Advice for the Newly Unemployed, Part 2

August 25, 2009
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It’s my pleasure to introduce Belinda Plutz as the Passionate Planner’s first guest blogger.  I’ve known Belinda for more than two decades, and over the years have come to realize that she possesses such an amazing combination of characteristics – she’s insightful and direct yet diplomatic, business-like but empathetic – that there can be no better individual to speak to the often highly stressful and emotional task of effective job hunting in a slow-to-recover economy.  Belinda is the person behind the company, Career Mentors of New York City.  If you need individualized help you can reach her by telephone at (212) 947-3180 or by email at careermentors@comcast.net.
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FIRST STEPS
by Belinda Plutz of Career Mentors.

So, you’ve lost your job.  While you’re probably very eager to “get out there” and “hit the street” there are quite a few practical, yet very important things that you need to do before you begin a job search. Working on these concrete actions can help you start moving; it is a way to “get your act together,” especially when you feel paralyzed by the lay-off.  Once these things are accomplished you can more readily, and effectively, focus on your job search.

TEST YOUR EQUIPMENT

Make sure your computer (both hardware and software), printer, internet and email access, telephones and answering devices (landline and/or cell) are all up-to-date and in excellent working order.  Purchase a back-up printer cartridge to avoid running out of ink at a critical moment, i.e. printing up your resume.  If you don’t know how to use any of your equipment – now is the time to figure it out.

VOICEMAIL

Record a clear, easy to understand landline and/or cell phone voicemail message with no kids, no pets and no comedic routines.  The message should be as professional as possible.  Give your name and/or your complete telephone number (including the area code) to make it easy for callers to be sure that they have reached the correct party.  Not changing the computerized phone message (typically the default program on your answering machine or service) may give callers the impression that you either are not technologically savvy enough to change it or simply too lazy to do it; definitely not a good first impression.

EMAIL

Establish a professional email address that projects the right image. No nicknames, birthdates or cutesy personal references.  For example, using “hotplanner@hotmail.com” clearly gives the wrong message.  Because email is a primary method of communicating with potential employers, it is very important to get this right.

RÈSUMÈ

To update your résumé begin by doing an analysis of your recent and previous positions.  Make sure that you acknowledge your accomplishments and functions, especially those that are relevant to your future job focus and those that you like or enjoy.  Highlighting experiences or activities that you hated doing will not get the results you want.  Do not lie, or even stretch the truth just a little bit – dates of employment and job titles are easily checked.

Create an easy to visually scan and read document.  Bullets are better than paragraphs.  Your résumé needs to be accomplishment focused, as well as “keyword rich” and “number rich” (e.g. sales results, staff supervised, budget figures).  It must be perfectly written with no typos, grammatical errors or mistakes; have someone (or a couple of someones) proofread it for you.  Test how it prints and also how it transmits electronically before you begin using it.

PERSONAL BUSINESS CARDS

Have personal cards made with all your contact information so that you can offer it to people or respond when someone offers you their card.  You will want them for casual connections as well as formal networking events. Carry a few with you at all times. If you run into someone while out walking, you will make a positive impression if you can hand them your card (as opposed to having to write your contact information on the back of a store receipt).  The image that you want to present is that you are professional and always prepared. And don’t even consider “freebie” business cards with the name of the printer on the reverse of it; remember, first impressions…

SELF INTRODUCTION

Carefully script the self introduction you use to answer the standard American social question, “So what do you do?”  Your response needs to be positive, because what you say first is what people will remember about you. Do not start with the news that you were recently laid off — that should be the third or fourth thing that people hear.  Beginning your response with, “I just lost my job…” focuses on your current non-work situation, not you.

Your message needs to be consistent and clear with virtually everyone getting the same message.  And if you can frame yourself without clichés, in a “features and benefits” kind of way, not just “title” and “function,” it will be far more interesting (and memorable).  This self introduction is one that you will use verbally, but you will also need to create a written paragraph that you can drop into emails.

This is worth repeating: What you say first is what people will remember about you.  You are helping to craft their impression of who you are and what you do, and it is up to you to present yourself in the most professional and appealing way.

NETWORK LIST

You may not realize this, but you already have a “network.”  Your network is all the people you know, and have ever known, and all the people you have ever worked with in any capacity.  Begin putting your list together – who should you be reaching out to and connecting with.  You can network for information, connections, insight and advice or any combination of those.

People will want to help, but you have to have realistic expectations; no one is going to hand you a job just because you need or deserve one.  In tough times (like now), it is very difficult to network directly “for a job.”  But, since companies do not hire people – people hire people – it is critical that you make connecting with people a major priority.

ONLINE PRESENCE

Having a professional social networking presence can be a good way for people to find you and for you to reach out to people.  If you are on one or more social networking websites, make sure that the message and image you project are the ones that you want potential employers to see… because they are definitely looking.

REFERENCES

Even though many companies have a “policy” of only releasing titles and dates of employment when called for a reference, you should be prepared to give a prospective employer the names, titles and telephone numbers of three or four pre-screened people who are connected with your most recent and previous jobs who can speak about your performance.

It is both flattering and courteous to let people know in advance that you want to list them as a reference.  It is also a great way to network.  Give each person a copy of your current résumé and review the pertinent information with them. Reach an agreement with them regarding dates, titles, responsibilities, achievements, etc., that you would like them to address.

Once you have all of these things in place, give yourself credit for accomplishing them. You are now in a great position to put all your energy and attention into a successful job search.

© Career Mentors, Inc. 2009

To be continued.

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