Bouncing Back When Your Income Drops 8: Finding New Employment

This publication explains how to identify career options and find new employment. It includes information about writing resumes and cover letters, filling out applications, and going on interviews.
Bouncing Back When Your Income Drops 8: Finding New Employment - Articles

Updated: September 13, 2017

Bouncing Back When Your Income Drops 8: Finding New Employment

You are now ready to find a job and face the working world. Finding a good job with a future does not mean you just apply for whatever jobs are available or that you assume you need to return to the same kind of work. Finding a job with a future means you need to do some work before you begin to apply. Even if you have always worked in the same industry, you do not have to stay in it for the rest of your working years. Before you commit to a job search, do some homework.

First, you need to figure out what you want to do and what you have the skills to do. To do this, you need to take time to think about yourself and to find out what jobs match your abilities and skills.

No experience has been a waste of your time, no matter how it ended. Everything that you’ve done has taught you about yourself, what you like and dislike, what you are capable of doing, and what you need to learn. To help you think about your future employment, take time to answer these questions honestly:

  1. In which job(s) was I happiest, and why?
  2. In which job(s) was I the most successful, and why?
  3. What kind of positive feedback did I receive from other employees?
  4. What kind of negative feedback did I receive at work?
  5. What barriers have held me back?
  6. What skills or education would help me move ahead?
  7. If I had to start over again, what type of work would I like to do?

Now that you have thought more about yourself, you need to know which jobs have a future. Once you have this information, you will be prepared to make a decision about your future job options. Visit the local CareerLink center or library to search for jobs ranked as highly employable in the future. You may find that the industry you have been working in is actually losing jobs. These Web sites also will help you learn more about the skills that you need to work in various types of jobs. Think about which jobs your current skills match. Over the long haul, which jobs will be able to pay enough to meet your financial needs? This may be the best time to seek new training to enhance your future employability.

Your next step is to develop a road map detailing how you can get the kind of job you want. You will need to outline your short-term goals and the steps you need to accomplish to reach your long-term goal: employment.

Unemployment is not a vacation. It is now your full-time job to find another full-time job. The more you approach the job search as your current full-time job, the more successful you will be. As in the workplace, you will need to be positive and proactive. It is your responsibility to put your plan into action. Employment counselors estimate that it takes 90 “no’s” before you get to one “yes.” Every time you get a rejection, keep thinking you are just that much closer to the “yes.”

Marketing Yourself

Getting a job in today’s workplace requires that you be able to market your skills and past work experience. Being concise and appealing is critical in today’s competitive job market. It is estimated that employers spend about 30 seconds reviewing each résumé and cover letter they receive. Don’t give up. Many jobs require a résumé and cover letter as the admission ticket for consideration to be interviewed. The key is to keep your written pitch short, to the point, and action-oriented. If possible, tailor it to show how your qualifications meet or exceed the job’s specific needs.

Guidelines for Résumés

A résumé is a short description of your past work history and qualifications. Some basic tips in writing one are:

  • Keep It Short.
    A résumé should be no more than two pages long. One page is even better. You are highlighting your experience and skills, not listing your every qualification.
  • Keep It Simple.
    Do not use technical terms or jargon that an employer may not understand.
  • Choose a Consistent Format.
    Most employers are used to a chronological résumé format. When using this format, list your work history in order of employment, beginning with the most current job. If you have not been employed for a while, or you have gaps in your work history, a functional résumé may be a better format. It allows you to emphasize your experience rather than when you gained it.
  • Present Important Information First.
    Put the points that really count first, including your job objective, skills, or most recent three jobs. Whatever is first will be read, so make it count.
  • Add Details for Your Most Important Accomplishments.
    Add specifics that help bring your most important work experience credibility and relevance. This is not the time to be shy.
  • Make It Reader-Friendly.
    Guide the reader through your résumé using bullets and a readable print size. Stay away from a lot of clutter, such as italics, bold type, and underlining. You want to create a clear and tasteful presentation.
  • Keep It Focused.
    The older you are, the less important your hobbies, group affiliations, and even your education become. An employer is interested in your work experience. Never include your age or marital status—it may actually increase your chance of being screened out.

Guidelines for Cover Letters

A cover letter is designed to get the interest of the employer. There are two basic kinds: responses to want ads, and requests for informational interviews. When responding to an ad, the cover letter should be short and to the point in answering these questions: Why are you writing? How does your work experience relate to the employer’s needs? What are your qualifications? A cover letter requesting an informational interview needs to be more comprehensive. These cover letters need to include the name of the individual that referred you to the employer. Your letter should reassure the employer that you are seeking information, not an interview or job. More explanation about your past work history and how it relates to the employer is necessary. Both types of cover letters should end with a request for a meeting.

Guidelines for Applications

Many employment opportunities require a company application to be completed. An application standardizes the information that the employer is seeking. It is important to complete the application entirely. If a question does not relate to you, insert “N/A” or write in “not applicable.” Never just leave a question or space blank. Read through all the statements that you are signing or initialing. Giving false information on an application is grounds for dismissal after employment. When listing references, be sure these individuals will give you a good reference. It is common courtesy to ask them before listing their name and contact information. Many companies will ask you to complete the application on-site. Come prepared with your Social Security number, verification of legal right to work in the United States, and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your references and prior employers. Many companies will require you to submit to drug screening before employment.

Interviewing for Success

Your ultimate goal is a job offer, but the interview is a necessary step to that goal. An interview is your opportunity to relate how your skills, experience, and qualities meet the requirements of the job. It is also an opportunity to learn more about the job and the workplace.

During the interview, you need to address the employer’s critical concerns. Will you fit into this workplace? Can you do the job now and in the future? Are you motivated to do the job? Employers look for more than just skills, and the inter-viewer is interested in getting to know you and finding out what you can bring to the job.

Your attitude is key to many employers. Your attitude is reflected in some common interview details:

  • Be early and never late.
  • Dress for an interview, not for the job you will be doing.
  • Project confidence in yourself and your abilities.
  • Never admit a major weakness.

Listen to the questions being asked and observe the interviewer’s body language. If the questions are not clear, ask for clarification. Come prepared for a tough interview by preparing ahead of time. The more you think through how you will respond to difficult questions, the better you will be able to handle them during the interview. Come prepared with questions about the job itself, not the salary and benefits. Employers want to hire people who are interested in their work and advancement.

Many companies will conduct a series of interviews with potential job candidates. Getting a second interview does not mean you have the job. Be prepared for the second interviewer to be as demanding as the first in questioning you. Stay optimistic and responsive. Conclude the interview by asking for a date when the job offer will be made. If this date passes and the employer has not called, it is appropriate to call and request an update on the job.

Every interview is a learning opportunity. After each interview, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Finding out what your weaknesses are will help you prepare for the next one. Keep in mind that a rejection does not mean you failed. A rejection is one decision that can be colored by many factors other than your abilities and intrinsic value. Look at each interview as a learning process that better prepares you for a future job offer.

Road to Employment Success

Finding a job requires work. The process may test your belief in yourself and your future. But you control your job search. It is your choice to take personal responsibility and to be proactive. When opportunity doesn’t come knocking on your door, you have a choice to wait or to take control of your life. Sitting at home waiting will only prolong your unemployment. Hunting a job is not a “wait and see” or passive process. It will require you to reach out in many ways to help yourself. You may need to learn new skills and test your personal beliefs. Success in traveling the road to re-employment will strengthen your abilities and skills.

Writing a Winning Résumé

Before starting to write your résumé, gather the information you need and make sure it is accurate. If necessary, check current addresses of past employers. A brief, concise résumé is the most effective. Aim to have yours reflect your past work experience, skills, and accomplishments that relate to the job you are seeking. Keep it concise, simple, and factual.

Standard Résumé Formats

Sample of Employment History Layout

  • Your Name
  • Home Address
  • Phone Number
  • E-mail Address
  • Career Objective
  • Employment History

From (date) – present

Job title

Name of company

Address

Duties and responsibilities

From (date) – (date)

Job title

Name of company

Address

Duties and responsibilities

  • Education History
    Name of school or college, date of completion Address of college or school
    List degree or certificates
    Name of school or college, date of completion Address of college or school
    List degree or certificates
  • Affiliations
    List name of each
  • Awards
    List name of each
  • References
    Available on request

Sample of Career Change Résumé

  • Name
  • Home Address
  • Phone Number
  • E-mail Address
  • Career Objective
    Job title
    Description of duties and responsibilities

    Job title
    Description of duties and responsibilities

    Job title
    Description of duties and responsibilities
  • Employment History
    From (date) – present
    Employer’s name

    From (date) – (date)
    Employer’s name

    From (date) – (date)
    Employer’s name

  • Education
    Degree completed, date – name of college or school Degree completed, date – name of college or school
    ● Awards
    List name of each

    ● Affiliations
    List name of each

    ● References
    Available on request

A Winning Cover Letter Checklist

A cover letter should include the following information:

  • Your address
  • The date
  • The address of the person and company to whom you are applying. If the address is not listed in the advertisement, you can use “To whom it may concern” to open the letter.
  • First, explain why you are writing. Is the letter in response to an advertisement, the result of a previous meeting, or the suggestion of a common acquaintance?
  • Relate the highlights of your experience to the job’s needs. Limit this section to one or two paragraphs. Do not discuss your current or desired salary.
  • The final paragraph should close with a request for an interview. Include any pertinent information needed to schedule it.
  • Close your cover letter with “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly,” followed by your signature, followed by your full name typed out.
  • Proofread the letter, then proofread it again. It also is a good idea to have someone else, such as a spouse or friend, review the letter before you send it.

To see a sample application, download the attached pdf file. Prepared by Natalie M. Ferry, coordinator of special program initiatives for Penn State Extension and Outreach.

Authors

Natalie Ferry