I keep hearing mixed forecasts as far as the economy is concerned for 2010 and prospects for the job market and professionals who work within it.

There has certainly been some over bullish predictions by some in the recruitment sector, some by those who should actually know better. I take the view that things have perhaps begun to bottom out a little, but there is still sufficient uncertainty across a number of industries and sectors that will dampen down anything that resembles a true "recovery". Before anyone strikes me down for being a pessimist, this time next year will be the time of reckoning.

So lets assume for a minute that the economy will bottom out in 2010, but a little more activity in hiring occurs. In such a climate an absolute MUST is the other "R word". Not "recovery" but RELATIONSHIPS. Those recruiters who have reverted (or continue) to deliver poor and lazy practice in the downturn in order to make short term gain, will begin to feel the chill of having chosen such a route. However, I passionately believe that this there is one group in particular who need to embrace and foster their relationships when it comes to their next job search. THE CANDIDATES!

Typically, when things don't work out during initial stages of a job search for candidates there are two reactions / options that they can choose. It's incumbent upon them to make sure they choose the right one.

The first is an all too common one - blame the recruiter. Unfortunately on many occasions they have just cause to curse the recruiter, because countless ones simply don't work hard enough for their candidates.

The second and wisest choice is to work closely with your chosen recruiter, and not to put them in the box of "all recruiters are rubbish", which is an easy opt out for the first reason stated. Believe me, Just as most people want to spend time with positive and happy people outside of the workplace, this translates as much to our working lives. Recruiters, strange as many of them can be at times are no different in this respect. People who work hard to work with us will get a pound of flesh in return.

I would argue that the majority of conscientious recruiters strive to be as objective as possible in their dealings, but candidates can play a central role in nurturing key relationships as part of a career plan.

But many candidates I encounter don't yet seem to have grasped that they have an element - a significant one - of control over how they can emphatically influence their search, particularly when the best jobs are scarce. It's not simply about which social media websites they frequent and who / where they share their personal information with. It's the combination of their "virtual" self but also the one that we meet in that first instance and then how that initial contact is subsequently developed. It's from the point of leaving that initial meeting with your recruiter than the work really starts in building that relationship. Don't just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

As I said, developing those crucial relationships can be all important so let me highlight some simple principles that I believe all candidates should aim to do when they are embarking upon something so fundamentally life changing as a job search.

* meet your preferred and ideally recommended recruiter - don't settle for a phone interview - how can your consultant truly, truly represent you if they've never met you face to face? If the recruiters client pushes them to mention that one key thing that makes them such a great cultural fit? They can't.

*Keep in regular contact - as I alluded to above, it's not a case of waiting by the phone, more one of picking it up and making the calls on a regular basis.

* Ensure that when your recruiter approaches you for a role that you are as fully briefed as possible (and more!) and ask them why THEY think you are a great fit for the role as well as the company. If they have met you, listened to you and understood you, they'll be prepared to share their thoughts. Similarly, they will be qualified in explaining why they think you would not be appropriate.

* Tell them if you've already been approached / presented for a role that they mention. If you don't do this, it's a great way to lose your credibility with both the client (your potential employer!) and your recruiter. It is not a quicker or better way of landing that job if your CV sits on the same hiring managers desk in duplicate, it simply looks like you can't manage your career and you don't work with a recruiter you trust.

* Consistent with the above point, be up front! Make sure your recruiter knows where you are at in the process with other opportunities - avoid surprises and you stand a better chance of landing the role you REALLY want as opposed to the next best one. A good recruiter who you can trust and values your relationship (and yes, business) in the long term, should be able to give you clear advice on one opportunity versus another, regardless of whether a role is through them or not.

* Go the extra mile in order to build the relationship with your recruiter and develop a dialogue and a sense of trust. Believe me, if you do this then they'll pull up trees for you and this in itself will enhance your prospects. Imagine a recruiter talking to their client about candidate A and candidate B. They both have all the prerequisite skills, their career history is a mirror image of the other, but candidate A has invested time in the relationship beyond a superficial level. Subliminally or otherwise, candidate A will be presented in the best light.

Much of this may sound like teaching granny to suck eggs. The bottom line is that candidates who apply the above to their job search stand a better chance of laying a golden one.

I'd welcome some thoughts from others that may help guide candidates in the year ahead.

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