Cheat Sheet

Job Hunting For Dummies

Hunting for a job is a job in itself. Use these helpful tips for a successful job search — like having the right attitude, networking, and researching the marketplace — to find and land a job in the career of your choice.

Keys to Successful Job Hunting

Looking for a job is hard work, but don’t be intimidated when you approach your job search. Be persistent, keep the faith, and practice these job hunting guidelines to land the right job for you:

  • Think of job hunting as your job, with you as your own boss. Work at it full-time (or part-time, if you’re looking while you’re still employed).

  • Get geared up. Whether in your home office, a desk in an outplacement office, or a card table and folding chair in the corner of your bedroom, set up a job hunting headquarters.

  • Arm yourself with needed skills — especially computer skills. Today’s job market favors skilled candidates who are ready to step in and contribute immediately, without a lengthy training period. Familiarize yourself with the critical skills required for the types of jobs you’re going after. Make sure that you possess those skills before you begin to compete for those jobs.

  • Set targets. Before you do anything in a job search, take time to decide which kind of job you really want. To clarify these targets, be prepared to do some research, talk to people, work with a career counselor, or sample different jobs by working as a temporary employee.

  • Get a sense of the marketplace. Be as objective as you can about your own marketability, based on the number of jobs and job-hunters in your field of choice. Be prepared to modify or expand your job targets if you’re competing in a very tight market.

  • Think small when you’re targeting companies. Companies with fewer than 500 employees create two of every three new jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Adjust your job-search strategy accordingly.

  • Create a winning resume by emphasizing skills and accomplishments. Make sure that your resume does more than simply list your previous jobs and responsibilities. Stress abilities, achievements, and attributes that are likely to interest employers in your target areas.

  • Network. Network. Network. Make it a daily goal to call, write, or meet at least three people you haven’t yet contacted who may be able (now or two months from now) to tell you about a job lead or introduce you to someone who could do the same.

  • Read the right stuff. Submerge yourself in information relating to the fields you’ve targeted or the companies for which you would like to work. Read the key trade publications in your field and stay current on trends and issues that professionals in your field deal with daily.

  • Position yourself as a problem-solver. When you’re pursuing a job lead, don’t think to yourself, "What can I do to get this company interested in me?" Instead, ask, "What do I know or what am I able to do that can help this company be more successful?"

  • Keep your sunny side up. Difficult as it may be, fight the tendency to get bogged down in a "woe-is-me" syndrome. Exercise daily (exercise does wonders for relieving stress and depression). Look to friends and family for support. Set aside at least one day a week when you don’t even think about your job search.

  • Keep up appearances. Regardless of what you may be doing in connection with your job search, do your best to look your best. Whenever you leave your house or apartment, ask yourself, "Do I look like the kind of person I would hire?"

  • Be specific (and up-front) with the people you’re asking for help. You will almost always get more from the people you approach for help if you (1) come to them with specific requests; (2) know ahead of time that they’re capable of fulfilling that request; and (3) always show gratitude.

  • Look into temporary employment. Working on temporary assignments does more than give you some income while you’re searching for a full-time job. It can help you develop new skills and get a taste for different types of companies and work environments. It may also lead to full-time work (38% of temporary workers today have been offered full-time jobs at companies where they were on assignments, according to industry studies).

  • Go online to increase your productivity. Take advantage of the many online career resources — such as corporate and career-specific Web sites, search engines, and Usenet newsgroups — to broaden your research capabilities and enhance your job prospects. A good place to begin your online job hunt is at an Internet portal, such as Yahoo! or Excite.

  • Do your homework before you go on interviews. Be prepared to spend at least a day finding out whatever you can about the company that’s interviewing you. Be ready to talk about what the company does and connect your skills, qualifications, and attributes to the job requirements and the challenges the company is facing.

  • Respect the little things that can make a big difference at a job interview. Arrive a few minutes early, be impeccably groomed, dress appropriately, handle yourself professionally and courteously in the reception room, and make a confident, poised entrance into the interviewer’s office.

  • Show enthusiasm — and sell yourself! Let the best of you shine through in your interviews. Listen actively. Make eye contact. Be upbeat and sell your strengths. And avoid the all-too-common pitfall of giving canned, insincere answers to questions.

  • Make the best deal possible. When you get a job offer, look carefully at the specifics of the offer and — without playing hardball and possibly jeopardizing the offer — see if the company will improve on the less appealing aspects of the offer. Remember, it never hurts to ask.

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