HOW should you approach companies now? Why would companies even talk to you? Where would you look? These are questions that job seekers have been asking themselves over the past few months.

The first step in such times of change is to accept the changes. Next, give yourself a time frame to talk to people in your industry whom you respect to get a sense of where your industry is heading and the relative prospects of working in different companies.

Networking

Networking now involves a more cautious management of conversations that focuses on the person you are conversing with more than your situation.

Ask: How are you doing? How is your company handling the current environment? Which companies do you think are best positioned to deal with the current situation? Who seems positioned to do well going forward? What work needs to get done in the short term?

Talk with two or three people more senior than you about their take on your industry and where and how your skills could be best utilised. Conversations with recognised mentors can help clarify your skills and strengths as well as help you ascertain where you fit best in the evolving market.

Small organisations

Some smaller companies are often looking to meet people who have left larger companies. You will need to sound out these organisations to get a sense of their business model, leadership team and financials and to see if one of them could be the right company for you.

Few companies are recruiting in volume right now, but some are meeting with job seekers and hiring again. There are opportunities right now in IT, finance and operations — areas which need attention and people, no matter what is happening in the economy.

Career alternatives

Many individuals are considering exploring career alternatives. Career transitions work best when there is some transferability of skills. It is easier to change either function or industry, but not as easy to change both.

Transferable skills

Skills such as IT, human resources and accounting can be more readily transitioned between industries than skills that are based on a subject matter expertise within a particular industry.

Individuals with those industry-specific knowledge bases are best suited to transition to a different type of organisation within the broader industry category. People sometimes also use these times to enhance their skills by furthering their training or education and business school applications generally increase.

The basic job search

The following questions you should ask and answer are based on the principles of a good job search and career management that apply at any stage in the economic cycle. They will help you to analyse your strengths and identify gaps in your skills set and knowledge that you need to fill.

* What are your key skills, assets and deliverables? Do you best express them on paper or when you meet people?

* Who do you know and who can you get to know, to give you insights and contacts in companies?

* What skills and knowledge will make you more marketable going forward? How do you best acquire those skills and knowledge in a specific amount of time?

What are the needs of your industry going forward?

* What companies are best positioned to do well in the next year to two?