It’s a common misconception. Large corporations are laying off large numbers of workers in all industries. Unemployment is up. Therefore, my chances of landing a job are greatly diminished.

Truth is, your personal job-finding odds are not linked to the Fortune 500’s fiscal health.

Corporate and government job freezes mean only that the “easy-find” jobs are drying up. Despite all our hard times, entrepreneurial start ups are on the rise and hiring in full force. “For the individual who can creatively re-brand himself, now can prove a very profitable time of change,” says Charlene Watler, a human resource professional with more than 30 years of career nurturing experience.

For the unemployed, those seeking a switch, or anyone wanting to achieve and sell a new, re-branded image, Watler is offering “The Job Market and You” on Monday, February 2, at 6 p.m. at Mercer County Community College’s West Windsor campus. Cost: $30. Call 609-570-3311 or visit.

In the uncertain field of job seeking and counseling, Watler has spent a career recording what works and what doesn’t. A native of Poughkeepsie, New York, who now lives in West Orange, Watler attended Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Massachusetts. Her bachelor’s in psychology, earned in 1973, afforded her tools she swears she uses daily.

From college, Watler headed into IBM’s sales corps, where she stayed just long enough to realize sales was not her calling. She then worked at Allstate Insurance Company as a claims adjuster. “While there, I took a rotation as a human resource trainer and found I loved it,” she says.

After seven years with Allstate, she joined the Wall Street Journal, where she stayed for the next 25 years, rising to the domestic director of the HR department. Retiring in 2007, Watler now instructs others in her field.

“There is a real tendency in times like these to try to stay under the radar and not be noticed so senior management won’t let you go. Nothing could be a worse approach,” says Watler. Better hope lies in working to distinguish yourself in the company. Demonstrate and make known your value. For those considering a new field of endeavor, for whatever reason, Watler suggests a strategy that may bring not only survival, but surprising satisfaction.

Skillset archaeology. Companies, out of convenience, slot employees’ skills into categories — you are a paralegal; a programmer; a driver. This works for their purposes, but definitely will not suit yours as a new job seeker. Paralegals, for example, are capable of many careers beyond just aiding attorneys. Their research, organizational, technical, educational, and administrative skills can prove a necessary asset to almost any company. In addition, digging through one’s life experience will doubtlessly unearth more valued abilities. Leadership skills may have been garnered by leading club expeditions. Even handling the books for the church or local non-profit is a business-translatable service.

It will probably be that one primary skill that qualifies you for a job interview. But it will be all those peripheral skills that edge out the competition and allow you to land it. So muster all you abilities, write them down. Consider the realities of time frame. Then make a short list of your desired, employable fields.

Off to market. “People who sit down, write a resume, E-mail it out everywhere, and remain sitting, are going nowhere,” says Watler. Mail drops are fine, as far as they go. But the real job seeker casts his net much more widely. In addition to a resume, develop a brochure advertising yourself. It might work best to give yourself a company name and use this as an ad piece for those looking to potentially contract you.

“You need a print, online, and a video presence — all three,” insists Watler. Sites like FaceBook an MySpace may have started as strictly social, but they are increasingly used as a professional connection, similar to LinkedIn. Though it’s necessary for all ages, this is a particularly handy tool for young people who probably don’t personally know a lot of employers.

Now it’s time to get away from the computer and begin networking in reality. “If you are going to the same old trade association meeting where you’ve known all the faces for years, it’s time to move on and out,” says Watler. The paralegal cited above should sample a medical billers association meeting, a business speakers group, a professional women’s organization. While jobseekers clubs may provide tips, they are scarcely the place to network to employers.

Hiding in education. For many, loss of a job sparks a knee-jerk response to go back to school. While education should be a lifelong activity, launching into some new degree may not deliver the entry into the new career. It might merely deplete time and finances.

On the other hand, new training does mark an ideal resume punch. “Taking a new course, gaining some new technical skill shows employers that you are flexible, that you want to remain at the top of your field and the business world,” says Watler. The camaraderie of the classroom also offers an ideal networking site.

Education decisions should include an assessment of motivation and time. Am I really testing out a new field or just hiding so I won’t have to job hunt? Can I really afford the time and money this education takes?

Market to whom? Solidifying your marketable skills and honing the publicity tools, taking the necessary training, all set you up ready to enter the fray. So where do you aim your lance? This separates the real job hunters from the resume mailmen. Through the public library, network hints, and rumors, plus your own professional experience, you need to compile a long and then short list of companies worthy of your services.

Remember, they are lucky to have an individual of your talents and energies. Don’t list them in order of the most likely to accept you. Rather, begin examining the ones that best meet your standards. Learn about them online; visit them if possible; apply for an interview and listen while they decide. See how they treat you, a stranger walking in. It may feel embarrassing, it may not be fun. This is, after all, your livelihood and you are confronting people with the power to dismiss you out of hand. On the other hand, if you can view it as your checking them out — you interviewing them — then it may help ease the initial tremors.

Getting a job takes guts. Holding out for the right job is even gutsier. It’s a whole lot easier to sit and grow glum about your prospects with the moanings of the nightly news. But if you can hang onto the fact that your odds of finding that good job are as good now as they’ve ever been, you stand a much better chance of seizing it when you see it.

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