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It’s Time to Get the Job!

Get a Job (and a Life)

Some people seem to come out of the womb knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up. They focus on the goal right from the beginning, and by the time they graduate from high school, they know what they will be doing for the rest of their working life. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I lacked any kind of focus throughout my short-lived high school career, and I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I struggled for years trying to find myself, drifting from job to job, never really satisfied with my situation, but not knowing how to change it. If this scenario sounds familiar, then this article is for you! Although it may seem like a daunting task; defining, landing, and succeeding in the perfect job will seem simple if you follow these basic guidelines.

The first step in defining the perfect career is to define who you are, and what you want. According to Joe Keohane in his article How to Find the Right Job, there are two important questions you must ask yourself when you are at this stage of your search. “What do I love to do and what do I hate to do?” Now is the time for brutally honest self-reflection. What do you really want to do? If you could define the perfect job, what would it be? Once you have defined what you want, you are one step closer to finding it, and you can begin to develop a plan that will allow you to find a career that fits you. In their book Clueless About Getting a Great Job, Seth Godin and Beth Burns tell us that “a job that doesn’t [sic] fit will pinch you all day like clothes that are two sizes too small.” Godin and Burns also remind us that goal setting should be one of our first steps when searching for the right career, and they recommend the “5 W’s” approach. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where would you like to do it? When will you be able to do it, and most importantly, why do you want to do it (3-6)?

If you stopped and answered the questions from the last section, you have defined the perfect job, and you can begin to form a plan that will make it all happen. Different jobs require different skills, and you will need to identify the skills required for the career you have chosen. Will getting your dream job require specialized training, and if so, where can you get this training? Perhaps you already have enough on-the-job experience, and you are ready to move up the corporate ladder. Can you achieve your desired position with the skills you have now, or will you need to go back to school for a degree to truly succeed? You must ask, and answer, these all-important questions before you can move on to the next step in your path to success. Go ahead. I will wait.

Defining your marketable skills is your next important career move. According to Dr. Lawrence K Jones, the first thing you need at this point is a comprehensive list of your skills. Not sure what your skills are? Jones recommends printing out a copy of the skills list found at North Carolina’s Career Network Resource website and placing a check mark after each skill that you possess. Everything you have ever done, from walking the dog to making a million-dollar merger, required a skill, and you might be surprised at what you find (Jones). Kristin Taliaferro also has some great tips for defining your marketable skills. She recommends creating a questionnaire and sending it out to the people who know you. Suggested questions include “What do you think I am good at?” and “When I am happiest, what am I usually doing?” Other questions can ask what other people see as your natural abilities, inclinations, and characteristics. Getting another point of view will put things into a completely new light and can give you a whole new perspective into your career choice. Often, the skills you take for granted are skills that others most desire (Taliaferro).

Even if you have realized that you will need additional training or experience to get the job that you deserve, now is a good time to start thinking about your new resume. It pays to be prepared, and a well-written, professional looking resume can be the difference between getting your foot in the door, or getting the old heave-ho. “Your resume is a brief, focused autobiography that tells employers everything they need to decide whether to interview you (Godin and Burns 57).” Your resume has three functions; it tells potential employers who you are, it tells potential employers what you can do, and it tempts potential employers into interviewing you. Human Resource Managers in large corporations sift through thousands of resumes every year, and they discard more than they keep. If you want to get your foot in the door, your resume has to set you apart from all the others who are applying for the same position. If you keep it brief, keep it factual, and make it interesting, your resume can get you the interview you are looking for (Godin and Burns 57).

Creating a new resume can seem intimidating, and if you are anything like me, it can be hard to get started. If you have never written a resume before, you may want to consult a book or website that offers advice on proper structure and layout. NC SOICC has some great examples of resume formats, and has wonderful resume building tools. These are both free sites, and the information is invaluable. Whichever layout you choose for your resume, content is the single most important factor. You will want to start with something eye-catching and provocative that will catch the reader’s attention and make them want to read more. As you move into writing the body of your resume, NC SOICC has an excellent list of dos and don’ts:

“Do be concise, accurate and positive. Do not lie or exaggerate. Do list your most recent job first. Do not include salary history.  Do stress skills and accomplishments. Do not use pronouns or abbreviations. Do use active verbs. Do not overdo use of bold and italics. Do make [sic] resume attractive to read. Do not use small type or overcrowd margins. Do have someone proofread before mailing and do not include references.” (Resumes)

The skills list you made earlier will be of great benefit here and can give you new ways of expressing your talents. Limit your initial resume to one page. Any more than that, and chances are you will end up in the rubbish heap. You can always bring in a more complete version after you get the interview, but for now you want to make a statement. Once the resume is complete, you are ready for the next phase of your career plan.

It is very important that you research and evaluate the companies you are considering for employment. After all, you will want to be sure that the goals of the company are in harmony with your own goals. In her article Evaluating Employers, Surabhi Motihar advises making a list of all potential employers, then evaluating them to decide which companies suit your requirements and applying only to those companies. In order to evaluate your prospective employers, you will need to establish your criteria. Here is where your description of your dream job comes into play. Motihar recommends a detailed list of criteria to cover the different aspects of a company’s business structure and proposes breaking these criteria into groups.  Suggested groupings include company background, company performance, human resources, and job specific criteria. These groupings will give you specific criteria to judge all the companies you are considering for your future dream job (Motihar).

Your future success depends on finding a job that is suited to your needs, and these evaluations will help you select the company that is right for you. Company background should include historical facts like when the company originated, and it should consider the size of the company, the number and location of branch offices, the products or services involved, and employee satisfaction. Evaluating company performance gives you a chance to see where the company is heading. You should look at employee turnover, profit and loss, growth prospects, competition, expansion plans, and the company’s reputation when you evaluate company performance. Human resources are at the core of every successful business. Quality personnel and a positive working environment are signs that a company values their employees. Other areas to consider when evaluating the human resources of a company are salary structure, management style, training programs, and the company mission statement. Job specific criteria will be the last step of your evaluation. Are the hours compatible with your needs? Is the job suited to your qualifications? Will you need to travel? Are the benefits suitable? Are there ample opportunities for advancement? As you answer these questions, look back to your description of your ideal job, and ask yourself if this company measures up. If this company matches your needs, then put it into your keep pile. If it does not, toss it. There is no sense in wasting your time applying to a company that is not suitable for your needs. After all, now that you have settled on a career path, every job you take should bring you one step closer to your perfect job (Motihar).

You have defined your ideal career. You have gotten the training or education required to get you started in the right direction. You have prepared an award-winning resume, and you have evaluated your potential employers. It is now time for the dreaded job search! In his book Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass, Michael B. Laskoff tells us, “Most job searches begin with a panic attack (88).”  It is perfectly natural to face bouts of panic at this stage. After all, the future is uncertain, and your satisfaction is at stake (Laskoff 88). However, tempting it may be, you do not need to give into panic. You have done your homework, and you are fully prepared for this giant step into the future. Your research has already shown you what companies have positions that are suited to your qualifications, and all that is left to do is to send them your resume. Be sure to include a brief, yet interesting cover letter that outlines your purpose, and be sure to specify the position/s that interest you. Remember not to be disheartened if you do not get an immediate reply. These things take time. However, if it has been more than two months and you have not had a response, a follow up letter and another resume may do the trick. If there is a number available, a follow up call may be in order. Be pleasantly persistent, but do not make a pest of yourself. Employers are interested in employees who are interested in the job, but they do not need to feel like you are stalking them.

Success! You have an interview! The excitement of possibly getting the job you have worked so hard for may cause you to spiral into panic once again, but you are ready for this. All your research is about to pay off again. You know what this company has to offer you, and what you have to offer them. “As a job seeker, you may see an interview as an interrogation or exchange of information. It's [sic] neither. Interviews are sales calls. And [sic], as any sales pro knows, you only get the sale by asking for it (Nielsen). You are here to offer your expertise and experience to this company. If they have no need for your talents, they will not hire you. However, if you can convince them that they need you, you will get the job you are after. Niels H. Nielsen, President of Princeton Management Consultants, Inc., suggests that asking for the job you want is the best way to get the job you want, and he has several helpful tips for you to use when preparing for the interview. (Nielsen)

One tip that Nielson makes is to research your prospective employer. Because you did this research before you ever applied to this company, you are ready to move right on to the next tip. Researching your interviewer is an important step in the interview process. It helps if you put yourself in their shoes for a moment. The decision they make about hiring you could affect their entire future. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, the person responsible could end up in a lot of trouble. Easing their fears and helping your interviewer relax will go a long way towards gaining you the success you desire (Nielsen). Selling yourself is your only reason for taking this interview, and it is up to you “toot your own horn (Trump 133).” A recent article in Reader’s Digest has Donald Trump telling us to “learn to speak up and announce your contributions to the world. The truth is nobody else will.” Trump also recommends that you practice straight talk and admits that he “likes people who don’t [sic] give up (134).” Persistence is one thing but becoming a pest can be extremely harmful to your chances for success (Trump 134). It is important to know when to stop selling yourself, and how to close the deal. The best time to close the deal is when the interviewer is ready. Watch for telltale signs of interest throughout the interview, and when you feel you have asked and answered all possible questions that the interviewer may have, follow your instincts, and ask for the position you are after. (Nielsen; Trump 133-135)

Knowing how to close during a job interview is as important as knowing when to close. One of the best ways to close the deal is to assume that the position is already yours. You can do this subtly by using words like us and we during your interview. This gives the impression that you are already a part of the team and makes the interviewer comfortable with you. Another great way to close is to offer the interviewer an option. For example, “When do I start, Monday or Wednesday (Nielsen)?” The phrasing is important here. Asking if you have the job can easily result in a no answer, and every salesperson knows that you never want to ask a question if no might be the answer. Always remember to follow up your interview with a thank you letter. Not only is it thoughtful thing to do, but it is also an opportunity to present yourself once again. Asking for the job can be intimidating, but you have done your research, and knowing that this is truly the job for you, can help you to relax, and ace the interview process (Nielsen).

Once you have landed the job you have been working towards, you will want to ensure that you are able to keep it. Cheryl Dahle and ABA Staffing, Inc. have some excellent tips for starting your new career successfully. Dahle recommends making a good impression early. Not only will you need to learn “the realities of your job (Dahle),” you will need to learn how to interact with a completely new group of people. “As important as how you perform [your job] is how you are perceived (Dahle).” Spend time with your new colleagues. Get to know them. Knowing whom you can depend on, and who tends to be a little crabby before their morning coffee, can help you fit in and work comfortably with these people. Dahle recommends asking how you are doing after thirty days on the job. It is important to know what your boss thinks about how you are performing your job. Discuss your duties and your expectations to ensure that you and the boss are seeing things in the same light. Identifying the key aspects of your job and reviewing your job description can go a long way in ensuring your continued success (Dahle).

You have prepared yourself extensively in your search for the ideal job, and your preparations have paid off. You have a wonderful job, and you are ready to face the future. Take the time to stop and smell the roses in order to enjoy the life you have created and remember that hard work and perseverance will bring you continued success. A satisfying, successful career is within your reach, and I hope these tips will help you find your path to success.


Works Cited

Dahle, Cheryl. "What Do You Do After You Get the Job?." ABA Anytime. ABA Staffing, Inc. 13 Oct 2004 <>.

Godin, Seth, and Beth Burns. Clueless About Getting a Great Job and Want to Know More. Chicago: Dearborn Financial Publishing, Inc., 1998. (3-6)

Jones, Lawrence K. "Identify Your Skills." 2003. The Career Key. Career 08 Oct 2004 <>.

Keohane, Joe. "How to Find the Right Job.." 2004. EGrad Career Center. EGrad. 02 Oct 2004 <§ionID=39&subsectionID=43>.

Laskoff, Michael B. Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004.

Motihar, Surabhi. "Evaluating Employers." 2001. Info Edge India Pvt. Ltd. . 10 Oct 2004 <>.

Nielsen, Niels H. "How to Get the Job by Asking for It." . 12 Oct 2004 <>.

"Resumes." Job Search. NC SOICC. 10 Oct 2004 <>.

Taliaferro, Kristin. "How Can I Find My Passion?." IVillage 12 Dec 3003. 08 Oct 2004 <,,165421_608583-1,00.html>.

Trump, Donald J. "You're Hired." Reader's Digest Aug 2004: 133-135.