CHICAGO (CBS)– With so many people out of work and hundreds all wrestling for the same job openings, how can you make yourself stand out?

CBS 2 is Working For Chicago and connecting you with the useful resources to bounce back. Morning Insider Tim McNicholas asked the head of a job search networking group for simple and helpful tips.

Marty Gilbert has been helping people get back to work for years. He offers job search coaching, workshops and webinars through his NorthShore executive networking group.

“There’s so many different things you can and should be doing in your job search,” he said. “The first thing is you’ve got to have a plan.”

He said you should make a list of the companies and positions you’re interested in and focus on those, rather than applying for any job you see online.

His second tip, “you are now the product, you’ve got to be able to market and sell yourself.”

Gilbert said you should add specific accomplishments and stories to your resume and cover letter to demonstrate why you’re the best fit for the job.

It’s not enough to just say you’re good, you have to list examples of why.

“Those stories are the evidence behind what makes you strong and potential unique and better than other individuals,” Gilbert said.

And tip number three? Gilbert said you should message employers on LinkedIn and their email, if you can find it. This can help separate you from the rest of the pack.

“When you message with a strong resume, a good cover letter and with a story that identifies yourself and somebody they ought to be talking to, it gets interviews,” he said.

Marc Lessem is a member of Gilbert’s networking group who lost his job last fall. He said the India-based company Nexdigm was on the fence about hiring someone so he offered to work for free throughout February, he’d already been doing some pro bono consulting for them.

They eventually hired him for an executive role in April.

With so many people out of work, that’s not an approach everyone can afford to take. But Gilbert said whatever your situation, be prepared to get creative and think outside the box.

Gilbert usually hosts his workshops in person but now it’s all online. Gilbert said he’s still seeing at least one of his members every day land a new job.

He expects the IT field and the financial planning industry will both still have demand as companies continue to adjust to the pandemic.