YOU need to be extra resourceful when you are looking for a job in tough economic times. Here are five things you can do to boost your job search:

1. Ask the right question

Do not ask if your contact knows of a job opening. Instead, ask for his expert advice on your job hunt. Be specific about the kind of support you would like, such as:

"I would appreciate your looking over my resumé to see if Im showcasing my best strengths."

"Do you know anyone at XYZ Company? It is on my list of companies I would like to work for, and I would like to talk to someone there to get an insiders view."

"You have hired a lot of people through the years. Would you be willing to do a mock interview with me? I have not been in that situation for a long time."

"I want to change directions with my career. Would you brainstorm with me about how I can use my expertise in new arenas?"

2. Tell tales of triumphs

Think about your successes and be ready to tell stories that show you serving the customers, saving the day, solving the problem, leaping tall buildings in a single bound... you get the idea.

Use this formula to edit upbeat examples of your success. Stories stick, make you memorable and teach people to trust in your expertise.

Here is how you can tell a good story to your interviewer when he says: "Tell me about yourself."

* Focus on your talent

Example: "My strength is in managing multi-generational, multi-cultural teams."

* Share a situation

Example: "When my company merged its data centres in three locations, we were not getting the synergies and efficiencies we expected."

* Outline the problem

Example: "I soon realised that we had a big problem. Employees at one site were all men over 50 who were set in their ways. Employees at the other two sites were all fresh grads, both men and women, full of ideas and innovations, and from multi-racial backgrounds."

* Demonstrate a solution

Example: "I hired a highly recommended consultant/trainer who ran a two-day off-site programme that initiated a dialogue among all the diverse participants."

* Highlight the significance

Example: "The results were dramaticwe had decreased tension and increased productivity."

3. Party with strangers

The challenge for job hunters is to expand their contacts quickly.

Ask a long-time contact to have a party and invite only people you dont knowan instant way to beef up your job hunt contact list.

You probably think people are either networking contactsor not.

It is not that simple. Your network includes acquaintances, associates, actors, advocates and allies.

Acquaintances are people you have met through someone else, such as your neighbours boss or your wifes best friend in high school.

Associates are people who share membership in a group you belong to, such as your neighbours, your health club buddies or your professional association co-members.

Actors are people with whom you are exchanging valuable information or resources or have done so in the past.

Allies are the very few people who are interested in furthering your career and are part of your lifefor example, a former boss with whom you consult on career decisions.

Acquaintances are especially valuable when you are job-hunting because they can be bridges into circles you are not known in.

4. Show Uncle Fred your resumé

Sit down with members of your family whom you can talk to about your resumé and career success stories. Do the same thing with leisure-time contacts, neighbours and friends. They probably do not really know what you do and whether you are good at it.

This exercise will help you translate your experience and expertise from the jargon of your profession into a language that anyone can understand. And it will force you to focus on the bottom-line benefits of what you do.

For example, if you are a health information systems analyst, you will have to explain that you look at information from emergency rooms in all the hospitals in a region to find patterns of illness that indicate an epidemic.

5. Minimise the risk of helping you

Handing someone your resumé and asking him to pass it along rarely works.

Recognise that people will not help you find a job until they trust that you will not reflect poorly on them.

Think about the metaphors: You are asking them to go out on a limb, put their good name on the line and stick their necks out.

Make helping you comfortable by teaching your contacts about your character and competencethe building blocks of trust. Tell career stories that they can remember easily and relate to their contacts.