In today’s tough job market, searching for a new career is intimidating. Standing out from the massive crowd of qualified applicants is harder than ever, especially when searching for a career rather than a temporary job. Luckily, there are a few ways to tailor career searches and find the best fit for a job seeker’s skills, talents, and experience.

Starting a career search locally is a good first step. Companies often look to hire qualified local candidates first, because hiring locally allows them to avoid expensive relocation costs. A local applicant is also more likely to fit in with the company’s culture, and to be familiar with the company and how it interacts with the community. If there is no local demand in the job seeker’s field, relocating to an area where there is such demand brings new career options.

If one’s skills aren’t what employers are looking for or the career change is drastic, further education opens up job opportunities. Accredited community colleges are the best way to obtain an associate’s degree or certification, and are a cost-effective way to begin a first or second bachelor’s degree as well. Local community colleges offer low tuition, flexible class schedules, online classes, and credits that transfer to four-year universities. Online degree programs are another option, particularly for master’s degrees and other advanced professional certifications not offered by community colleges.

Connecting to the online job market is essential, particularly for older or less technologically-inclined job seekers who may not already have a social media presence. Professional networks connect employers with potential employees, and having a strong, positive online presence can mean the difference between a good applicant and a great one. For younger applicants who already maintain a social media identity, cultivating what is already available online into a polished, professional presence is the most important concern in this area.

Finally, a dedicated career seeker can’t neglect the traditional parts of the job search: a strong resume, cover letters tailored to the positions applied for, and superb interview skills. Online resume and cover letter templates are a good starting point if all a resume needs is a bit of polish; for those needing more help, local unemployment offices, temporary agencies, and libraries often offer classes on how to construct a good resume and cover letter. These same resources can also help with job interview skills.

Choosing the right market, keeping a current skillset, harnessing the internet to the fullest, and building a strong foundation in basic job search skills are all tips that, when used together, help ensure a job seeker rises to the top. Changing careers in today’s economy is never easy, but these steps make it as painless as possible.

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