Extreme job hunting

As employers are slowing down on hiring, groups like The Five O'Clock Club are advocating a more aggressive approach to job searches.

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By Allan Chernoff

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mark Schleisner's job these days is job hunting. The Manhattan information technology specialist has been searching for 13-months and has yet to land a full-time position.

"The economy has been rough. It has been very rough," said Schleisner who lost his position as a software development director at Siemens in a wave of layoffs, and has since been making ends meet with part-time work. "I have a lot of skills, but a lot of places, it seems, are holding the line on hiring or if there's a good job I hear from these people, 'Well, we've got 200 resumes for this position.' And it gets a little discouraging at times and one wonders, what else do I need to do to get it?"

Schleisner is now utilizing the methods of The Five O'Clock Club, a career counseling firm that recommends aggressive networking, and pursuing at least six employment possibilities at a time.

"If you're responding to ads on the Internet it could be a long haul," said Five O'Clock Club career counselor Chip Conlin.

"Get into the companies before they're even posting those jobs," advises Conlin. "It's chasing the industry, not the job. If you create enough contacts things will start opening up for you."

The Five O'Clock Club recommends practicing a "two-minute pitch" to present to potential employers: describing your skills, qualifications and ability to contribute to a firm in 120 seconds.

It is getting tougher to find job openings. As fears of recession grip business executives many have been trimming staff rather than expanding. The economy lost 63,000 positions last month, the worst monthly loss in five years. While the unemployment rate remained at 4.8% in February, economists argue that's only because many discouraged job seekers stopped searching, effectively dropping out of the workforce, at least as the Government measures the nation's pool of people willing to work.

The employment market is "tough and getting tougher," said Brian Sullivan, Chairman and CEO of executive recruiting firm CTPartners. A growing number of openings that CTPartners is filling are resulting from turnover rather than growth at client companies said Sullivan.

"Companies are more deliberate in making the decision to fill the job," said Bill Heyman, owner of Heyman Associates, an executive search firm specializing in corporate communications.

But, Heyman said, once companies make the decision to hire they are moving quickly.

"Clients are worried a hiring freeze may come, so companies are being attentive about getting the jobs filled," said Heyman.

Indeed, there is hope. As Mark Schleisner sat in the audience at a recent Five O'Clock Club meeting, Patricia Jones spoke of how she used the Club's networking techniques for five weeks after being laid off from a law firm where she had worked for ten years.

"Always have six-to-ten things in the works," Jones told the assembled job hunters. "When you have that you feel more confident when you go into your interviews, and to your meetings." Then she announced that she was about to start a job at a new law firm where she would be supervising 150 people, eight times the number of reports she had at the firm that had laid her off.

"It was a blessing to work with the Five O'Clock Club," said Jones with a big smile spreading across her face.

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