This is a guest post by Vicky Oliver

According to employment experts, our economy is enjoying “modest improvement.” The BLS has the unemployment number hovering at 8.1 percent, which is better than this time last year, when it was at 9.1 percent, and significantly better than in October 2009, when it hit a record 10 percent.

If you’re unemployed or underemployed, it’s time to snap out of your summer state of mind and embrace a new season of action and opportunity. Fall is the time for change and transformation, and if you want a job by Thanksgiving, you need to get energized. The way to counteract “modest job improvement” in the jobs market is by making a major improvement in yourself and your tactics.

Here are five ways to change your job prospects before the holidays are upon us.

Polish your image.

Grab your college yearbook and find your photo. If you still have the same hairstyle, it’s time to dump it for a newer model. Frumpiness is not the image you want to portray when every job has ten competitors clamoring to wow an interviewer. While you’re at it, remember everything your friends ever told you about your most flattering colors. Now pair a killer jacket with some well-cut pants or a skirt using your power colors, accessories, and one interesting detail, such as a piece of jewelry or an edgy tie that makes your look different and memorable.

Leave home.

You’ve spent enough time at home, online, moping and surfing the job sites for leads. It’s time for a new tactic. Devote at least one meal a day–breakfast, lunch, or dinner–to dining out with someone who has professional connections or advice for you. If you’re broke, make it breakfast, the cheapest meal for treating. Visit the watering hole of your desired industry at happy hour, and sip a seltzer while you schmooze. Bring your business cards with you to the gym and everywhere else you frequent. Jobs, and the people who know about them, aren’t in your apartment. They’re out there waiting to find you.

“Power up” your resume.

Revamp your resume by replacing “so what” copy with power words and phrases. Here are a few that employers love: achievements, awards, coached, detail-oriented, experience, fostered excellent working relationships, hard worker, high energy, innovative, organized, outperformed, people skills, quick study, results, team player. Have three people whom you look up to read and react to your resume. Make it superior, snappy, and powerful.

Play the grad game.

You know all those alumni events your alma mater throws in your area (lectures, mixers, conferences, fund-raisers)? These people are in YOUR tribe. They’re well connected, and you already have an “in” with them. Make it a point to hobnob with fellow alumni. Get and give lots of business cards, talk about your career aspirations, and don’t forget to follow up. This is one of the best and easiest ways to generate solid job leads. By the way, old professors and advisers are also great people to get back in touch with. They’re on your side and want you to succeed.

Master the interview.

Let’s face it. Even if you’re the most talented, experienced, charming, attractive person you know, in this job market there are probably ten others like you vying for the same position. So you have to kill it in the interview. Do your homework and know everything about the company you can find from their website, articles, annual report, and any contacts you may have at the company. Make a master list of questions they might ask you, and practice answering them in the most dynamic way possible. Figure out what you have to offer them, and make this the focus of your preparation and delivery. Be well rested, arrive early, and look sharp for the interview.


About the guest author:
Vicky Oliver is the author of five bestselling books on career development, including: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005); The Millionaire’s Handbook (Skyhorse, 2011); Power Sales Words (Sourcebooks, 2006); Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008); and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse, 2010). She’s a career adviser and image consultant in Manhattan.