Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com
Dear Sam: I was just laid off and do not know how to even begin a job search. What should I do to get my search off the ground? – Ron
Dear Ron: I'm really sorry to hear of your layoff. Let me outline the critical steps to get you started in the right direction:
1. Define your purpose. Have you considered what types of opportunities you want to pursue? This is the most critical step to ensuring a targeted and effective search. Do not get caught conducting a "general" search, which will only result in watered down results, instead position yourself for something, not everything, and be strategic with where you send your resume. Conducting a targeted search, while reducing the overall number of positions you may apply for, I promise will yield stronger results and a higher average return rate.
2. Develop a great resume. Once you have defined your target create your resume, infusing it with language found in job postings of interest. In essence, when considering your target audience—the hiring managers you are trying to attract—you want to make sure you are speaking their language. To do that you need to know what you want to market yourself as and translate your past experiences—and this is the key to an effective resume— to create a strategic image of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do.
You may have heard of keywords that need to be included in your resume, and speaking the right language, as mentioned above, means that you will be incorporating appropriate keywords and key phrases to secure the attention of your target audience. Keywords are simply the skills, experiences, abilities, and credentials your targeted hiring managers are going to be seeking. So, if you have defined your purpose, and are qualified for the jobs to which you are applying, incorporation of those keywords will come naturally in the presentation of your background and key qualifications.
Lastly, in creating your resume do not forget to develop a unique aesthetic which reinforces the tone of your candidacy. Do not use old formats, instead check out recently written books, websites like mine, or create something from scratch to showcase a little personality on your resume, all working alongside your content to differentiate your candidacy.
3. Create a strategic job search action plan. Now you have defined your purpose and marketed yourself on paper, begin to outline where you are going to look for a job. Do not get caught in a rut of simply applying for jobs on the open market, instead leverage networking, prospecting, referrals, and job search events as additional elements of a multi-pronged distribution strategy.
4. Track and follow up: Create and maintain a job search journal tracking your search. Print out every job you apply for, noting why and when you applied, why you would be a great fit, and when you followed up on the opportunity. This tool will become invaluable during your search, not only serving as a resource when a potential employer does call you for a phone or in-person interview, but also as a tool to reflect on the effectiveness of your search.
5. Be positive. Remaining positive is critical in conducting an effective job search. Find a support system to keep you on track, accountable, and optimistic. Many associations have job transition groups where you can network with like-minded professionals—many of whom are still employed—to gain insight into value-added distribution opportunities. Continue to reflect and refine your approach and search strategies until you see responses, remembering that targeted searches generate the strongest results.
Dear Sam: I am in my mid 40's and have driven a tractor-trailer for most of my career, however, due to a recent accident with my hand, I have been forced to look for another occupation. How do I create a cover letter explaining why I am changing careers? – Tim
Dear Tim: When you are embarking on a career change, you first have to define your purpose and identify your transferable skills. This is much more important than explaining the reason for the transition, because if your resume and cover letter do not make a strong case for your ability to perform within the new occupation, then you probably won't get the interview in the first place. Additionally, explaining that you had an accident, without going into too much detail as to the limitations it has now presented, may make a hiring manager question your ability to perform other job functions. Therefore, the best approach is to market your transferable skills and not mention the reason for the career change. I always tell clients that it typically never serves them to highlight a potentially disqualifying factor, unless by not doing so you just won't get the call for an interview. In your case, an explanation as to the impetus for the move will do nothing but highlight the lack of experience in your newly desired profession. It will also tell the hiring manager that it was not your choice to change fields, and could make them think that you might be less than enthusiastic to do so. Stick with making a case for how well you can perform within your desired profession based on your past experiences, skills, and education.
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).