If you haven’t been job hunting in awhile, and you’re out there pounding the pavement, you may have noticed that a few things have changed since your last job hunt. Today’s job market is tough, which means that you need to make an extra effort to stand out in the crowd.

Here are ten rules you should break to get the job you want.

1. Register with an unemployment agency or head hunter.

According to Bill Ellermeyer, only 10% of jobs wind up in the databases of agencies, so while your state probably requires you to register with your local Workforce center in order for you to receive unemployment benefits, don’t rely exclusively on these sources to land a job.

2. Send the same generic resume to a bunch of companies and people all at once.

At one time, spamming 300 different companies with your resume may have worked. Why wouldn’t it? After all, the more companies that see your resume, the greater the odds of getting hired, right? Well, not necessarily. If your resume is so generic that you are able to send it out to that many places, it’s going to portray you as a generic, cookie-cutter applicant that looks like every other applicant. It’s worth taking the time to research the company with whom you want a job and tailor your resume accordingly.

3. Talk about yourself.

Instead of plodding through a laundry list of your education, past experience, and qualifications, research the company and ask intelligent questions. Offer insights or solutions “free of charge,” without expecting a job offer in return.

4. Apply for jobs when you’re feeling the most “motivated.”

While you may feel the most motivated to look for work if you just received a foreclosure notice, job hunting when you’re feeling desperate is never a good idea, because you’re going to carry those “desperate” vibes with you. No matter how badly you need the money, wait until you feel better before you take action.

5. Apply only if you qualify for the job you want.

One mistake that employers sometimes make is hiring people who are overqualified, who already know how to do the job—or at least think they do. When new employees start a job with the attitude that they already know everything, it can cause real integration problems, both with the staff and with established company procedures. Keep this in mind, and don’t be afraid to apply for a position that is over your head. You don’t have any bad habits to unlearn!

6. Only apply for open positions.

You have an invaluable viewpoint as a company outsider. You can see weaknesses that insiders can’t see. Do they have a lame blog, or no blog at all? How’s their social networking? Is their website up to date? Is an overworked database administrator creating a bottleneck in their software testing process? Take the time to find out what’s at the bottom of the company’s “virtual inbox,” and offer to do those things for them, whether they have an opening—or even a position!—or not.

7. Scratch a company off your list if they turn you down.

Sometimes new hires don’t work out or other positions open up, so if you have a good feeling about a company and you think you’d like to work there, write them down on a “contact later” list, and if you’re still looking for work in a month, give ‘em a call.

8. Compose and practice an elevator speech.

Instead of answering the question, “What do you do?” with “I’m a technical writer” or “I’m unemployed,” come up with a creative job title, such as “Software Developer Language Adapter,” and then tell a humorous, 60-second story about how you translated unintelligible notes written by an ESL Chinese programmer into a readable English help file, in spite of not being able to understand his answers to your questions. People love stories, and they’re more likely to remember you if you tell them a story, especially a funny one.

Conclusion: Use your imagination to get the job you want.

Ignore the panicked voices in your head, and focus on the ways in which you can serve your new company and its customers.Think of a potential employer as a potential client. Make lists of your strengths, experience, and skills and imagine using them in your new job. And then make lists of what you would like to see and do in your new job and imagine that you’re already working there. Imagine walking in the front door on your first day. Imagine that you are perfectly qualified, that you are working with awesome people, doing what you love to do, solving problems and coming up with better and more creative ways to serve.

Does it get any better than this?

Happy hunting!

Featured photo credit: Maytee X HunStrts/filin ilia – aliyo.hu via flickr.com

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