Seeking employment is a difficult and stressful process requiring both information and inspiration. CareerFuel has done much of the work to help you tackle the immediate steps following the loss of a job and transitioning to a new one. Whether employed or unemployed, we are here to help you find work.
We have compiled the information necessary to guide you through the process of finding work— from resumes, networking and social media to freelancing. Throughout, we make suggestions for helpful resources— particularly free ones.
Increasing your chances of finding a job comes down to many factors. We have broken them into three stages of action:
Stage 1: Do Right Away
This section is for those who lost their job and covers the many important things to do immediately to protect your interests. Start pursuing your options as soon as possible; otherwise you could lose access to some or all of these financial opportunities. You may also be eligible for a variety training programs (many of them free!) offered by the federal government, designed to help you find work. The experience or certifications you gain from government training programs just might get you closer to your next job. Working toward new skills is also constructive, helping you avoid the discouragement or depression that often accompanies job loss. Taking action is a great way to stay positive. photo credit: CHRISSPdotCOM via photo pin cc
Many people who lose their job qualify for unemployment benefits supplied by the federal government and administered by individual states. Applications may be submitted online or in person. To learn about unemployment insurance, Workplace Fairness provides an overview. It is important to apply quickly since paperwork and processing may take some time. The number of weeks you are eligible to receive an unemployment check varies by state, as does the amount you are able to collect. Many states allow collection for up to 26 weeks; however, Congress has extended benefit limits because of record-high unemployment levels. In states with particularly severe job loss benefits may be available for up to 73 weeks, in total. Depending upon the circumstances, some applicants are denied unemployment insurance, but it is possible to appeal. photo credit: Marxchivist via photo pin cc
If you have medical insurance you don’t want to lose it! Maintaining health insurance coverage is among the most important things to do once unemployed. Explore your options with plans that may cover your spouse or partner. (This may be the most cost effective avenue.) Another option is COBRA, a government-mandated program that extends your current medical insurance for 18 months if your company employs 20 or more people. Investigating COBRA insurance is a must in the period immediately following the loss of a job. Your former employer’s human resources department should provide you with information about COBRA. If not, ask them for it. Be aware that you will be responsible for the monthly premium payments to maintain health coverage through COBRA. Between 2009 and 2011 the government subsidized COBRA payments for a specific length of time, but that initiative ended in September 2011. Now you are responsible for the full payment.
Unfortunately, many people have difficulty affording COBRA once unemployed. The Foundation for Health Coverage Education is a non-profit organization established to help people identify their free or low cost health care options.
Another option is to shop for health insurance online. This can be a cost effective strategy since COBRA premiums include the cost of your health insurance plus a fee for administrative costs. photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc
Be sure to ask your recent employer’s human resource department about any retirement monies you are entitled to receive, and make arrangements for the management of that money. 401K money is the most common type of retirement asset today. So, what should you do with your 401K when you get laid off? Make sure to weigh the pros and the cons before making a decision. Try not to cash in these tax-deferred retirement plans to pay living expenses while you are unemployed. Job loss is usually temporary while retirement can last for decades. If you must tap into this money as a last resort, repay it within 60 days to avoid income taxes and the 10 percent penalty on early withdrawals before the age of 59 1/2. photo credit: scottwills via photo pin cc
Free Career Training Resources
Stage 2: Take Charge Steps
Gone are the days when classified ads or recruiters held the key to finding a job. Today there is no single source for job hunting. To find work, the search now hinges on an individual’s ability to pursue multiple avenues in order to maximize the chances of discovering a job opportunity or being recruited. To be successful, you need to treat finding a job like holding a job. Give it full-time effort. We at CareerFuel have identified five crucial areas of focus for job seekers: resume, jobs boards, interviewing, social media and training. photo credit: Cellanova via photo pin cc
Resume & Cover Letter
This is where you sell yourself. Your resume should demonstrate that you have the right background and work experience for the job and, most importantly, that you have been successful in prior positions. “Success” is largely about demonstrating how your previous employer was better off because you were there. Thus, be as specific as possible about things such as sales increases, improved customer satisfaction, higher productivity, on-time job completion rate of 100%, etc. If you are unsure of how to communicate your accomplishments in a resume-friendly format, read up on the types of accomplishments hiring managers look for in several fields. Always keep in mind keywords when you are writing- this is a great intro to pinpointing and using keywords in your application process. For another approach, try copying and pasting a job description into TagCrowd. This will give you a visual key as to which words are most often repeated and may be keywords!
Learning Express is a terrific resource that guides you through the application/resume building process, and it is available through local libraries in 17 states. Call your local library and ask if they offer free resume training. If so, you can access this service online using your library card number. A great way to organize a multimedia presentation of YOU and take care of personal branding, Purzue guides you through creating the necessary resume, cover letters, etc.
When you send out a resume, chances are you will be writing a cover letter to go with it. This is a great breakdown of the process that will help you find work.
Sometimes an outside perspective is key to prepping for the job search process and maintaining a clear direction. The International Coach Federation is the number one trade organization for career coaches and is the governor of the industry standards.
There are tens of thousands of job listing websites. Instead of spending time posting on hundreds of sites, we recommend that you focus on just three to find work: Indeed, USA.jobs and Craigslist. Indeed is the #1 site, with more job postings than better-known sites Monster and CareerBuilder. USA.jobs, one of the newest online job boards, was created by The Direct Employers Association and features jobs posted and managed directly by companies. Finally, be sure and look at Craigslist to find local jobs and/or employees. To keep your job-search efforts organized, check out Huntsy- a way to consolidate job postings as you search, track applications and point out relevant existing connections in your social networks.
As you are searching for your next employment opportunity, take a few minutes to learn what it is like to work for thousands of companies, like IBM or McDonalds. You can also find current job openings salaries by position at those firms. If you are researching a company of interest, this is a great resource for getting easy and quick answers.
For printable job applications and insight on what its like to work for hundreds of companies, this is a great site to check out.
If you live in a major city like San Francisco, Boston, or Chicago, check out TaskRabbit–a new company that offers one-off or short-term projects so you can pick up some quick cash. Their hiring process requires an application, background check (no charge) and interview. Once the hiring process is complete, the website connects people who have a short-term need with qualified personnel. You, as the job seeker, can bid on unlimited jobs without any charge. For longer term, project-length employment opportunities, we recommend checking out Guru or Elance.
If you decide to go the route of freelancing, we would recommend Toggl as a great web-based app to help you keep track of time dedicated to particular tasks. The basic app is free with a pro upgrade for $5/month.
When you are on the go there are several ways to keep up to date with the latest listings via your mobile phone. Indeed.com (free) is available as an app for iPhone, and Android, while LinkedIn (free) has apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm Pre.
Craigslist is also available via app, with prices varying from free to $1.99 for the Craigslist+ app. Please check your platform’s app store. Craigslist apps are adapted to iPhone, Android and Blackberry operating systems. Another great app, Proven Job Search is free and will help organize your Craigslist job search. photo credit: brizzle born and bred via photopin cc
Every job requires at least one interview. Some positions require 20 or 30. This is where you bring the information on your resume or application to life. Because you have successfully jumped the first hurdle, your candidacy has now broadened to include personal appearance, communication skills, likability, poise, etc. The good news is that if you prepare for this as you would a test, you will not be caught off-guard. Invest the time to read material about interviewing techniques, as it is a crucial part of the hiring process. Then, practice, practice, practice!
For those of us who are… well, less than great at interviewing, here are a few ideas for how to answer the inevitable, “So, what questions do YOU have about our company?”
Today’s Newer Tools—Social Media
While not completely accurate, the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is a good reminder that social networks are key to finding employment in today’s market. So, how do you use your social network in a job search? Often referred to as the “hidden job market”, a high percentage of jobs (some estimate 75%) are never advertised and are filled through existing relationships and referrals, making this is an avenue well worth pursuing! A word to the wise– ignorance is not bliss. Before leveraging your social network to find work, be aware of what is out there! Google your name to see what potential employers may find. After you get the results, be sure to set up a Google Alert. The Alert will notify you whenever the keywords you choose (i.e., your name) are found on the web. A new option for personal brand management is Brand Yourself. This is a great way to take charge of your personal search results, helping you work toward prioritizing certain results while burying others!
For those who have not mobilized their social networks to find work, it can seem overwhelming. However, following some basic guidelines regarding the use of these networks makes all the difference. Currently, two of the most popular platforms for job seeking are LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn is geared toward building a professional profile and network. Therefore, making your profile stand out will require that you maximize your LinkedIn opportunities and take full advantage of the tools provided. One reason why LinkedIn is such a great tool is the built-in search engine optimization. Read on to learn how to take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer!
Twitter differs from LinkedIn, in that you can view (and be viewed by) anyone. With an introduction to using twitter for your job search, you will learn how to “show off” your trade knowledge and insights to possible employers. Here are some ideas on how set up an account and get started Tweeting when you are not sure what to say!
If you have the opposite problem and are wondering what to do with your numerous online portfolios, resumes and social media accounts, About.me is a great platform to bring it all together. Using a single personalized page, let people know the basics of who you are with the option to then link to your various networks and websites. For managing various social media accounts we recommend HootSuite, a platform that allows the user to manage 8+ social platforms.
Great for organizing your “stuff”, Found is an app that enables the user to search across multiple platforms– your email, dropbox and Evernote accounts can all be searched with one click of a button! At the moment, it’s only available for Mac users.
Outside of these social media platforms, CareerFuel suggests trying Help a Reporter Out. This is a service that connects reporters with sources that are knowledgeable on the topics they are writing about. This is an opportunity to situate yourself as a leader in your field, while adding to your resume. Another option is to set up a blog and use it as a platform to position yourself as an expert and get your name out there! Here is a rundown on how to get a free WordPress site up and running. photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc
Use this time to sharpen your skills and increase your marketability with employers. Basic computer skills in Microsoft Word are essential. Excel and PowerPoint are probably the next most important software tools used today. To get you started on using Word, Excel or Powerpoint, Microsoft introduced an in-program game– Ribbon Hero– that teaches the user how to use Microsoft Office programs (compatible with versions 2007 and later). For those who would like additional help with Excel (and couldn’t we all use some help with Excel?), we recommend a series of Microsoft Excel tutorials from Motion Training.
W3schools offer free online courses where you can learn about web development- a skill that is always in demand! The site offers opportunities for beginners through advanced users. Similarly, edX offers a number of free online courses in subjects ranging from chemistry to computer graphics and artificial intelligence. Although we usually recommend free resources, Lynda is one of several sites that offer 24/7 training in many subject areas from web development to programming. For $25/month you can try as many training videos as you like without a long-term commitment. This could be a great way to build your confidence and increase your job options by adding to your skill bank.
If you are looking for courses, Coursera offers free online classes taught by professors from top universities. Although you will not get college credit you will have some great info to show of in your next interview! Coursera offers classes in a range of subject areas, from history to management to biology. Similarly, Udacity is another great (and FREE) website for online learning, geared towards the sciences and programming.
Internships & Mentoring
Internship positions are very difficult to land because there are so few of them. In fact, high competition for these positions has led to an increase in unpaid internships and the US Department of Labor has guidelines for the scope of these positions. If you are unable to land a paying position, we suggest a part-time unpaid internship (in addition to a paid part-time job) as a way to acquire the necessary and desired experience without quite so much financial pain.
Securing an internship (paid or otherwise) is largely about tenacity, connections and luck. It requires a lot of dedicated work to unearth a few opportunities, but the resulting experience can be highly rewarding and may go a long way in helping build your skillset and find work in the future. All three of the job sites we recommend have listings for internships. Go to Indeed, USA.Jobs and Craigslist, type in “internship” and your desired geographic location. For summer internships, we recommend that you begin this process by January, as there is a lot of competition.
In addition to job boards, alumnae groups (found on LinkedIn, Facebook, your college website, etc.) are a great place to find internship opportunities. If you are a current student or recent graduate, also make sure to check your university or college career center.
InternMatch is a site dedicated to internships, complete with job postings and guidance. Reading through their blog you will find listings for new and exciting summer internships. Idealist is another great place to find internships by geographic locale or interest. For those of you interested in social entrepreneurship, Ashoka offers internships of various lengths, volunteer positions and various other opportunities both nationally and internationally.
Startups–often short on cash and long on needs–may welcome additional hands during the summer to move the business forward. Interning with a startup can be a great way to learn many different skills and to assess whether you like small company environments. Crunchbase can help you find startups in your geographic area.
Unfortunately, mentoring is not an often-discussed topic… or least, not as often as it should be. Regardless of age, professional standing, etc., a mentor/mentee relationship can be hugely rewarding for both sides. A mentor does not have to be older than you, nor are you limited to only one. In fact, you can be both a mentor and a mentee! A mentor offers the benefit of their experience in a particular field or pursuit, giving feedback and advice to the mentee.
Tips for Finding a Mentor
When you’re looking for a mentor, don’t expect to find the “perfect” someone: they don’t exist! Instead, pick out the key characteristics, skills or experiences you require in a mentor, and search for someone with these traits.
In general, a good mentor is trustworthy and is well regarded by others – particularly in your mutual areas of interest. A mentoring relationship does not necessarily have to be long-term and can have either a narrow focus (helping you become a better mathematician) or a broad focus (guiding you through the process of starting a new business).
You may be surprised by who makes a good mentor: don’t just search among the “tall poppies.” For example, could the janitor teach you something about resilience? Or, can your co-worker teach you something about standing up for yourself?
While you are looking for a mentor, keep in mid that it is not always necessary to “like” your mentor (though developing a friendship makes the mentoring process more enjoyable). You can learn, coach and even be nurtured by someone you don’t like.
If you’re really and truly stuck, aim high! Think of the person you’d most like to be mentored by. If you think you have even a slim chance of them mentoring you, ask! Most people are flattered to be asked, even if they don’t have the time to take you on personally, and they may suggest someone else instead. If not (e.g. if you’re thinking Bill Gates or Mahatma Gandhi) read what they’ve written, and see if you can follow leads this generates: think about who you see reading their books, who shares traits with those figures, uses the same language, etc.
Traits of a good mentor/mentee relationship:
- A good mentor ALWAYS listens to you
- NEVER takes advantage of you or knowingly belittles you
- A good mentor can accept that they personally do not hold all the answers
- A very good mentoring relationship is one in which the ‘mentee’ finds their way with the mentor’s support, rather than the mentor ‘giving’ the mentee what they need
- The best mentoring relationships have clearly understood aims, objectives and parameters (these may be tacit or explicit)
- Mentoring is an active process; both participants participate in it
-Most mentoring works best if regular sessions are scheduled (regular is not synonymous with frequent!)
- The best mentors see the process as one with mutual benefit
If you are unsure about staying in school, where to look for an internship, or how to change careers, connecting with a mentor is a great way to receive guidance as you navigate these challenges. Whatever your age or profession, connecting with a mentor can help you identify new goals, address continuing education needs and help you build your network. One way to go about finding a mentor for professional development is to contact a professional organization for your field and ask them about mentoring programs. If you are in college, StudentMentor offers a way to connect mentors and mentees.
Interests & Skills
Aside from the practical experience of an internship or advice of a mentor, another option for exploring your career possibilities is a career assessment test. Although we usually recommend free services, The Keirsey-Campbell Interest & Skill Survey is a great place to start figuring out where your skills can take you! photo credit: everdred via photo pin cc
Stage 3: Ongoing Efforts
Make certain you are connecting with people every day.
Chamber of Commerce meetings, groups that bring hobbyists together like cycling organizations and ski clubs, and athletic coaching are great ways to reconnect with your local community.
Volunteering can also be a rewarding way to spend time if you are unemployed. It gives you a sense of contribution and it connects you with others. In the process, volunteering may lead you to reconsider your professional aspirations and has also been known to lead to a full-time job. For example, the parent who volunteers at school and shows interest in substitute teaching is more likely to be considered (assuming qualified) than the person who is not involved with school activities. Two fantastic places to start hunting for volunteer opportunities in your area are through Idealist and VolunteerMatch. Both services provide connections based on geographic location and your particular interest/qualifications.
Staying on top of the local scene is now easier with AOL.com’s local news organization called Patch. (Patch is currently available in limited areas of the country–see if your area is one!) Just fill in your zip code and see what local events are of interest—sports games, informational meetings or informal gatherings that will get you out of the house and connecting with others. Another online opportunity for connecting locally is Meetup.com.
If you have college experience or degrees, alumni networks are a great way to connect with a group where there is built-in affinity, as you continue your search to find work. LinkedIn has many alumni groups. Once logged in to LinkedIn, search alumni groups for your alma mater.
Finally, local libraries usually maintain bulletin boards with postings for local free events ranging from movies to lectures and meetings. Stop by yours and take a peak. photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc
Knowledge of national news and politics is also important when going through the job-search process and meeting a lot of new people. AllTop is a site that allows you to stay abreast of current news and topics of interest, including headline stories from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN. It is customizable for your life, professional focus, and leisure interests. Try signing up, reading and sharing select articles with others. Sharing articles with employed people in your network, if done selectively, can be an effective way of demonstrating that you are knowledgeable and helpful.
Pulse is a similar resource for mobile devices (iPhones or Android).
For those who are re-entering the workforce after a timeout, find actionable ideas for things to do in your generalized fields. By taking the time to (re)connect with people in your field you might just find the “right” job lead. photo credit: betta design via photo pin cc
Books — Thousands of books about searching for a job are available on Amazon and many are available for free at the local library. The “bible” of job searching is What Color Is Your Parachute? 2013: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Bolles. More recent titles by Bolles are Job-Hunting Online: A Guide to Job Listings, Message Boards, Research Sites, the UnderWeb, Counseling, Networking, Self-Assessment Tools, Niche Sites and The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide.
Other good choices include:
*Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
*The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
Movies — Take time out and lift your spirits up with a movie. Many are available for little or no charge at the local library. Some suggestions are listed below.
Blogs—A great way to stay current. Click here for CareerFuel’s blogs full of the latest information and inspiration from real people.
Look and Feel Your Best
It matters. And now that you have a break from work, it is a great time to devote time and effort to it. If you have medical insurance and it is covered, get a physical. Your doctor can tell you if your weight is at the right level and can suggest ways to change it if not. The government also provides dietary guidelines to help you determine if you are at an ideal weight, and also provides suggestions to help you get there.
See if your interviewing “suit” is current. Many cities and towns have great second-hand shops filled with terrific deals on clothing. Consignment stores are often found in more affluent towns. ConsignmentShops.com provides you with a clickable map to help you find a consignment shop in your state or connect you to web-based consignment shops.
Also, the next time you have your hair cut ask the stylist for suggestions on current styles. Many salons offer discounted rates to people who can demonstrate that they are jobless. Call ahead and ask.
Another option–find a salon school in your area. Schools will often offer salon services at a highly discounted rate. A quick online search will provide several options. This often holds true for other types of schools, such as massage and acupuncture.
It has been proven that regular exercise improves a person’s mood. Exercise also has an obvious upside for your appearance. Find someone to walk with, take a hike, bike ride, go sledding with your kids, or whatever activity you enjoy that gets you moving outside. Not only will exercise help you mentally, but you may see some physical benefits as well. photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
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