What is North America’s No. 1 domestic issue of most concern to the average person? Politics? Coronavirus? Who will win Super Bowl LV? Nope! The thing that concerns most people is still jobs.

Whether you are 18 or 80, you’ve likely never seen it more difficult to find a great job in your field of interest in your lifetime. Lockdowns in various regions of the country, overseas competition, and rapidly changing methods employers use to fill jobs have all made it difficult for good people to find good jobs.

A recent article says many grads in the class of 2021 will face stiffer competition for jobs than ever. Many adult job seekers reach out to 100 or more employers before they get a yes. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a career search won’t get any easier for the foreseeable future.

But there is good news! Let me introduce you to my two good friends, Harry and Larry. They are backpacking enthusiasts and have driven their SUV as far into the Colorado wilderness as the roads go. They are about 5 miles from their SUV when suddenly up pops an angry bear about 400 yards away!

They see him, and he sees them. Immediately Harry drops to his knees and pulls his sneakers out of his backpack and laces them up. Larry looks down at Harry and says, “Dude, you think a pair of Nikes is gonna let you outrun that bear?” Harry replies, “No man…I just gotta outrun you.”

Isn’t it the same thing with a job search? There are jobs out there that you would love to have. Your challenge is to outrun the competition you are facing (i.e., “Larry”). Even if unemployment surges to 20%, there is still 80% employment and a lot of open jobs to fill. That means there are always job openings to be filled along with strong competition for those openings.

The first step in outrunning the competition is getting invited to interview for positions that fit you and your career goals.

Here are 10 things you can do right away to improve your chances of winning the race to get to that interview:

1. Educate yourself about what you do and do not know about conducting an effective job search in today’s marketplace. Consider best practices job search books like “Get A Better Job Faster” on Amazon to educate yourself on current and emerging best practices. Its advice could be worth a half-million dollars in lifetime earnings to you.

2. Understand this is not your daddy’s job search. Job search today is being done with keyword search, so unless you have the right set of keywords embedded in your application resumes, and online profiles, you will not get a single look, even if you are the most qualified person in the world to fill a particular job.

3. Start looking at job postings to identify positions that interest you. For each position of interest, look carefully at the job posting and/or position description and identify the keywords. Every employer looking for talent has identified a set of 1-2 dozen keywords they will use to find candidates.

4. Build a complete LinkedIn profile. Now more than ever, employers are searching the over 700 million LinkedIn profiles holders worldwide to find the best talent to fill openings. In keeping with point No. 2, multiple use of the right keywords will mean that your profile comes up higher in an employer’s search for candidates.

5. Build a resume template in “plain text” (text that has no formatting or special characters, such as bolding or bullet points). You’ll use this “base resume” to create individual customized resumes that are tailored to specific positions of interest.

6. Embed the top 20 or so keywords for each position of interest to customize your application or resume upload for a specific job opportunity. This will dramatically improve the chances that your resume will be selected as a candidate to be interviewed. You’ll need to have at least an 85% keyword match rate to the employer’s criteria in order to have your resume and application considered... some jobs may be even higher.

7. Network like crazy. Because many job openings are unadvertised, networking offers the opportunity to discover positions that you’d otherwise not know about. The quality of your networking is determined by the quality and quantity of your network times the quality and frequency of interacting with your network in a meaningful way.

8. When you network, be a giver and not a taker. Help others in areas where you have experience and talent. Share your best practices. Encourage and support others. Practice positivity. Make connections between your connections where it benefits both of them. You’ve got to invest before you can see a return.

9. When you network, don’t be the hammer looking for a nail. Just because someone accepts your request to connect doesn’t entitle you to start soliciting them for help in your job search. Or to buy what you’re selling.

10. Consider a coach. LinkedIn Profinder can help you locate a coach ideal to help you move ahead in your career, regardless of your specific career situation. A good coach gives you a return on your investment well exceeding 1,000 times. It will be the best investment you make in yourself all year.

In future articles, we’ll explore some best practices for your job search. Until next time, don’t forget your “job search Nikes!”