Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Job Search Costs

Changing careers or conducting a job search can cost money. Of course, with the growing accessibility of the Internet, there are many free resources at your fingertip. Even so, it’s best to plan for these expenses, especially if you’re the one making a decision to leave an existing job without having another job to move in to. Take a look at this list, and then you decide what you can and can’t do without.

·Resume: Numerous online sites exist and many books and articles are in print explaining how to compose a resume and cover letters. Better yet, go directly to the “Prepare Resume” tab in Career Transitions to access a convenient, step-by-step resume wizard for walking you through building, saving, storing and sending targeted, efficient resumes and cover letters. Two situations may preclude you from wanting to undertake resume writing on your own or with the help of an online tool: 1) You have difficulty putting thoughts into words accurately and 2) You find it difficult to be objective about yourself, including your previous work and educational experience. If either of these is the case, use your local directory to locate a professional resume writer near you or go online to locate websites and professional resume writer associations for help.

·Computer and Internet access: It’s fair to say that daily or every-other-day access to your e-mail on the Internet, not to mention job board and company websites, is imperative during a serious job search. In addition, you’ll want to have ready access to a word processing program. Your local library may be equipped with all of the above, but unless you have your files stored in a convenient web-based tool like Career Transitions’ Prepare Resume dashboard, be prepared to invest in storage media for carrying files related to the job search (for example, your resume, reference list, and job samples).

·Appearance: If you’re between jobs or attempting to change careers, it can be tough to earmark funds for regular haircuts, not to mention clothing to wear on interviews. But when you consider that first impressions are lasting impressions, these expenses are worth their weight in gold. Make sure you research what clothing is appropriate for interviewing in your field and shop around to keep the costs reasonable. Accessories like a decent briefcase or portfolio may also be necessary expenses depending on the type of work you’re applying for.

·Travel and Meals: Whether you’re traveling across town or to another state for an interview, you’ll want to plan on the costs associated with gas, parking, flying, car rentals, meals, and possible overnight stays. In addition, just networking locally can get expensive, depending on the frequency of lunch/dinner meetings or just meeting for coffee.

·Dues and Memberships: Professional and trade associations as well as memberships in organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce can be very valuable sources for job leads and expanding your network. Some allow you to attend free local meetings or simply charge a fee per event. Others require you to pay annual dues to participate. Be sure to weigh the value of membership in terms of what the organization delivers in access to both online and local services, networking opportunities, publications, and training.

·Miscellaneous: You may want to consider the costs of a cell phone if you’re in a situation where you share a home phone line with children or roommates. And, you’ll be glad to have note cards on hand when it’s time to follow up with a “thank you” after an interview. Although more and more of the job search is being handled online, you’ll still have occasional need for paper copies of your resume. Invest in some nice-quality paper for your resume and cover letters, look into getting business cards printed, and plan on spending a little bit on copies and postage.

The good news is that, in some cases, expenses associated with a job hunt can be tax deductible. For example, you may be able to deduct the resume writer’s fee or some of your travel expenses. Take a look at this article in BankRate’s 2009 Tax Guide for a more extensive list of deductions and the criteria they must satisfy. But beware! According to the article, these deductions are only good if you’re looking for another job in the same field. So unfortunately, career changers, these tax deductions won’t apply in your case.

Monday, February 22, 2010

When It Comes to Networking, Mix It Up a Little

At a time when job cuts and layoffs are at record levels in some states, networking is becoming more important than ever. Whatever your reason for looking for a new job, in order for networking to be a truly valuable tool, you need to consider who the individuals and groups are that make up your network.

Think of your network as a series of concentric circles that emanate from the center when you drop a stone into a calm lake or river. Be sure to reach out to people in each of these circles to ensure you’re benefiting from the full networking experience.

The first circle represents those you know very well—your family and friends. Don’t be shy about letting them know that you’re considering a new career or looking for a new job. There’s no telling how many people your family and friends come into contact with each day, and any one of them could turn into an extremely valuable resource.

The next circle is composed of your former co-workers and bosses. This is especially true if you plan on staying in the same field. In some ways, this network can be even more valuable than family and friends, because the people in it can speak to your work ethic and your expertise, based on firsthand experience.

Next, if you’re unemployed, you’ll want to look for some networking events that others who are unemployed will be attending. Those who make up this network can be a valuable resource for sharing information on tools that have aided their job hunts, not to mention news about local career fairs, companies that are hiring, and more.

Of course, professional and trade associations can be extremely useful in your networking mix. As you’re considering opportunities for expanding into these areas, look locally as well as online. Dues and membership costs for these organizations can be somewhat steep, so make sure to vet out each organization and compare them to determine which one will give you the highest return for your money.

Lastly, for your network to be truly well rounded, you’ll want to include acquaintances from other facets of your life, for example, your hair stylist, a yoga instructor, or your mailperson to name a few. Think about how many people these individuals come into contact with daily. There’s no telling the extent to which they can help you put out the word. Of course, you’ll want to limit membership in this network to those you believe will have useful contacts and who can accurately convey the basics of your job situation and career intentions to others. Do not include those who are just interested in passing along gossip.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Identifying Your Transferable Skills

Identifying and articulating your “transferable skills”—skills that are not specific to a certain job title or position, such as meeting deadlines, listening, and solving problems—is a crucial element of any job search. Conducting a transferable skills inventory is a quick and easy way to identify these skills. You can use the results of the inventory to create a more effective resume and to develop discussion points that you can use throughout the interview process. Check out the transferable skills checklist from Rogue Community College or the transferable skills checklist from Missouri State University to help you define and prioritize the skills that you want to highlight as part of your job search strategy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Turn a Temporary Job into a Permanent Position

Despite signs that an economic recovery is under way, some companies are still hesitant to create full-time positions. While accepting a part-time or temporary position may not seem to be ideal, it can provide an opportunity to display your skills and prove your value, making you an excellent candidate for future full-time job openings within the company. Check out business writer Dawn Anfuso’s article on turning part-time work into a full-time job.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On-the-Job Training through Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships, which provide the opportunity for individuals to receive supervised instruction via on-the-job training, can be a valuable career development tool. While apprenticeships have typically been associated with occupations such as electrician, carpenter, and plumber, they are becoming increasingly popular in high growth industries like health care and information technology. For assistance in determining whether an apprenticeship is right for you, check out the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship site.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Web Resumes: A Tool that Helps You Stand Out from the Competition

Transforming your resume into its own unique web page creates a more aesthetically pleasing resume, one that uses graphics and other media forms to stand out. A web resume also offers other benefits.

· You can password protect your site. Password protecting specific pages, or your entire site, allows you to control how much of your web resume various people can view.

· You can have a potential employer access your web page during an interview. An employer who has access to the Web can open your portfolio during the interview, and you can conduct a tour that highlights your skills and accomplishments. Thus, you are actually using your web site as a portfolio.

· You can interview with a potential employer on the phone. You can show an employer around your web site as he or she talks to you from their office and views your web page on a monitor.

· You can download your web page onto a CD and send it to a potential employer. You can do this either before or after the interview. The employer will have something to review even after you have left the interview. It also allows the employer to show your work to other colleagues who may be involved in the hiring process. Additionally, downloading your web page portfolio to a CD is an inexpensive alternative to sending costly portfolios to each employer.

Motivated to create your personal resume web site? Check out Mashable's useful step-by-step "How To: Build the Ultimate Social Media Resume."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Making the Most of Online Job Board Benefits

Using job boards and posting your resume online through one or more of them can provide you with exposure to thousands of companies that access information from these boards when searching for potential job candidates. On the front end, it’s important to select the right boards for your job search and to upload your resume and set up your job board options correctly. Later, when you begin to be contacted by companies about potential openings, it’s important to be able to separate the legitimate openings from those that might be scams. (Although this content focuses only on job boards, researching and approaching individual companies directly through their websites is a whole other aspect of your job search that cannot be ignored.)

Selecting the right job boards: The job boards you choose for posting your resume depend largely on the type of work you’re looking for. It’s true that the large, well-known boards like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder represent a lion’s share of the market when it comes to job postings in general. And most likely, you’ll want to post your resume on one or more of these sites. But depending on the type of job you’re looking for, more specialized job boards—for example those listing only accounting jobs, health care jobs, or retail jobs—may glean more targeted results. Simply typing the phrase “job boards” into Google will generate a list of hits that leads to all kinds of job boards. In addition, don’t forget professional associations. Many sponsor their own job boards, although frequently they are limited to members only.

Using job board features to aid your job search: To take full advantage of the benefits of the job boards you’ve selected, you’ll most likely want to do the following on each of them:

Register as a job board user

Upload an electronic version of your resume either by browsing to attach to a resume file on your PC or by copy/pasting your resume contents onto the website

Target specific job and/or industry categories for your search

Take advantage of job board features for “alerting” you, via e-mail, when job openings that match your criteria become available

Revisit the board periodically to refine your search criteria or make updates to your resume

Identifying legitimate company interest: It’s a fact that by participating in job boards you’re bound to receive e-mails and even phone calls from companies and individuals that don’t represent the kind of job you’re looking for. Sometimes they’re jobs that are in completely different fields than what you’re qualified for. Other times, they may be spam or disreputable companies or individuals. The important thing is to be able to tell what’s legitimate and what’s not. Of course, it helps to research the company website, but even the existence of a company website doesn’t always guarantee that the company is legitimate. Online sites like Hoovers, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and various websites covering business (for example, INC., BusinessWeek, and others) could lead to more background on a particular company. Watch for common negative indicators, like frequent typos in the messages to you, unreasonably large salaries, and promises for making lots of money from the comfort of your own home. And of course, you don’t want to disclose certain information blindly to any company, especially information combinations like your social security number, driver’s license number, and mother’s maiden name or other private information. There’s no reason for a hiring company to collect information combinations like this, especially in the early stages of a job search.

Remember, using job boards is just one aspect of your job search. In fact, a successful job search requires a multi-faceted approach that includes researching appropriate employment opportunities on individual company websites where you may wish to apply and post your resume directly or through e-mail.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Uploading Your Resume to Job Boards or Company Websites

Before uploading your resume to a job board or company website, you’ll need to have it in an electronic format, preferably in a word processing program like Microsoft Word. Most likely, you’ve taken advantage of the formatting capability in the word processor to enhance the appearance of your resume. Keep in mind, though, that some job boards and websites don’t handle specialty formatting well. Therefore, you should have more than one version of your electronic resume available. For example, you may have one fully formatted version and another less fancy version saved as an .rtf file (some formatting is maintained) or a .txt file (no formatting). See your word processor’s “Save As” choices to determine what file types are available to you.

The two most common methods for uploading your resume include “browsing” to upload a file from your computer onto the website or “copy/pasting” your resume contents into the allotted area on a website.

Browsing: If the job board or company website uses the browsing method, you’ll generally have a BROWSE or UPLOAD button you can click to display an area for indicating where your electronic resume is located. You’ll need to indicate the drive/folder/document name for your resume. If you’ve specified the location correctly, your resume will be successfully uploaded to the website.

Copy/Pasting: Some job boards and company websites require you to copy/paste your resume contents into an area on the website or they offer this as an alternative to the Browse/Upload option. The copy/paste method requires you to click and drag your cursor through your entire resume document to highlight all the contents (or use a “Select All” choice in the word processor). Once the entire resume has been selected, use the word processor’s “Copy” option to store the contents of your resume in the computer’s clipboard. Then, move to the website area where you’ll be placing your resume and “Paste” the contents into that area. (When data has been copied to the clipboard, Paste is usually available as a right-click option on a Windows PC or through CMD+V on a Mac.)

Regardless of whether you use the Browsing or Copy/Pasting method, be sure to scroll through your entire resume as it appears on the job board or company site to verify that all the spacing and formatting appear correctly.

As a note, employers who monitor resumes on job board sites can choose to view only those resumes that were recently posted or updated. Therefore, it’s a good practice to periodically make an update to your uploaded resume, even if it’s a very minor one, in order to flag it as a recently updated resume.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tracking Progress Until You Hear Those Magic Words—“You’re Hired”

There is no such thing as a typical job hunt; some people report filling in three to five applications in a week and others report filling in as many as ten or more. When a hiring manager calls, you want to be able to put your fingers on the pertinent information about the job. Staying organized right from the beginning will help you make the most of the opportunities that are out there.

Whether you prefer to do your recordkeeping on paper or in an electronic table or spreadsheet, your job search will go much smoother if you log the following information about each job application you complete:
• The username and password you used to log into that job board or a company’s website
• The URL for that online job application (for example: )
• The company name and job applied for
• The job description
• The contact person’s name (if available)
• The date on which you applied
• Which version of your resume you posted with a specific job application
• Any salary requirement you specified when applying
• The length of time the job board or company will keep your application on file
• The date on which you last updated the resume you have posted on a particular job board
• Any follow-up activities you pursued

Many job application websites now provide a summary page when you submit your resume. If you’re keeping a paper filing system, you should print a copy for your records. If you’re keeping your records electronically, try using the ALT + PrtScn key combination to capture the summary electronically while it is displayed on the screen. (Macs have a CTRL+CMD+SH+3 combination that performs a similar screen capture function.) After you’ve captured it using this key combination, simply open a word processing file and do a “Paste” to paste the summary into a word processing document and then save that document. This electronic screen capture capability is a great way to capture screens showing job descriptions too.

Keeping good records makes it easier when you revisit the job boards and company websites to identify new positions that have become available. In addition, if you sign up for the job alerts feature to learn when jobs matching your criteria become available on a particular job board, good recordkeeping will help you to identify if these alerts are for jobs you’ve already applied for or companies you’ve already applied with. Logging the date you last updated a posted resume on a job board is a good idea because employers who monitor resumes on job board sites sometimes request to view only those resumes that were recently posted or updated. Therefore, it’s a good practice to periodically make an update to your resume, even if it’s a very minor one, in order to flag it as a recently updated resume.

Remember—the more organized you are before a potential employer comes calling, the better your chances of WOW’ing that employer into making a job offer!