It's Been 10 Years since My Last Job Search ...

It's been 26 years since Rick Hingst, 54, has looked for work. Kama Linden, 39, hasn't job hunted for 10 years. And Diana Macfee, 40, has been out of the work force for 12 years.

Now each of these people is joining the ranks of millions who are returning to the work force after a several-year hiatus.

For such reasons as getting laid off, working after retirement or returning to work after a period of stay-at-home parenting, those who have been absent from the job search for a long time are finding themselves running into a problem: The process has changed.

"Many people who are jumping back into the job market, especially after they have taken a hiatus, need to get clarity on their core value propositions, who they are as leaders and how they can best convey this through their résumés and in a job interview," says Greg Selker, president and CEO of Selker Leadership, a retained executive search and leadership consulting company.

Easier said than done.

Times, they are a changin'

Let's be honest -- job searching is not what it was 10, 15 or even two years ago. Despite what's going on in the economy, job seekers are bombarded with changes in technology, social networking sites, virtual career fairs, advice blogs and more.

The Internet has indeed added a whole new dimension to the job search for Hingst, who accepted an early retirement offer in November 2008 after 24 years of service. But, he says he doesn't know if it's necessarily better.

"It is a handy tool for doing research on companies, careers and seeing what jobs are available out there, but it can also eat up a lot of your time and yield no results," he says.

He does say he likes that the Internet allows him to reconnect and network with people on social networking sites like LinkedIn.

Macfee, who's returning to work after staying home to raise her daughter for the past 11 years, agrees that online networking has made her job search more productive and -- gasp! -- more enjoyable.

"Today, job seekers have an amazing support tool [through] online networks. [They] can research or [ask questions about] a company through various social media tools and determine if the company is a right fit before submitting a résumé or engaging in a string of interviews," Macfee says. "Job seekers, recruiters and industry professionals can easily connect through social media and offer resources to one another, leads and tips."

Ultimate challenge

Though changes in the job search over the years have given workers some advantages, they have also posed several challenges.

After learning that the fitness company she works for is cutting the classes she instructs, Linden has applied for numerous jobs in her field. Her search has come up short, as she's found that all the relevant jobs require more schooling and loans that she just doesn't want to take out.

Hingst finds that getting through to actual people in the company is the biggest challenge he's facing. Additionally, he says it's maddening not hearing anything back from employers as to why he wasn't hired.

"It is frustrating when you apply for a position and you receive no feedback as to why you were rejected," he says. "Was I overqualified ... or did they just not like the font style on my résumé?"

Markell Steele, career counselor with Futures in Motion, says that a common problem she sees among out-of-practice job seekers is their lack of focus and the tendency to keep their options wide open.

"They don't want to limit themselves and think that by being open to anything they will catch the most opportunities. They also think this will show them to be open-minded and flexible," she says. "Rather than demonstrating their expertise and breadth of knowledge, they demonstrate that they know [a little about a lot]."

Eric Barron, president of Eric Barron Live, says a pattern he's seen among rusty job seekers is how poorly they are able to clearly articulate how the new company will benefit by hiring them.

"They need to pay less attention to the details on their résumés and focus more on making a connection with the person doing the hiring. They must be able to get to know you and the personality strengths you bring to the position," Barron says. "Remember, human beings are still doing the hiring, where emotions can play a major role. Those that take the time to bring their qualifications and personality to life will have a clear advantage."

If your job seeking skills are a little out of practice, follow these tips from the experts to find your footing in your next search:

1. Get focused

It's a new world out there and you need to get organized. Start by conducting a personal career inventory, Steele suggests. Analyze your abilities and pay attention to transferable skills, current interests, personality traits, interests and key accomplishments.

When his job search yielded no results, Hingst took stock of everything he's done throughout his career, his accomplishments and abilities. He put together a PowerPoint presentation to help develop his résumé and ended up with another way to sell himself by posting the presentation online.

2. Get organized

Information overload calls for you to get organized. You need to stay focused and pursue what works, says Steve Davies, president of PerfectJob Software. He suggests recording your job search: For each saved piece of information, record what job, person, company or task it is for and why it's important. Additionally, you should track what works, checking which résumés, job sources and referrals result in interviews. Finally, set time limits, he says. Social sites are great for research but can absorb the day.

3. Be flexible

"Remain open to all possibilities, even if the job title, salary and benefits may not be exactly what you hoped for," says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of "Job Hunting for Dummies, 2nd Edition." "Once you get your foot in the door, you will have a chance to prove yourself."

4. Work with a professional

"Staffing professionals can be your eyes and ears in the job market," Messmer says. "Recruiters also provide useful feedback on your résumé and interview skills, and help you locate full-time and temporary jobs."

5. Get connected

The Internet has changed the job search and created many opportunities for job seekers to showcase their expertise, Steele says. Employers also have easier access to qualified candidates.

"Increasingly, recruiters are using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to indentify candidates. If you're serious about your job search, you need to set up complete, professional profiles and get connected to opportunities."

Next:What's 'In' and 'Out' on the Job Hunt >>

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