and prove your worth. “Offer your service to someone in the field you want to enter. Ask if you can shadow him or her for a few days,” Trzop recommends. “Who wouldn’t want free labor? If he or she says no, you move on to the next opportunity.” Trzop has seen graduates and students be so effective while volunteering that companies have created positions for them.

Rule No. 5: Volunteer for community service

While unemployed it’s easy for days to flow into weeks to flow into months. Stop the snowball effect and make productive use of your time every day. “Volunteer for any type of community service that interests you,” Trzop says. It provides numerous benefits. It gets you out of the house and introduces you to new people. “You never know when you’ll meet someone who may be hiring. The experience also looks great on a resume, and can fill gaps in employment,” she says.

Rule No. 6: Use the phone to your best advantage

Trzop tells graduates to keep in touch. For example, after meeting people in your industry of interest, call them to solidify the relationship. Ask for information on which companies may be hiring. These ongoing relationships will serve you well throughout your career, but especially while job searching.

Rule No. 7: Use social websites to your advantage

“More and more people are turning to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn in their searches for employment,” says Trzop. “The websites make it easy to connect with others who share your interests.” Make sure you keep your profiles and conversations professional, and stay up-to-date on industry happenings, so conversations reflect your intelligence and enthusiasm for your career.

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