Title: 5 steps to getting your search off the ground

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Dear Sam: I was just laid off and don't know how to even begin a job search. What should I do to get my search off the ground? - Sarah

Dear Sarah: I'm really sorry to hear that. Let me outline some basic steps to get you started in the right direction:

1. Define your purpose: what jobs do you want now?

2. Develop a great résumé: use language found in job postings in your field of interest to steer content development.

3. Create a job search action plan: outline where you are going to look for a job, using networking, online boards, cold contact letters, referrals, and job fairs as ways to get your name out there.

4. Track & follow up: maintain a job search journal tracking your search which will be invaluable during follow ups, screening calls, or when evaluating results down the road.

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.

Dear Sam: I am nearing completion of my college degree and hoping to finally enter the accounting field. I am concerned, however, with my personal financial situation and the impact it may have on my search. Years ago, I became caught up in the real estate boom and unfortunately, the good times did not last long and I fell flat on my face. My credit report now includes a bankruptcy and six mortgage foreclosures. (Prior to investing, my credit score had been in the high 780s.) Should I "prepare" potential employers of what they will find, once they inform me my credit report must be pulled? If it helps, none of the debt included in the bankruptcy was consumer debt. It was all debt accumulated while investing. - Gary

Dear Gary: What an unfortunate situation and one that will absolutely need to be handled delicately as you navigate your search. As you are going to be applying for positions in the accounting field, I imagine your credit report will be pulled more often than not. You will definitely want to prepare employers for what they will find by explaining your situation much as you did for me. You may even want to prepare a professional letter that explains the situation, so in the event the interviewer you explain it to isn't the one making the decision, you will still benefit from an opportunity to communicate the situation that placed your credit in the state it is today. Would it be possible to get a credit reference from your bank or other institution where you have held a satisfactory record? It may be useful to have "validation" that your personal finances have been handled appropriately since your filing. I think with a professional and honest statement, coupled with third-party validation of your pre- and post-bankruptcy/housing boom financial management skills, you will put yourself in a better position to overcome the impact a negative report may have on your search.

Dear Sam: How do I respond to a salary history request? I've been told to include a separate page with my résumé stating my salary with each employer. What do you suggest? - Confused

Dear Confused: When including a salary history, I typically place it on the résumé itself. Some suggest including a separate piece of paper but my theory is that it is best to try and sell yourself before your salary history is reviewed. If your salary history is on a separate piece of paper, it could be looked at first, and be the sole factor used in disqualifying you. If your salaries are spread throughout your résumé (beneath or beside your titles) the screener is sure to glean some of your "value" before they see what you were paid. This leaves more "food for thought" before making a decision. Be sure to indicate if your salary included bonuses, commissions, etc. so the hiring manager has a clear picture of your total compensation package.

Do you have a résumé or job search question for Dear Sam? Write to dearsam@ladybug-design.com.

Need help writing an interview-winning résumé? Contact Samantha and her firm, Ladybug Design at (614) 570-3442 or www.ladybug-design.com.


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