By James D’Ambrosio

During these difficult economic times, I’ve heard quite a bit from others about the tough job market and how difficult it is to make headway. I agree: it is very challenging. However, there’s risk involved in overemphasizing the negative, which causes some people to give up. Better to stay positive and do what you can to increase your marketability. Seneca, the Roman dramatist, philosopher and politician who lived from 5 BC – 65 AD once aptly noted: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”    

Given this positive perspective, there are things you can do to bolster your professional standing with relatively small investments in time, money and effort. Whether you’re a recent grad, experienced professional, executive or career-changer, one of the suggestions below might work for you.   


1) JOIN A PROFESSIONAL GROUP IN YOUR FIELD: This is one of the best investments you can make. In addition to networking with like-minded people, you can serve on committees or join the board and showcase your skills to others who may be in position to help. Many groups have member directories, job banks and other resources. Attend meetings regularly, take an active role, and you’ll get noticed. 

2) TAKE A COURSE: Technology and global competition has resulted in information becoming outdated more quickly. What was important a year ago can rapidly fade in importance. By continually expanding your knowledge and skills, you’ll be ahead of others who don’t. A number of people in my professional circles are now embracing life-long learning  as a necessity.

3) MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF LINKEDIN: With 160+ million professionally-minded users in 200 countries, you can’t afford not to be part of this network. Open an account, develop your profile, and upload a professional-quality photo. You can join groups in your field/industry,  sharing your expertise and learning from others with similar backgrounds. In addition, numerous apps enhance your presence. If you’re a writer like me, you can use Box Net to showcase work samples. You can also answer questions submitted by others. I recently read from a credible source that nearly 80 percent of hiring managers use LinkedIn as their primary source for recruiting talent. 

4) START A BLOG: Have a body of knowledge about a particular subject? Passionate about a cause? Consider blogging. While it does require an investment in time — learning technical aspects and posting regularly — it provides a public platform to demonstrate your knowledge to a wide audience. In the process, you’ll bolster your online presence: over time, a good blog associated with your name shows up high in Google searches — an invaluable asset in today’s digital world.  

5) VOLUNTEER WORK: If you’re in position to do so, volunteer at a nonprofit. In addition to giving back, you can make new contacts, develop new skills, network, and learn about open positions. Just 6-10 hours per week is sufficient. A few years back I took this approach and it led to a paid position. You can search hundreds of volunteer opportunities at nonprofits in the U.S. and worldwide by region and specialty at



What other low-cost initiatives do you believe can increase your professional value?

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