Finding the Right Job
Are you re-entering the workforce after raising kids? Looking to take the next step in your career? Have you just been laid off or fired?
No matter why you're on the job hunt, you're bound to find out that the landscape has changed since you last looked for work. First the good news. As the first of the baby boomers retire, employers are facing a shortage of qualified employees, giving job hunters more clout. Now the not so good news. Thanks to technology and an ever increasing demand for productivity, the work week for many people has stretched to 50 hours, and in some cases, even as high as 70 hours, says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president of the Center for Work-Life Policy. Even part-timers are working what used to be close to a full-time week. The bottom line? You can expect your new job to be more demanding than previous jobs you've held.
If you're going to be working harder, it's even more important to get a job you'll really like—a job that will not only help you meet your financial and career goals, but will also reward your psyche, stimulate your creativity and give you that feeling of accomplishment that sometimes only the workplace can provide.
How do you get started? For most of us, this is the biggest obstacle we face when it comes to finding a new job. It's just so hard to get started. There's no real deadline and nobody breathing down your neck to make sure you send that résumé or call that contact.
Jump-start your job search and keep yourself motivated!
Ask yourself the following questions to get insights into your fears and anxieties about job hunting so you can help yourself get over them.
1. How do you feel about job hunting? Do you love the thrill of the hunt, or do you simply dread the whole idea?
2. How did you feel in the past when you didn't get a job you really wanted? How did you feel when you turned down a job offer? (Jean Chatzky's take: The rejection involved in a job hunt can be devastating. And sometimes getting a job offer that's not right for you and having the courage to turn it down can be just as excruciating. Try not to let past experiences cloud your outlook for the future. That was then and this is a whole new you.)
3. If you're not currently employed, how long have you been out of the workforce? What skills and talents can you bring to your search from the nonwork activities you've been doing?
4. What's your definition of a dream job? (Jean's take: For me, it's a position that pushes me to stretch to be my best while still offering enough flexibility to spend time with my kids. Sure, that sounds impossible. But you'll never know what you can get unless you ask. When I was hired for a staff position on a large personal finance magazine, my kids were young and there was no way I could stick around the office for late-night closes. But my bosses set me up with a computer at home so I could close pages after the kids went to bed. I never would have gotten that deal if I hadn't asked.)
5. What skills do you have to offer? What weaknesses do you have to work on?
6. Have you ever been fired? How will that experience affect this job search?
7. What special challenges do you think women face when looking for a position? (Jean's take: Competing for jobs in male-dominated fields can be intimidating at best—even in this day and age. I remember when I was applying for security analyst positions on Wall Street, I rarely interviewed with other women and it took me some time to get comfortable with the idea that I'd be working mostly with men.)
8. What's your biggest fear/anxiety about re-entering the workforce/getting a new job? What strategies can you use to overcome these fears?
9. What type of new job will best help you achieve your financial goals?
10. Who might be able to help you with your search? What's the best way for you to expand your job-hunting network? Three Tasks You Can Do This Month
Ask any woman with a great job how she got to where she is and she'll probably say she got lucky. But successful job hunters make their own luck with hard work and lots of preparation. You can use the strategies below to make sure you've got the essential ingredients for a fruitful job search—a killer résumé and sharp interviewing skills. Looking to help your kids find a good summer job? We've got some advice for that, too.
Create a Killer Résumé Your résumé is your chance to make a great first impression. That single piece of paper (or, these days, that one e-mail attachment) will determine whether or not you get an interview. Dust off an old copy and add any new experience or skills that you've acquired since you last looked for a job. If you've been out of the workforce, consider adding any volunteer work you've done or classes you've taken that have helped you hone in on an existing skill or learn a new one.
Share a copy of your updated résumé with your friends and family, and get their input on how you can make it sharper and more compelling. Pay special attention to the questions they members ask. If you find you need to explain or amplify a certain item, it may mean it isn't as clearly written as it could be.
Practice Interviewing You may think that the best interviewees think quickly on their feet and come up with smart, insightful answers (and they do), but for most of us, interviewing is like playing a musical instrument—it takes plenty of practice. Setting up informational interviews with former colleagues, acquaintances and friends of friends in industries you're interested in is a great way to polish your interviewing skills. So is role playing with friends.
Before you head into an interview, tell your family who you'll be interviewing with and what you know about them and the company they works for. Have members take turns asking you questions they think your potential new boss will have on their list. After you answer, ask for feedback on what you could have done better. By the time you get through that exercise, the actual interview will be a piece of cake!
I recently interviewed Susan Strayer, a career coach and author of The Right Job, Right Now, and she suggests job hunters create an inventory of stories that they can rely on during an interview. Think of several successful projects you've completed, times you've taken an important role in your employer's success and praises you've received from bosses or clients, and be ready to briefly retell those experiences at the appropriate moment.
Help Your Child Get a Summer Job
If you have a high school or college-age child who's looking for summer work, he or she will need a sharp résumé and good interviewing skills. To help them find leads for great summer jobs, don't forget your local network of family members, friends and teachers, says Randall Hansen, founder of Quintcareers.com, a website for young job seekers. In addition, have your child check out websites such as CoolWorks.com, SummerJobs.com and ResortJobs.com, all of which list lots of temporary positions at resorts and summer camps throughout the country. Resources Create a Network
Think of your friends as an instant job-hunting network that can provide ideas, advice and contacts you need. Then, branch out to family and former colleagues, says Robin Ryan. Tell everyone you know you're on the hunt and ask them for names of acquaintances that might be able to help you. Go on as many informational interviews as you can possibly manage. True, there may be no openings, but you'll have made an in for when a position is available. The person you're interviewing with may very well know others in their industry that you should also talk to. Plus, you'll brush up your interviewing skills.
Target Your Search
Although it's tempting to answer dozens of want ads and send your résumé to everyone you know, the quality of your applications, not the quantity, is what will get you results, says Robin Ryan. "You can spend 20 or 25 hours a week looking for a job—after that you're wasting your time," she adds.
Determine the industries and businesses you're most interested in (and best qualified for) ahead of time and concentrate on those contacts and openings first. Remember, targeting also means adding a personal touch. Always send a well-tailored cover letter with your résumé—no form letters or mass mailings.
Use the Internet Wisely
Sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com can give you a great sense of what types of openings are available and what kind of salary range you can expect. And, it certainly can't hurt to answer ads that appeal to you. But answering blind ads shouldn't be the bulk of your search, says Susan Strayer. So often you hear nothing back. Posting your résumé on these sites can also be a waste of time. Better to look for openings on the websites of companies and industry associations that you're interested in.
It generally takes three to six months for people to find a job, says Robin Ryan. The wait can be frustrating, but the process gives you a chance to really evaluate what kind of job is right for you. Tools: Résumé Writing Workshop
According to Ric Edelman, author of Financial Security in Troubled Times, the purpose of a résumé is not to get a job, it's to get an interview—you will get the job. A résumé should not list all your skills, but rather tease the employer with your achievements. These are ways to make your résumé stand out.
1. Broaden your work experience.
Describe your job skills in ways that are transferable to other industries.
Don't limit yourself to a specific type of job by simply listing the daily tasks you performed at your job. Expand on how your job impacted the business industry or company.
2. Use strong verbs.
Don't talk about your capabilities. Talk about your accomplishments.
Use active tenses rather than passive voice.
Good words to use are managed, created, led, accomplished and organized.
3. Target a specific person.
Address your cover letter and envelope to a specific person. Usually a simple phone call to the company is all you need.
4. Target a specific position.
Identify the position you are interested in and tweak your résumé to match the industry.
5. Make it easy to read.
When writing your résumé think, "Less is more." Many people make the mistake of putting too much information on their résumés.
Don't write to the edges of the paper. Leave white space in the margins and in between jobs.
Use a readable font at a reasonable size.
One page only.
Take your new résumé everywhere you go. It is your new calling card!