The Stages of a Job Search

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1. Assess Where You Are

Job status: If you're currently employed, raise your hand to help with projects, and cross-train to fill in for others. You'll exercise new parts of your brain, make yourself indispensable, and may find another role with your organization is the right move for now.

But: If things are intolerable, carve out time each day/week to devote to your next career steps. If you're not employed, do a clean sweep of your work area at home to cull out the clutter and clear your mind.

Revive Your Resume: For now, focus on two things: Reviving your all-purpose resume to have something to offer on short notice, and developing an organic "master resume," a longer document with extensive detail you'll tailor to a relevant, one- or two-page version each time you submit it. Finance resumes can get bogged down with esoteric titles and dull numbers not expressed in an engaging context. A great resume answers "So what?" by offering memorable examples and showcasing results. Search "resume action words" online for verbs to use.

Assess Your Resources: You'll feel well-armed when you take stock of the career strategy resources available to you. Search online for "finance professional associations." Your alma mater's alumni career resources can be very rich. Keep abreast of your personal and professional networks. Your presence in online communities and blogs can expand your network further.

Assess Your Finances: Determine your minimum possible salary. Meet with a financial planner to look at your financial flexibility. Knowing what you need (and would like) to earn can be defining factors in your career development.

Is it time for a career change? Ask friends and your alma mater for career counselor recommendations, or search the Association of Career Professionals International Web site.

2. Get Your Props Ready

Cover the Basics: Order personal business cards. Check your voicemail greetings on your home and cell phones to make sure they're appropriate for recruiter and employer calls. Set up a personal e-mail account with an appropriate name. Be sure you have a nice-looking portfolio and/or briefcase and a handsome pen for interviews. Subscribe online to a regional business journals and sector-specific media to track developments. Line up professional references representing a cross-section of who you are and what you've done. Finally, assess your appearance. Are your hairstyle, interview wardrobe, shoes, eyeglasses, and accessories in good shape and up-to-date?

Fine Tune Your Elevator Pitch: Leave yourself a voicemail with a 30-second description of who you are, and refine it until it sounds great. This also gives you a chance to hear how your phone voice sounds to others.

Assess Your Online Presence: Is it in synch with the professional image you'd like to portray? Remember, employers do look.

3. Circulate

Make informational interviewing a part of your weekly diet. Think of it as building a personal advisory board as you map out your career strategy. Meet for coffee or chat in the evening with college or corporate alumni, or friends of friends, to ask about job search nuances in their sector (Are recruiters used? Which ones?), interviewing techniques, and salary ranges.

4. Refine Your Strategy, Identify Job Opportunities

So, where will you find job opportunities? Well, there's eFinancialCareers, of course. But you should also determine where else to look and adjust your job search strategy based on what you've learned from your research and informational interviewing. Fine tune your elevator pitch and practice tailoring your master resume for various roles.

5. Interview and Evaluate

Interviewing: Great examples of your experiences will help you fly through the interviewing process, so think of engaging stories about each position you've held and practice telling them in front of a mirror. Telephone interviews are weighted more heavily than ever before, so prepare for those just as you would an in-person meeting. And always make thank-you notes part of your routine.

Evaluating an Offer: Get all the facts, say "thank you" - then stop talking! You need to digest the information before negotiating. Discuss the offer with your career counselor, peer, spouse or partner. If you know reasonable salary ranges, your minimum salary and other must-haves, you'll be ready to make your decision.

Finally, remember: All job search, all the time can exhaust the best of us. Develop a job search plan that incorporates some down-time.

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