Searching for a job can be an intimidating process. And if you’ve just been through a divorce, or are facing one, you no doubt have added anxiety about where your life is going. Whether you’re re-entering the job market after being at home, or hoping to set off in a whole new direction, there are some tricks you can use to get the job you want.
Proceed by Indirection
What you want is a face-to-face conversation with someone who can help you. But don’t think in terms of people who can offer you a job. You want to start with someone who will meet you and give you valuable information about a company or a particular kind of work. Most importantly, they will give you more contacts. Job seekers often waste time asking other people for a job instead of gathering information. So how do you get information?
• When you set up a meeting make it clear that you are interested only in information.
• Use friends, former co-workers, or networking groups to find contacts in the field in which you want to work. Then set up meetings at their offices, or offer to take them on a coffee break. People may be busy, but they are flattered if they know you want to get their analysis of their company or their field of work.
• Come right out and say what you hope to get from the meeting. You may say you're recommitting yourself to your career, or that you’re interested in widgets, and you know their company is the premier widget-maker, and you want to learn more about widget-making (or about marketing widgets, or about servicing widgets, etc.) Or you can say you’ve been away from the field for a few years, and want an insider’s take on what has changed.
• Once you set a meeting, read up on the person, the company, and on widget-making in general. You want to ask relevant questions and present yourself as professional and knowledgeable.
• At the end of your conversations, thank the contacts for their time and ask for referrals to other people in the industry. Try to walk away with at least three new contacts or referrals.
• Follow up with a handwritten note.
Do that, and you will be ahead of the pack of people who are randomly emailing resumes to companies. First of all, you will see the inside of several offices. You will have met new people in your field. Some of those people may remember you and recommend you for a job. Be sure you have a professional looking business card, and professional stationery to match.
Be Realistic about What You Want
Ok, now you’ve got a possible job offer. You have set your sights on $35,000 a year, but they tell you the job will pay only $30,000.
Or you have to have your weekends free, to take care of the children, and the job is going to require some weekend work. Before passing on the job, consider how it would feel to go several more months without getting any job offers. Of course you shouldn’t take a horrible job for low pay just to get a job. But you have to decide what’s most important and make a decision based on that.
• Think long term, and outside the box. If there is a bonus, or a clear chance of promotion, that’s a better job than some dead end job.
• It is close to home, and therefore will take less commuting time and less gas? Remember that your time is also money. A close job that pays less may be better than a job paying more that’s far away.
• If you have to work weekends in the job, can you specify the number of hours and days a month, and if there is a pay differential. Extra pay for weekend work might subsidize your babysitting bills on the occasional weekend.
• Consider taking a part-time job and working your way up. That way, you can prove your worth to the company from the inside.
• Consider temp jobs. Working at a variety of companies gives you real-world, current work experience, and lets you hone your skills, or learn new ones. Temp jobs may also lead to permanent positions. It’s a win-win solution – both of you get to see how things would work out.
• Set up a group of friends, stay-at-home mothers, other recently divorced women, and offer yourselves as high-priced temp workers: a team of accountants, writers, lawyers, human resources executives, people who can come into any office and take on a big short-term project. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal article called these SWAT teams, “Smart Women with Available Time,” and pointed out that groups are billing $21 to $30 an hour per woman.
• If you have a profession, and have contacts in your field, consider becoming a consultant.
Anticipate Employer Concerns
Remember that new hires are costly, in both time and money. If you’ve been out of the workplace for a while, employers are going to have some doubts about hiring you. They may have doubts about your technical knowledge or the latest advances in your field.
To handle those concerns:
• Anticipate these issues and face them head-on. A strong, positive cover letter can address these issues with examples of how you have kept up in your area of expertise.
• Once you get an interview, be aware of an employer, for instance, asking about young children at home. Make it clear that you've thought about the factors involved in the job, and that you have made the necessary arrangements in your life (and backup systems) to facilitate your return to work.
• Let the interviewer know you're serious. Present yourself as positive, mature, technically savvy, and ready to make an immediate contribution.
There’s a tough job market out there. But there’s no point of sitting at home and worrying about the economy. You have to be strategic if you want to get ahead. By using these tips, you will position yourself for success.
Joan Schramm, founder of Momentum Coaching, helps clients achieve career goals while living a balanced life. Learn more strategies for finding your perfect job with Joan’s e-book, “Loving Your Job, Living Your Life.”
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