Dallas is probably one of the hottest places to find work right now, but you might not find evidence for that on the job boards.

Even though it’s the fourth most populated metropolitan area in the country, the unemployment rate is only about 7 percent, two points below the national average. According to Simply-Hired’s Nov 2011 Job Outlook, Dallas has experienced 17 percent year-over-year job growth.

Even better, there are only three unemployed people for every one open job. That’s an extremely low rate of competition. With these economic figures, you should be sliding into new cubicles in weeks, not months. So what’s the problem?

Why are people like Pamela Rogers in the Telcom space saying, “There’s supposed to be more openings. I look at the news, and that’s what it says, but I haven’t seen it.”

After all, communications is one of the top employing industries in Metroplex! She should be seeing it. Right?

The reason is simple. The way people used to find work in Dallas doesn’t work anymore.Even cowboys have to use social media, shake hands, and print business cards. Let me explain.

According to some of the top recruiters, about 80 percent of jobs never even make it to job boards. And if the job does make it to the job boards, chances are the hiring manager has someone already earmarked to fill it.

In short, if you are relying solely on job boards as indications of opportunity, you won’t see much improvement.

Most career coaches and recruiters will agree that you must build meaningful relationships. So here are three skills you need to work on as you adapt your job search paradigm for the new economy.

Networking Skills

Networking is hard. Make no mistake. Even if you are the most extroverted person in the world, when you walk into a room full of strangers, you pause.

If you are a skilled networker, you will sense which person is the right one to talk to – and you’ll introduce yourself.

You will listen more than you talk.

And when asked “tell me about yourself” you will tell them in simple clear terms what you do and what you are looking for.

There will be an exchange of business cards. (So if you don’t have any, you should print some up … today.)

Let’s face it, job seeking is a skill in and of itself. And as with most skills, to become more competent, you should practice the skill as well as learn more through books and trainings. So why not grab a book about networking?

Online Networking

Since there really is a limit to how many $1 beers and cheese plates you can tolerate in a week, you can supplement your networking with social media.

From a tactical point of view, this might mean having a professional-looking LinkedIn profile, and then adding the new people you meet to your LinkedIn network.

From a strategic point of view, this could mean researching the companies you really want to work for, and then using social media to reach out directly to info-interview sources.

Whatever you do with social media, keep in mind that it supplements, not replaces, networking. It’s about relationships.

Keep Your Skills Sharp

Many hiring managers will agree that most of the skills needed to do the job they are hiring for come from on-the-job training. Did you know you can enter the State Department’s foreign service with just a high school diploma?

The skills you think are important might not really be important to your next position. Don’t just grab classes at the community college because you think that’s what an employer wants. You need to really know.

For example, the largest employment segment in Dallas is health care. The Obama administration has a goal of completely eliminating paperwork from health care. So hospitals and clinics are buying very elaborate and sophisticated software. Do you know what software your target company is using? If not, you should – and you should learn how to use it.

If you live in or near Dallas and want to learn more about how to use social media to shorten your job search, meet the right hiring managers, and find the right job, I’m coming to Dallas between Jan 21-28, 2012! So be on the lookout for opportunities at your local job networking events to swing by and say HI.