Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011 3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 6

If you’re looking to enter a career, find organizations or groups that represent members of that career and get involved in them. Be prepared to give your elevator speech before and after meetings. Collect business cards to help you keep track of who you’ve networked with. Follow-up with thank you notes or e-mails for everyone you network with. And try to be a useful contact yourself. Save articles or links on job hunting you can share with others. Tell them about my workshops.

Go to job fairs. The Illinois Dept. of Employment Security keeps a list of job fairs around the state on their site and, while some of them of them may be a really tough commute for you, they are the perfect places to network, even if you hate bothering people, because people who are hiring are there expressly for the purpose of networking with you.

The most important networking tip I can give you though is: be thorough, but also be fast. You want to be one of the first people who apply for the job you want. Many businesses will anticipate getting so many candidates that they have a cut-off number planned. Don’t delay to start networking. Start as soon as you leave here tonight, or even before then if you want to network with others in this room.

Okay, so you’ve done all the work up to this point – you’ve found a job, applied for the job, and won an interview. You’re most of the way there if you have an interview. The hirer thinks, based on what he or she knows about you so far, that you’re a good match for the job. But this is the biggest hurdle too, because you’ve got to outshine everyone else sitting there for an interview. Prepare for it. Be prepared for your clichéd interview questions -- like what are your strengths and weaknesses? – but also be prepared to demonstrate your decision making, problem solving, leadership, motivation, communication, interpersonal skills, planning and organization, critical thinking skills, team building, and your ability to influence others – preferably with one good example of each.

Be prepared, not just for questions, but in knowing everything you can for this interview. Where are you applying? Learn everything you can about the company. If it’s a public place you’re applying to work at, ask for a tour of it well before the interview. Who are you interviewing with? Know the person’s name and how to pronounce it, even if you have to call the company in advance to ask them how it’s pronounced. Where are you interviewing? Know the route to get there and how long it takes. Don’t trust Mapquest or Google Maps – drive it once yourself before the interview. Make sure you are on time or within 15 minutes early. And practice interviewing with someone else before the real interview.

You’re going to make your first impression within your first minute of meeting the interviewer, but it’s not just a question of saving up your strength for that first minute. You’re going to be making first impressions every moment after you walk onto that business’ property and you don’t know whether the people you meet talk to your interviewer or not. Hold doors for people. Compliment the secretary, receptionist, or whoever shows you to the interviewer. It could all get back to him later. Look confident and smile at people. During the interview, have something in your hand like a pen if you’re nervous about your hands. Make sure you mention how much you want the job. Get the name and contact information of the interviewer so you can send a thank-you note or call with a thank you.

Remember, if you make it as far as the interview, this job is yours to lose. You would not even have the interview if someone there didn’t think you were a good match for this job already. So go into that interview with some confidence. You’re almost there!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 5

Computers are so vital in the workplace today that everyone at least needs to know the basics of navigating websites, sending e-mail, or just logging onto a computer.

If there are gaps in your employment history, you’ll have to fill them with something. Hopefully, you were involved in volunteer work while unemployed, or else you’ll have to explain in the resume why you weren’t working and have a really good excuse. Don’t give anyone a chance to assume the worst about why you weren’t working. Unfortunately, if you are currently out of work, that’s working against you because a lot of hiring managers and HR staff have been told not to hire unemployed people. So you’re going to have to make yourself look too amazing to pass up, either with volunteering, or speaking engagements, or having an impressive web presence, like I mentioned earlier. If you don’t have any of those three things yet, you might be able to get by with padding your resume with personal interests and hobbies, but only if your interests show teamwork, long-term dedication, cultural interest, or a willingness to volunteer.

Of course, just like the cover letter, you’re going to save your resume in multiple formats. Microsoft Word is getting to be a problem because there’s so many incompatible versions out there. Save your resume as a PDF document and as a text file and send it as attachments in those two ways. You’re going to keep the font size to 11 or 12, 10 at the smallest. If you’re trying for a job that requires writing, layout, or computer skills, do not use a template for your resume. HR staff will recognize templates and think you don’t know how to make a resume on your own. If you don’t need to prove you have any of those skills, then you can use a template. If you’re on a company website that gives you the option of uploading your resume or cutting and pasting it, choose to upload it. Cutting and pasting could strip out some of your formatting and make you send a bad-looking resume.

If you’re printing out your resume, use good quality white or off-white paper and no flashy colors. If the resume is more than one page, make sure you have your all-important contact information on each page – but in the body of the page and not the header or footer where automated systems might not be able to read it. And if you can’t or don’t want to carry paper copies of your resume everywhere you go, then carry a CD or flash drive or smart phone with your resume on it at all times.

And, last and possibly most important piece of resume advice – you’re only sending this once. You’re going to go to all this work to customize your resume for this one job and then start all over again with your very next resume. And you will not spam a hirer with multiple copies of your resume. Unless your circumstances have radically changed and your old resume you submitted is badly out of date or if you’re applying for different jobs in the same company, that company should never see your resume more than once. Just submit once and wait, even if you don’t hear back from them. They will notice you spamming them with multiple resumes and it won’t be good attention.

Like cover letters and resumes, thank you cards will need to be personalized for each person, but it would help to have a batch of them ready in advance and add personal touches before you send each out. You’re going to be sending thank you cards to everyone – your networking contact who gave you a good lead, the people who agreed to be your references, the person who gave you your interview, and so on. A card should suffice. Don’t come back to your interviewer with a cake you baked for him or a box of cookies you bought for him, unless someone high up in the company knows you and can vouch for you that you’re not creepy.

With your preparation done, it’s time to get started on execution. This is going to be your networking, applying, and interviewing. Networking, I’m constantly reading and being told, is the most important step in job hunting today. It’s also the hardest step for me to coach you through. It’s not like I can tell you what font size to use while you’re networking. But I do have tips that should help.

Keep to a routine so you do not fall out of the habit of working on a schedule when you are not working. Try to fill your days with interesting activities so, if an interviewer asks what you’ve been doing while you’ve been out of work, you will sound interesting! Try to do something job search-related every day. According to the Illinois WorkNet Center, you should be applying for five jobs a week, networking four times a week, and interviewing once a week. That’s a difficult schedule to maintain, especially the last part as interviewing scheduling isn’t even under your control. But there’s always something you can be doing. Revisit the self-assessment and preparation steps with your extra time.

100% of all jobs start in the “hidden job market” -- where jobs are not publicly advertised and filled by word of mouth – and only about 25% ever make it out of the “hidden market”. This is why you have to network, because only people you personally contact may know about these hidden jobs. If you’re going to use four networking contacts a week, you’re going to have to meet a lot of people, or call people you know, or use social networking websites like, or attend networking groups – though only if people hiring attend them. It does you no good to sit around with a group of unemployed people complaining about how they’re out of work. Present company excepted, of course.

I personally hate networking. The only thing I hate more than looking for work is having to talk to other people about how I’m looking for work. If you’re the kind of person who loves to network, you don’t even need this workshop. Luckily for everyone, the days when networking meant pounding the pavement or cold-calling people on the phone are over thanks to social media online. These websites allow you now, not only to connect with other people looking for work or references who might help you make connections, but you can connect with hirers directly online. It’s a movement being called “social recruitment.” If you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook in a professional way, then make sure to include this in your contact information on your business cards and resumes. If you’re not being professional on these sites, then you should probably stop that, to be on the safe side, because you never know who’s looking who might be recruiting.

I talked earlier about creating an impressive web presence for yourself. Try starting a blog or a Tweet hyping yourself and showcasing your skills. Include your resume on your blog. If you have created physical items for your portfolio, like handbills or JIST cards, scan them and put them up online too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 4

Part of this may be a reaction to too many cover letters that only repeat material from the resume or parrot the job ad it’s responding to.

It’s still worth talking about cover letters, though. Even if you’re applying online via e-mail, the body of your e-mail is going to be your cover letter.

Keep your cover letter to three or four paragraphs, five maximum. Dwell on specific accomplishments of yours, name up to eight things you’re proud of yourself for if you can, saving the details for your interview. You can summarize things from your resume, but don’t repeat anything that’s in your resume. It’s a delicate balance. You have to say enough to make someone want to read your resume, but you can’t really talk about your resume. You have to say enough to make someone want to interview you, but you can’t go into what you’re going to say in the interview. You have to make bold statements, but they have to be true. You don’t want to repeat information about the job, like the requirements. The hiring manager already knows the requirements. Just get across that you meet those requirements without going through them like bullet points. Or skip the requirements altogether. Talk about the company’s goals and how you can help meet them.

Your first paragraph should address in general terms what goals of the company you can accomplish or how you meet the job qualifications, making sure to mention the exact job title you’re applying for. The middle paragraphs are going to explain in more detail how qualified you are and summarize your accomplishments, along with maybe a personal touch – some non-work related thing that humanizes your cover letter. If you’re going to tell something personal about you, don’t tell too much and only mention the story if it will interest the reader, is relevant to your career objective, and will add weight to your list of qualifications. Like, you could make a case that, having been deathly ill when you were young fostered your interest in providing health care. Your last paragraph is going to thank the hirer for his consideration and let him know that you plan to make a follow up call soon.

Do enough research to find out who in the company you can address your cover letter to. Send your cover letter and resume as high as you can in the company. Send it to the President, Director, or CEO of the business. Send it higher than the hiring manager, to his boss. Send it to the hiring manager last. Find out the names of each of these people and don’t address them to their job titles if you can help it. It might even be okay to call the place you’re applying to and just ask for this information, but it depends on the type of work you’re looking for. Big companies may see stuff like this as company secrets, while your local store probably doesn’t care.

The most important thing in your portfolio is your resume. Something I’ve read a lot of conflicting information on is whether your resume should fit all on one page still or not. I used to tell everyone, keep it to one page no matter what. Some HR staff, though, are so used to reading resumes online, or have computer software that reads the resumes for them, that they don’t think it’s so important to keep it to one page anymore. But then I’ve also heard about software that reads only the first page of the resume! So, brief is still good. Make it concise and focused. If you can’t squeeze it onto one page, don’t worry anymore. If you have years of IT experience and you need 10 pages, do that. But if you have less than five years of job experience, by all means keep it to one page. There’s lots of shortcuts you can take. You don’t need to list every job you ever had, just the jobs relevant for what you’re applying for in the last 7-8 years. Don’t write paragraphs or even complete sentences, just bullet-point everything. Under education, you can leave out high school entirely unless you have no college degree. You don’t have to include the years you went to college. You do have to include the years for when you worked, but you are not obligated to list the months you started and stopped. Instead of highlighting your job skills under each job, use a separate “summary of skills” section and list them all at once.

Don’t bother with references or even saying “available upon request.” Well, of course they’re available upon request. If a HR person calls you and asks for your references, are you ever going to say no?

The average HR person looks at a resume – assuming he’s looking at all anymore and not using scanning software -- for about 8 seconds. How? Two things. One, he’s just scanning for certain words. Make sure your resume contains those key words. You’ll know which words need to be in your resume by studying the job ad carefully. Any requirements listed in the job ad had better be featured prominently in your resume. Make them even more prominent by highlighting them. And make sure you include every variant on those keywords possible. If you are applying for a job that requires management skills, try to say manage, managed, managing, and as many other variants as you can think of. Try to say in natural language just how those keywords are relevant to you. If you can’t, if there are just too many variants for you to work into your bullet points, still don’t leave those words out. If you have to, as a last resort, include a keyword section and write them all in there.

The other HR trick to remember is that the whole thing is not going to be read. Not even to the bottom of the first page. At best, someone will probably read the first two-thirds of your first page. So make sure that all the good stuff is up front. If your job history is what’s most impressive about you, put that up front. If your education is what’s most impressive about you, that goes up front. And, except for bullets and standard punctuation, you’re not going to use anything else fancy in your resume to a big company. No horizontal lines. No graphics. Even boldface, indenting, and unusual fonts you might have to give up. Even at best these are going to break someone’s attention away from what you have to say. At worst, scanning software won’t be able to read them and your resume will simply be ignored. So, if you’re submitting your resume to a big company, forget all about what you learned about resume layouts in the past. The exception is if you’re applying at a small company or the independent branch of a large chain, where you’re sure a person, and preferably someone who isn’t in Human Resources or a professional hiring manager, but a “normal” manager, is going to be looking at it. Then it’s okay to use a little color, maybe a small graphic at the bottom, and all the formatting that makes your resume stand out to the human eye.

List computer skills. Be specific! “Word” or “Internet” experience is not enough, but “Word 6.0” or “HTML coding” is. Like I said before, it’s okay to have pages of keywords for computer skills, if it’s that type of work you’re applying for. If you don’t have computer skills at all, then you’re in the wrong workshop.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 3

You can get money for pursuing certification. WIA -- Workforce Investment Act -- money can be used to study anything for certification, and you get $6,000. If you pursue the grant through the Illinois WorkNet Centers, and for a job on their demand occupation list, they’ll up the grant to $7,000. If you’re taking your certification from a course at a college like ECC, you can apply for a Pell Grant for up to $5,000, which stacks with that other grant.

If the job ad says a skill is not required, but preferred, make sure you have those skills too. Cross-skills -- skills you don’t need for your specific job, but skills you could use elsewhere in the same company – are also being sought by employers. It used to be that, if you had 6 out of 10 requirements for a job, you had a good shot at it, but that’s not true anymore. You need to aim for 10 out of 10.

That said, you can still apply for a job you don’t have every qualification for. Every employer is looking for workers, usually not out of the goodness of their own hearts, but because they have a problem or problems they want solved. It’s going to be up to you to convince an employer that you know how to solve that problem better than more qualified applicants. Your best shot at that is to focus on branding you as a problem solver and come up with some good solutions to problems an employer like this might have.

As an Illinois job hunter, and possibly an unemployed one either now or at some point, there is no more important skills site than Illinois Skills Match. This site can match you to literally hundreds of job skills and try to match them to jobs. It’s where you’re required to register and stay active if you’re collecting unemployment money. Yes, there are real jobs listed on Illinois Skills Match. I talked to a WorkNet Center worker who personally added 25 new manufacturing jobs last month – all jobs have a 4-week turnover so those particular ones are gone now, but each county’s WorkNet Center is required to post 350 new jobs per month. And they don’t find those jobs by looking at generic job sites, but by networking themselves and cold-calling local businesses. The Arlington Heights office for suburban Cook County has been regularly posting 500 new jobs a month. That said, even that WorkNet Center worker said to only use Skills Match enough to meet the state requirements for unemployment coverage, because this is “one tiny part of your job search”. Keeping your Skills Match account active is as simple as logging in every so often and tinkering with your resume. You can even reapply for the same jobs. And don’t over-match on skills or you’ll be swamped with bad job matches. The optimal number is believed to be between 50 and 100 skill matches.

Your self-assessment is not done at this point. You’re going to be constantly reassessing yourself and your employment needs throughout the job hunting process. Remember, because you’re selling yourself on the job market, you’re going to be constantly looking for ways to improve your sale-ability. Don’t ignore the importance of continuing your education, especially if everything else easier isn’t working for you.

But, moving on with my presentation, it’s time to go over what you start doing next – you prepare the materials you will need to sell yourself. You are in the business of selling you now, so you will need a marketing portfolio for yourself. Of course, you don’t need a fancy portfolio case and, in many cases, the material you’re preparing may never need to exist in paper copy. The kinds of material we’re about to go over are elevator speeches, business cards, cover letters, resumes, and thank-you cards.

The “elevator speech” is so named because it’s supposed to be the short pitch for yourself you would give a hiring manager if you were ever, by chance, riding in an elevator with him. There is, as I understand it, amongst circles who debate this sort of thing, some debate as to how long your speech should be. Most say 30 seconds now, but some sources have said 90 seconds, others 60, or even just 10 seconds. The goal is to say enough about yourself to sound interesting without overloading someone who’s already heard enough to remember you. Remember your brand and try to get that across quickly. In 10 seconds, I can basically only give my name and my brand. In 90 seconds, I can say more about my skills and what I can do. You would do well to have a speech prepared and memorized for each length – 90, 60, 30, or 10 – and then play it by ear which speech to give should an opportunity arise. The 10-second version, for example, would probably play best when handing in an application. Conversely, your 90-second version is what you should lead with at a job fair.

The elevator speech does not need to be spoken. This is a short paragraph that that best describes you to potential employers, so feel free to use it anywhere. Use your 30-second version as a tag at the end of your e-mails. Use your 60-second version as your status message online. Don’t wait to be asked, get this information out there to be heard and seen. Get your message on Youtube, like this guy, one of many people now making and sharing visual resumes -

Have personal business cards to hand out. If you already have business cards from work, don’t use those to hand out when you’re looking for a new job. FedEx/Kinko’s will sell you 250 business cards for $30. Now they have competition from companies like Vistaprint “selling” free business cards online. They’re giving out cards for free because the cards come with their company logo on the back of the cards, so they’re selling themselves at the same time they’re selling you. If you’re fine with that, and for all but the most professional jobs it should be fine, then go with that.

For more creative-type, less professional jobs, you can even make your own business cards, on 3x5 index cards, and make them look like mini-resumes. I had first heard about this from someone in the audience at my first workshop two years ago, but this year they’re the “hot new thing” in job hunting. They’re also called JIST cards now, after a company that’s marketing this as their thing.

Last year, handbills were the “hot new thing” in job hunting. A handbill is basically a flyer advertising you that you could hand out to people you network with. That’s all I’m going to say about handbills.

Cover letters are becoming less and less important all the time, with some hirers not even bothering to read them at all anymore. Part of this is just from advances in technology, with online applications now capable of having resumes attached to them without needing to be sent separately.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 2

If you’re bold enough, you can make just as big a presence in real life with volunteer work or try to get speaking engagements on things you’re knowledgeable about. Right here at the library, you can sign up to use our meeting rooms and host any kind of meetings you want. All of this is good material for your resume, but the real goal is to make you more visible in the community – either online or real community – where employers might notice you. Getting interviews for jobs is nice, but the best situation you could possibly be in for a job is to be noticed by someone who’s hiring and asked to apply for the job.

If you’re really, really ambitious, you shouldn’t be unemployed between jobs at all, but starting your own business. To start up a small business does not take a lot of money. It does not have to be profitable, but it does have to keep you from looking unemployed. We have start-up business guides from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity here in the library.

Maybe the most important piece of self-assessment you’re going to do is your financial self-assessment. Work out how long you can afford to keep looking for work. Check your finances and do the math. How many months can you get by on what you have? Look for a job you would like and want to have for as long as you can before that time runs out -- and then take whatever you can get when the time you have budgeted for your job search is running out. But remember that I said the average job search now takes 6-13 months. So if you can hold out 6 months without a job, suppose you’re sitting on a nice severance package or you can move back in with your parents for a half-year, then at most you should spend the 1st 6 weeks looking for your dream job exclusively. After that, you’re going to have to gradually expand your search. You’re going to have to consider jobs that are kind of like your dream job for the next 6 weeks. And then you’ll have to consider jobs that aren’t like your dream job, but they’re okay for the 6 weeks after that. Then, finally, you’re going to have to take any job you can get your hands on. If you’re not that well off -- maybe your finances won’t hold out for even 6 months, then you should put off looking for that dream job until you have any new job. You don’t have to stop looking once you have that new job, just make sure you have a paycheck coming in again and then resume looking for your dream job.

Whichever of these steps you’re on, make sure you have as complete a list of job openings at this step as you can get. It’s going to be up to you to keep this list current for any jobs currently available within 10 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles, or however far you’re willing to travel. In addition to that, you’re going to be looking ahead two steps as well. If you’re looking for your dream job now, you should keep one eye on the next step ahead and see what jobs – not openings – but jobs are in that distance you’re willing to travel in the “not, but like, your dream job” category now too. And you should keep half an eye on the step past that, the “eh- they’re okay” jobs, and just start researching those careers now. There are some good resources out there for researching careers and we’ll be discussing them soon.

There are also a lot of websites out there promising they list current job openings. Some of them are actually spam sites and are wasting your time at best and asking you to pay money at worst. Some of these job sites or places like Craigslist are legitimate, but most of them are “stale” jobs, or offers that have been a long time out of the “hidden job market” and I’ll be coming back to the “hidden job market” again when we get to networking. Why are these job ads even still out there? They serve as advertisement and they sometimes are collecting applications for stores in the same chain, but more remote areas. How interested are you in long-distance commuting? There are still uses for these sites. Several of them, like Monster and Career Builder post advice columns that could still make useful reading, even if you skip checking the job ads. And the bigger sites do other things to stay relevant. Monster hosts job fairs. CareerBuilder is partnering with IDES to make sure it has less stale Illinois jobs on it, making it currently your best bet from the generic commercial job sites. is just one website you can go to research careers and see which careers are growing. This information is also available on various governmental sites, like the U.S. Dept. of Labor and IDES’ Career Information System. IDES has the local angle, but CareerOneStop looks prettier and has more search options. One thing special to CareerOneStop is its video library. If you’re unclear of what a specific job skill entails, you can watch a video about it that will show you. You can also watch day-in-a-life-type videos of various jobs to sample them and get a better feel for if that’s what you want to do.

A similar website to is O*Net, O*Net may be the biggest job information database around, with over 900 job profiles. Job skills are ranked for each occupation by importance. You can type in a job skill and search for jobs that match it. It also has webinars and online courses to teach you how to use the site better. This source is somewhat similar to the Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, but it wouldn’t hurt you to know both sources when trying to find out about jobs to see if you want to work them.

There are still business magazines in print to do your research in, but for the local angle on checking to see what your company is doing, there are sites like Google RealTime and GlassDoor. RealTime lets you track Facebook and Twitter status messages related to a company. There are a lot of databases and reference sources here in the library that will tell you detailed information about the companies you’re looking at – so detailed that you’d need a business degree to understand them. But for the plain language version, you can read about the company at GlassDoor.

Make sure you’re qualified to work your dream job. If you’re seeing education requirements for your dream job that you’re lacking, or something you could get certification for, then get it. In many ways, your job hunting process may feel like going back to school again and, if need be, you should pursue that literally. If your dream job requires a degree you don’t have, then you’ve got a lot of work cut out for you. Hopefully, you can go back to school for just a license or a certificate. You can go back to and use it to check which jobs require licensing or certification. A license is required by the state. A certificate is kind of this separate level above being self-taught and below having a license that basically just exists to impress hiring managers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 3rd annual job hunters workshop - pt. 1

[The following is the script I wrote to prepare for the job hunters workshop I ran at work.]

Welcome to Poplar Creek Public Library’s 3rd annual job hunters workshop! Thanks for coming. With luck, hard work, and what tips I can give you today – though, really, through luck and hard work mainly -- maybe everyone here will see some improvement in their employment status soon. If nothing else comes of getting you here tonight, at least I got you into the library. Because my secondary goal, after helping you find jobs, is to introduce you to what the library can do for you while you’re job hunting. The public library is the perfect place to come, whether it’s to apply for jobs online, type up your resume, read about the careers you’re interested in, or just to relax and read something good.

I’ll tell you up front that I am not a professional career counselor, job hunting coach, or have any kind of certification. Yet. What I’ve done is read a lot of books and articles on the subject of job hunting over the last three years and attended a lot of workshops that everyone here could have gone to. One thing I’ve found is that not all of this material agrees with each other! I have done my best to pick what I consider the best advice for you tonight.

Now, I have lots of material for us to get through tonight and my prepared remarks will take up about the first hour. And here’s what we’re going to cover. One, self-assessment. This is you getting yourself ready for job hunting. Two, preparation. This is you preparing the material you’ll need, like cover letters and resumes. Three, execution. This is you going out there and networking and interviewing. During all three steps, we’re going to talk about resources you can use, both here at the library or online from home. And after them, we can open the floor to Q&A, go over people’s resumes, spend more time looking at these online resources, or whatever you’d like to do with our time.

The average job search can take roughly 6-13 months in today’s work environment. Where did I get that range from? Basically, it’s a rough average I’ve had to make myself from the conflicting estimates I’ve been reading. And it’s necessarily such a wide range because there’s so many unknowable factors involved. But it’s still a better average than I was able to project last year, even if it’s not very good yet. HR departments are still overwhelmed with hiring options. You heard about Google getting a record 75,000 applications in one week for only 6,000 jobs? Yeah, not every place you’re applying for is like Google, but you’re still going to have to expect stiff competition for any job you try for. Some factors you’re going to have to consider when you’re seeking a job is if you’re moving to a new company or looking for a new position in the same company, whether you’re changing job function or not, whether you’re changing industry or not, if you’re looking in a new location, if you’re looking to move to a bigger company, and if you’re going to be looking for more pay. Each of these factors is going to make the job search longer for you.

Just yesterday, I was reminded that there is a difference between a job and a career and what you really want is a career. Unfortunately, I’ve practiced this presentation so long saying job I don’t think I can train myself to say career now. So just keep in mind that when I’m saying “job”, I really mean “career”. So what are you going to be doing with yourself during these 6-13 months you’re not working? The first thing you’re going to be doing is self-assessment.

Self-assessment is largely common sense type stuff, and yet too many people skip this step entirely. Identify your skills. Identify how you want to use your skills. Identify how far you’re willing to travel for a job and how low you’re willing or able to be paid. Think about who you are, what you’ve accomplished – both at work and outside of work, and how you wish to contribute to the future. Out of this self-assessment needs to come the following things: a positive attitude about you, a sense of your own brand, a sense of how accessible you are to people who will need to be in touch with you, a good evaluation of your financial situation, and a sense of your own qualifications.

The first is the simplest, to explain at least: you need the positive attitude because it’s going to be up to you to sell yourself. You are your own product now and any good salesman believes in his product. That might be hard for you if you’ve been out of work for awhile and there can be real grief associated with job loss. The best advice I can give, not being a counselor or therapist, is to keep busy job hunting.

You need to brand yourself because it’s going to give you the focus you need to know how you’re going to sell yourself. Are you a go-to person who gets things done? Are you a people person who has great rapport with customers? Are you an on-time, under-budget kind of guy? These are the sorts of one-line tags or clichés you need to consider whether they apply to you or not. It’s okay to make a hirer think of you as one of these clichés, since it will help him remember you. But you won’t actually use these one-liners. You’re never going to say you’re a “people person” or any of these other clichés, but you’re going to get the idea across by the examples you give about you in your resumes and interviews.

You’re going to evaluate how accessible you are, both to hirers and to others. You’re going to keep your ability to contact others organized, with phone numbers and contact information in your journal or a notebook or typed up on a computer instead of on loose notes or business cards that can get lost. Use a professional-sounding e-mail address. If you have an e-mail account with kind of a silly address or anything not professional looking, then make a second account and use the second account only for job hunting. Also use a professional-sounding voicemail message. But don’t leave that important call back from an employer up to an answering machine if you can avoid it. What if you go out of town for a week and get a phone call from a potential employer on day one of your vacation? And then it takes you 6 days to return the call? How is that going to make you look? So make sure your contact information includes a cell phone number and carry the phone at all times and return those calls quickly if you do miss them.

I’m going to make a bigger deal about this than I did last year because so much of the job advice I’m seeing is about being accessible online and maintaining a professional online presence. We’ll talk again later about specific online resources for networking, but in general, you’re going to establish as wide and professional-looking a presence as possible. You’ll have profiles on multiple sites that employers might check. You can be active, in a professional way, on social media. And be online at all times. Obviously you’re going to sleep at night, but leave on Facebook, Yahoo Messenger, or whatever you use to connect to your contacts and references so they can leave you important messages at any time.