If you’ve been struggling to find work this year, you’ve got company.

While the pace of US job losses slowed last month, with payrolls declining by 11,000 positions in November 2009, the length of the average job search actually surged, to 28.5 weeks of average unemployment — the worst in more than 10 years. So, times continue to be tough.

And times may stay tough, if you’re laboring under two of the most common and costly misconceptions that plague most job seekers.

What are they?

Misconception #1: “Sure, that got them hired, but I’m different. What about an idea I can use in my job search?”

Solution: I can’t tell you how often I hear variations on the “I’m different” question, and how wrong-headed the thinking behind it is.

No matter how many job-search success stories I share, there’s always someone who can find a reason why they won’t work for them.

I could offer a tip that got a 45-year-old IT Manager from Des Moines hired, and someone would write, “What about me? I’m different. I’m a 47-year-old IT Manager from Des Moines.”

If you’re waiting for the perfect job-search tip, one that’s 100% customized to you and your exact situation, to appear in this or any publication, you will wait a very long time.

Meanwhile, other people are getting hired for jobs you might otherwise get, because they’re out there competing with creativity and persistence.

Here’s the solution. The next time you learn of someone who found a job, ask yourself this question: How can I adapt that to my situation?

Example: If a sales rep got hired after bringing actual sales leads to her job interview, how could you adapt that? What could you bring to your next interview that proves you can do the job?

There’s an endless supply of inspirational, actionable job-search tactics out there in the news, waiting for you to adapt them. Stop waiting for the perfect answer and start adapting what’s working for others.

Misconception #2: “I already applied for that job and they ignored me, so I can’t apply again. I’m stuck.”

Solution: Understand this: Nowhere is it written that silence from an employer equals permanent rejection.

If you apply but get no response from an employer, you probably emailed your resume or submitted it online, never calling or writing to follow up, right?

Look. If you had to get a message to someone or risk losing your home, would you send it by email and wait? Or would you email, call, fax, write, or even visit their office until you learned for certain that they got your message? The latter, of course.

Well, if you go jobless for so long that your house gets foreclosed on, don’t let it be because you weren’t willing to follow up with employers. That would be tragic.

There are several ways to:
1. follow up with employers without being a pest and
2. re-apply for the same job, even after you’ve been ignored.

Two examples of how to follow up smartly:
1. Call or ask around to find the name of your potential boss (not the HR manager). Mail your resume to them, along with a cover letter that says, “Because email isn’t 100% reliable, I’m mailing you my resume with a stamp, just to make sure. You can expect this same attention to detail if I join your team as JOB TITLE.”
2. Make contact with someone at your target employer and ask them to forward your resume to the hiring manager the same day you apply online. Bonus: Get two people to forward your resume — the more conversations you can start about you, the better.

Want to re-apply for a job? Try the Coffee Cup Caper™ Send an excellent, full-color resume in a box to the employer, with your cover letter, and a paper Starbucks cup. Ask the hiring manager to meet for coffee, then call to follow up. (Editor’s Note: In an previous Career Jockey article “How to Find a Job 65% Faster,” Kevin gives a detailed account of how Mary Burman, one of his clients, used this technique in her job search. The article includes an video interview with her.)

This Guerrilla Job Search tactic helped one man, Jeff K., from Chicago, IL, get hired for a position he had originally applied to 6 months earlier. The employer ignored him the first time, but not the second — how could they?

As a final principle, remember this: The best way to stand out and get noticed by employers in this economy is to zig when everyone else is zagging.

Because, if you do what everyone else is doing to find a job, you’ll get results like everyone else is getting. And almost every job seeker you talk to is getting poor results.

If you get stuck for ideas, just look at what everyone else is doing … and do the opposite. If they’re sitting behind a computer zapping out resumes to employers, deliver your resumes in person. If they’re not calling to follow up, make sure you do call. You get the idea.

To grow and become a better person, you must try new things. The tactics above can help you try new things, smash through two common job-search misconceptions — and get hired faster.

Kevin Donlin is co-author of “Guerrilla Resumes.” To learn more, visit Kevin’s Guerrilla Resumes site.