SINGAPORE'S job market continues to remain bleak as the global economic cyclone takes its toll on local companies' human resource strategies.

The employment outlook across most sectors is expected to worsen as the gloomy economy is projected to contract further this year, based on the latest data released by the Singapore's Ministry Trade and Industry on Jan 21.

Most people will cycle through a range of emotions following retrenchment, and this may continue for days, weeks and sometimes even months.

Much of our identity is intertwined with what we do for a living and if that is taken away, it can have a profound impact on how we view the world. Normalising the experience and providing a framework for moving forward by taking positive steps to find work is an important part of the transition process.

People need to be aware that the job search may take far longer than before. They may find that they have to send twice as many applications they thought necessary.

Job seekers need to steel themselves for the negative responses and constantly remind themselves that finding work is a numbers game. Rejections are part of the process and never indicative of one's performance, ability or potential.

Many people switch to a crisis mode when they have been retrenched and are unnecessarily hard on themselves. While it is important to have a structure to your week - setting targets for the number of positions you will apply for and networking meetings you will attend - there needs to be room for "me time".

Looking for work can be a frustrating, lonely and often tedious process, and you need to build in "leisure" activities.

Whether you are an undergraduate looking for a job for the first time, have been retrenched or moving between jobs, searching for a new job is a "full-time" job and is hard work. In fact, it can be the toughest "job" you will ever have.

Effective strategies

The following practical job-hunting strategies will hopefully jump-start your job search.

1. Know yourself

Begin your job search by making a thorough inventory of your interests, skills, accomplishments, experience, goals and values. The key to a successful job search is to recognise what makes you a unique individual and to communicate this effectively to a prospective employer, both verbally and in writing.

2. Aim for the right target

Try to match your skills, interests and values with the appropriate career choice. If one of your goals is to get a higher salary, do not focus on career paths that traditionally pay low salaries. Conduct research on various fields and local companies within those fields. Learn about different businesses that interest you and target those that are more likely to have open positions.

3. Work the network

Networking should be at the centre of your job search strategy. Get the word out to friends, trusted colleagues and even relatives that you are actively looking for a job, and ask them to keep their eyes and ears open for any opportunity.

Expand your network and join professional organisations, sign up for job search newsletters and embrace online professional networking tools such as LinkedIn. For undergraduates, contact former professors and participate in Internet discussion boards. Every university should have career development centres and offices whose sole purpose is to help you find a job.

4. Make it clear

When sending out resums, catch the prospective employer's attention with a brief and concise cover letter that clearly spells out how your qualifications match the job requirements. Connect the dots for your reader, and make it obvious why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

5. Keep careful records

Keeping track of the progress of your job search is important. Maintain a detailed record of all the jobs you have applied for, including communications, interviews, referrals, and follow-up actions. This will help you build a network of valuable contacts both for your current job search and for the future.

6. Be persistent

Job searching is hard work and there are times when you will be discouraged. Just keep in mind that a lot of individuals have been through the same grind. Keep a positive attitude, and look at your job search as an exciting challenge. Your perfect job is out there somewhere.

It is important to remember that "a job is for your days, a career is for your life". So, invest your time and energy in developing your career.