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The unemployment rate in the United States is hovering around 9 percent. Employees are complaining that there are not enough job opportunities. Employers are complaining that there are not enough highly skilled job applicants. What gives?

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites the problem as the lack of employee training programs to initiate employees into new roles: “In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It’s a Catch-22 situation for workers—and it’s hurting companies and the economy.”

Basically, employers expect employees to be ready to jump in and start a job at full capacity on day one. Employers expect a fully developed professional presence without any initiation or training period.

However, consider the article’s point that “only about 10% of the people in IT jobs during the Silicon Valley tech boom of the 1990s, for example, had IT-related degrees.” It used to be the norm that employers were prepared to train qualified job applicants to learn all of the skills necessary to complete their jobs, and that intelligent people were considered qualified for a wider range of jobs.

Today, the picture is a little different. Employers want specific advanced degrees in addition to specific skills. Prospective employees ought to have specific job qualifications and a professional presence, but it also helps to have a little bit of creativity. When we say creativity, we do not mean including unprofessional items on employee resumes to get the attention of hiring managers. Instead, applicants need to think creatively and express clearly how their skills and experiences uniquely fit the job they are applying for.

Yes, in order to get ahead in today’s economy, the answer is often not to blend in, especially for women. So how can you best find a job in today’s economy? By combining your professionalism in the workplace with individuality and creativity, you are already on your way. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Dress in a professional manner that expresses your commitment to professionalism in the workplace while simultaneously adding individual flair through accessories, such as a bold color or pattern in a shoe, tie, or scarf.

2. Think creatively about the skills and insights you have gained through your various work experience, volunteer experience, and life experience. Describe your unique talents and contributions in the cover letter of your job application, specifically anything that might make you stick out from a number of other applicants.

3. Emphasize your interest in learning new things and your ability to adapt to the specific job while creating new solutions to old problems. Challenging the status quo is important in times like these, and companies know they will benefit from employees who can do so while maintaining a professional presence.

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