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The Best Ways to Get a Job in 2021

3 recommendations from experts at the Career Thought Leaders' symposium

By Nancy Collamer

If you're looking for work or think you will be soon, you undoubtedly know to update your LinkedIn profile, refresh your resumé and up your networking game. But in today's competitive, pandemic-fraught job market, just doing the basics isn't enough.

Woman sitting at table on a virtual job interview, career, Next Avenue
Credit: Getty

To remain relevant in today's workplace, you must develop what's known as "career durability."

Fortunately, I recently picked up several timely job-search tips while attending the Career Thought Leaders' 2021 symposium. The virtual event gathered over 80 career professionals to discuss emerging workplace trends and winning job search strategies.

Here are three of the experts' recommendations to boost your chances of landing a job in 2021:

1. Hone your "career durability."

To remain relevant in today's workplace, you must develop what's known  as "career durability." That means ensuring your skills, mindset and knowledge needed make you an engaged and productive member of the workforce, even as it's continually evolving.

"Unless you have durable value," stressed futurist and author Alexandra Levit, "it's going to be difficult for you to be consistently and gainfully employed, whether that means in two years or twenty years."

The five key components of career durability are:

Soft skills. These are the interpersonal attributes — like empathy, being a strong listener and diplomacy — to collaborate well with others at work.

"As machines take over more and more work tasks, it's the ability to leverage intuition, problem solving and good judgment that will set humans apart," stressed Levit.

You can strengthen your soft skills by reading books like "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey or by taking on new work or volunteer experiences.

Hard skills: Levit defines these as "the teachable skills in a specific area for which learning can be measured." For example, you can't get a job as an accountant unless you understand tax laws or how to read a balance sheet.

Woman standing on stage speaking to crowd, job, career, Next Avenue
Alexandra Levit

Fortunately, learning new hard skills is easier than ever, thanks to the proliferation of free online courses and inexpensive credentialing programs, available on platforms like Coursera.org, Edx.org or LinkedIn Learning.

Interestingly, Levit cited a DeVry University study saying that 80% of employers were receptive to a micro-credential or certificate over a degree program, as long as you can demonstrate proficiency in the skill.

Applied technical skills: This means you are knowledgeable about the technology and devices that can help you do your job better. In other words, it's not necessary to know how to code, but you do need to be familiar with the apps and software that help you be more effective at work.

"Anyone of any age can develop these skills," said Levit. You can improve yours by taking online courses, watching YouTube tutorials and trying out new apps and software, such as the Slack messaging platform which helps teams work together more efficiently.

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Institutional knowledge: A bit of good news for older job seekers: Research shows that some employers are still very interested in people with deep industry and institutional experience.

"It has a utility that nothing else can replace, especially with fewer and fewer people having long tenures in an organization or in an industry," said Levit.  

"A magnetic [LinkedIn] profile that has a human connection is far better than one that just features skills and experiences."

The key is to demonstrate that you haven't grown stale while working at the same company for a long time. You can stay fresh by seeking out projects in different departments or courses that expand your skill repertoire.

Growth mindset: These days, a willingness to continually learn and grow in your career is critical. This isn't just about taking courses. It's about showing employers you're willing to learn from past mistakes and stretch outside your comfort zone.

So, when interviewing for a job, come prepared with stories that demonstrate your adaptability, curiosity and willingness to be flexible.

Of course, once you've honed these skills, be sure to highlight them on your resumé and LinkedIn profile.

2. Humanize your LinkedIn profile. Marietta Gentles Crawford, a personal brand strategist and writer, offered several powerful tips during her session, Write a LinkedIn Profile Humans Want to Read (While Still Optimizing for Search).  "A magnetic [LinkedIn] profile that has a human connection is far better than one that just features skills and experiences," said Crawford.

Woman sitting in windowsill drinking coffee, job, career, Next Avenue
Marietta Gentles Crawford

Three ways to do it:

Write the About section in the first person. That means using "I" instead of "he" or "she". You wouldn't talk in the third person at a networking event, so don't do it on LinkedIn, Crawford said.

Include a call to action at the bottom of your About section. It makes you seem more approachable and invites people to connect.

For example, at the end of Crawford's About section, she asks, "Want to learn more?" and points visitors to her website and free LinkedIn Guide.

Another option: Simply state "I'd love to hear from you" or "Let's chat."

Use quotes to add personality to your profile. Featuring a well-chosen quote is a powerful way to convey your sensibility and attract like-minded individuals (and hopefully, job recruiters).

As an example, personal brand strategist Deb Dib added to her LinkedIn profile a quote about courage from popular professor and podcaster Brené Brown; it highlight's Dib's interest in working with clients who want to "get gutsy."

3. If you are a person of color or a woman, target employers prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Career consultant Mark Anthony Dyson offered two ways to do this.

Read the book, "Colorfull: Competitive Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent of Color," by Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, he suggested. It includes examples of companies who take workplace diversity seriously.

Dyson is also a fan of attending virtual conferences that target women and minorities. Two examples for technology jobs: Lesbians Who Tech Summit and the conference of the National Society for Black Engineers.

Photograph of Nancy Collamer
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a semi-retirement coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. You can now download her free workbook called 25 Ways to Help You Identify Your Ideal Second Act on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com (and you'll also receive her free bi-monthly newsletter). Read More
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