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Navigating the Job Crisis: Have a Plan

The earthquake that crushed Wall Street has now torn apart Main Street. American jobs are disappearing at an unprecedented pace. The country’s unemployment rate recently topped 8 percent – the highest it has been in a quarter century. With 2.6 million jobs lost in the last four months alone, and over 4 million people laid off since the beginning of the recession, nearly everyone has been touched by this crisis.

No wonder everyone is asking: where are the jobs?

Even for those of us who are employed, the situation out there is scary. Nearly half of all Americans worry about becoming unemployed. There are five states where the unemployment rate has reached double digits. Nine out of 10 people say now is a bad time to get a quality job. As a nation, we need all the help we can get.

First Step: A Plan

Jeff Taylor, who founded the popular jobs site Monster.com, says that everyone looking for a job needs to gain some perspective, whether they have been out of work for a week or a year. “Plan your work and work your plan,” Taylor says.

Identify 10 companies that you’re going to go after for a job and become an expert in every part of what that company does and the history of that business and industry. If you land an interview, don’t be afraid to lay out your ideas for the company. Tell the recruiter what you will bring to the table that will help the prospective employer’s bottom line.

With so many people vying for so few jobs, it is more important than ever to stand out and show how you can be an asset to the company, Taylor says, not just a worker bee like everyone else.

Executive recruiter Jim Citrin of Spencer Stuart shares that view. As a top headhunter for executives, he finds that those who are doing the hiring in this climate are especially attracted to potential employees who come in with fresh ideas and who have clearly done their homework about the company, its business and its culture. Be smart, be creative and add value from that first point of contact, he says.

Citrin and Taylor, along with Dr. Doug Hirschhorn, appear at a special town hall event : Where the Jobs Are, which premiered Wednesday night on CNBC. Hosted by Carl Quintanilla and Erin Burnett, it explores the unemployment situation. (Find out more here)

Also on the town hall, we spoke to Austan Goolsbee, a member of the Council of Economic Advisors and staff director and chief economist of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Many are wondering how President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill is going to jumpstart an economy so mired in an employment crisis. Goolsbee reveals on the program precisely what jobs the administration expects the stimulus to create, where those jobs will be created and just when the American people can expect to see the effects.

Find more on jobs.cnbc.com, from job-finding tools to a web-exclusive Q&A segment with our special guests.

Questions? Comments? E-mail us at townhall@cnbc.com