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Just back from conducting several career strategy seminars, I’ve found that while some people are finding work, some aren’t. Besides the personal frustration of not finding work, the job seekers also feel the pressure from their spouses which, they tell me, hurts rather than helps. It is a hard business. But the fact is that a successful job search requires far more work than anyone expects. Looking for a full-time job is a full-time job in itself.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Your Resume:

Yes, you have to have one even though it alone won’t get you a job. Your job objective, if you write one, must match exactly the job description for which you’re applying. It must match word for word. Let me repeat—word for word. If it doesn’t, no one will read further.

In your professional experience section, you have to cite specifics. For example, don’t list just sales, but include numbers of items sold and describe how you personally increased sales. Detail other areas where you excelled—whether it was client liaison, product education, promotional efforts, or team collaboration.

Unless you’ve been a president, cut your resume down to one page. Remove the fillers. Reduce all your educational information so that each degree takes up only one line. Don’t list your hobbies unless they are particularly impressive or relevant. Remember, your resume is meant to keep you from being eliminated as a potential candidate for the interview, not to serve as a conversation starter.

2. Your Cover Letter:

Yes, it’s good to have a cover letter, even if it’s not asked for. Its purpose is to make meaning out of your resume, an inherently boring document. While you don’t repeat everything, you do have to say why you are qualified for the job given your experience and education. One technical candidate charted his experience to the job’s specifications-- a creative and brilliant way to make his cover letter stand out. Don’t be modest; this is the perfect place to tell how talented and qualified you are and what you will bring to the organization.

You absolutely must have someone highly literate proof and edit your cover letter and your resume for you so to make them perfect because any misspellings or grammatical errors will disqualify you. Neatness counts big time, especially when your goal is to land the interview.

3. Marketing Yourself:

Don’t just submit your resume and letters virtually expecting someone to contact you. Yes, you have to do that, but there’s more to it. Use your personal and business networks to set up face-to-face meetings or, at the least, phone conversations. Also, look for good stories written by and about successful people and contact them, complimenting them and asking them for leads. Even if people aren’t initially forthcoming, don’t give up. Ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes: who should you be talking to or what should you be going after. Who knows? It might just jumpstart a lead.

Put yourself out there by calling at least five people a day and trying to land two or more meetings a week. If you don’t know anyone to reach out to, start meeting people in all the right places including networking meetings. Keep a log of whom you’ve talked to and what you discussed. Keep your promises. Call back with questions and progress and give thanks. Always give thanks.

Rehearse yourself before an interview. Expect that you’ll be asked about your experience, so be prepared to discuss why they should consider hiring you, what talents and skills you have to bear, how you’ve handled difficult situations before, what happened to end your last job, and what excellence your bring. In short, they want to know if you’ll be a trusted contributor. Practice making yourself likeable too, and look for common bonds to build on. People hire people they like and people who are like them.

4. Your Support Team:

Don’t depend only on your family or close friends to be your prime source of support because sometimes their own needs can be distracting. It’s up to you to find others who can help you, people who are already working and can give you tips, and people who aren’t so that you can encourage each other’s searching. Read books about job hunting and about people’s success, and emulate them. Check in with a career coach. Don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile; it’s normal for the search go on for at least three months.

5. What To Do Along The Way:

Read about your field either online or at the library. You’ll need good things to talk about and who knows who you’ll meet along the way. Give up complaining-- it’s a losing game. Instead, make yourself win at something else while you’re job hunting. Make a quilt; learn bridge; walk an extra mile; plant an herb garden.

6. If You Don’t Find The Perfect Fit:

Take a job even if you think it’s below you and work your way up. Find meaning by noticing what needs to be done and doing it.

The Department of Labor reports that we are up to 12 to 15 career changes in our lifetimes. We better get moving.

Make your luck happen!

Adele Scheele, PhD
Career Coach and Change Strategist
Speaker and author of Skills for Success and Launch Your Career in College