Minority unemploymentA recent story on WNPR about the US unemployment rate’s drop below 7.5% in July of this year—a four-year low—focused in on joblessness among African Americans, which currently stands at nearly twice that of the rest of the population. The piece refers to the case of Kermit Collins, an African American college grad who needed seven whole months to land a job befitting his background and skills. “I filled out 20-30 applications a day via Internet,” says Mr. Collins. “I did the follow-up calls [but] nobody called me back.” He concludes that it wasn’t his time to be employed.

When we listen to the example of Mr. Collins, we should consider other likely factors that may have prejudiced his job search other than race. In spite of society’s biases, both real and alleged, his job search may have been hampered from the start due to lack of focus. If Mr. Collins was sending out 20-30 applications per day, there’s no way that any of those applications could have been properly researched, targeted and personalized. Wherever job-hunting is concerned; the name of the game is quality, not quantity.

Mr. Collins now teaches classes to the chronically unemployed through the Chicago Urban League’s Workforce Development Program; I hope he’s preaching a job-search strategy that’s different from what he practiced.

Stories concerning U.S. unemployment have traditionally focused on those subsets of the population that are statistically among the worse off, hiring-wise: women, minorities and older workers. To members of these groups I suggest emphasizing yourself as an individual job seeker—not as a member of some demographic. Get to know both yourself (your strengths and your greatest professional accomplishments) and your target employer (note: you simply can’t get to know 30 employers in one day!), and then create a targeted, accomplishment-oriented resume/cover letter that will hopefully bond the two successfully.

By zeroing in on fewer opportunities and giving them your all, you’ll dramatically increase your odds of finding work… regardless of any other potential obstacles that may hinder your path.