The best job search is a well considered one

Layoffs are throwing many people out of the jobs they've held for many years, leaving them with little hope of finding a position in the same field.

When they decide to make a career change, they often experience frustration in the job search because they don't know what is available or if they would be qualified for anything else. Sometimes a random search is begun that results in lots of dead ends and wasted time. Money runs out and the end result is a desperate grab at anything. Not a very systematic way to plan for a major part of your life.

Dear Joan:
"I am a former high school science teacher with six years of experience.

In addition to teaching, I have coached track and been the student council adviser. While in college, I held part-time jobs as a waitress and a temporary help general office worker.

I have been laid off and don't know where to begin looking for a job. I'm interested in areas other than teaching. I've applied for a few jobs that sounded interesting in the want ads, but didn't get any replies.

What jobs are available for someone with my background?"

Given your teaching background, I think you would agree that no project can be successful without doing a thorough job on the homework.

If you are willing to accept your job search as an important full-time project, the same holds true here. It will mean many hours of work, but if you're serious about a career change, it will be worth the effort.

Start by going from the known to the unknown. On a sheet of paper, list separately all of your abilities, interests, hobbies and community activities, as well as your accomplishments in each category. Get input from friends, your spouse and former co-workers. They may mention qualities you've overlooked.

Next, describe your ideal job. Include the kind of work, personalities of co-workers, working atmosphere, results expected, hours worked - everything that's important to you.

When this is completed, make another list of all your relatives, friends, co-workers' spouses and acquaintances and where they work. Don't forget to include the family lawyer, banker and church leader.

Now you're ready to begin an interesting journey that will end with a clearer understanding of not only the opportunities available to you but how to go about getting what you want.

"Informational interviews"
The next step in your marketing campaign is called "informational interviewing." It is a simple process of contacting people on your list and asking them to talk about what they do at work and how they arrived at their current position.

People like to talk about themselves, so I think you'll find most people will be willing to accommodate you. (When you get that job, I'm sure you'll be willing to help others, too. That's a good way to "pay back" those who helped you.) When possible, interview them at work or offer to take them to lunch for their trouble. Go on a tour of the company or department to get a feel for the working environment.

Dress appropriately, bring any lists and any resumes you have developed. Never go to an informational interview without some specific knowledge about your strengths. Nothing is more frustrating to a busy interviewer than to hear something like: "Well, I really don't know what I'd like to do, but I like to work with people." Who? How? When? Where? Don't expect them to sort out the fundamentals for you. Use their time very wisely.

Instead, you could say, "I was always quite successful at mediating between the principal and the parents and handling hostile situations calmly. Can you tell me where that skill might be useful in the business world?"

Describe what you are looking for in a job ask them to share any information or other resources that would be helpful to your search. If their job is something you think you would be qualified for, ask them if you can borrow any trade journals or any literature on seminars, etc., so you can learn the jargon and explore further.

Get opinions of resume
Ask each person for an opinion of your resume; ask them if there is anything in it that turns them off. Ask them to tell you what they look for in a resume as well as in an employee. If theirs is a job you would like, have them describe the results expected on their job - it will help you later when developing your final results-oriented resume. Before you go, be sure to ask for the names of anyone they know who might be willing to meet with you for another informational interview.

During this discussion, it is not appropriate to ask for a job. It exploits the other person's goodwill. If a job is available, he or she will be analyzing your qualifications whether you ask for it or not. Leave a copy of your resume and follow up with a thank you letter and another resume -- if you've incorporated any of their suggestions in a revision.

This approach takes time and energy but is a valuable source of important information and advice as well as a means of building a solid network of potential employers, scouts and supporters. Remember what you know can be expanded by whom you know.

Don't make the common mistake of letting your network shrivel and die. Keep it alive by periodic calls and notes to your contacts, letting them know how your search is coming and how helpful their advice was (assuming it was). This is the key. In this way, you demonstrate your follow-through, develop a friendship and keep your name and qualifications fresh in their minds when they hear of an opening.

Call contacts
As your search begins to yield some job interviews, you might want to call one or two contacts from organizations that are similar to the one with which you are interviewing. If you're interviewing with a bank, for example, call your contact in another bank to help you prepare. Often they will know who had the position before, what the organization is like, questions that might be asked and some of the responsibilities that position might hold.

If you have been out of work for a long time, you may want to volunteer your talents or work part-time in a position that will give you needed experience or exposure while you're looking. It could provide you with new skills and even lead to a job.

Unfortunately, many people expend more energy and time planning for the family vacation than they do planning their next career move. If finding a good job -- one that matches your talents and provides satisfaction and growth -- is important to you, then it's well worth the homework.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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