By Marco Buscaglia
Tribune Media Services
January 15, 2013
You're working but you're not exactly thrilled with your job. But you're getting a paycheck and paying the bills, so you can't complain, right? Maybe, but if you'd like a job that gives you more fulfillment than paying off your Visa's monthly minimum, you should probably start thinking about looking for a new job. But that's the problem – you have no idea where to start.
"Most working professionals don't update their resumes and don't practice their interviewing skills," says Henry Mace, a career adviser in San Jose, Calif. "They talk themselves out of looking for a new job even when they dislike their current job simply because they either don't know where to start, or are afraid of actually getting started."
Don't let complacency or fear of change keep you from the perfect profession. Whether you're considering changing careers or simply mulling over your options, you need a long-term strategic plan to change jobs.
"There's nothing wrong with starting slowly," Mace says. "Take some time to get yourself back into job-search mode before you decide to look."
Here's a monthly plan to get prepared for the job search ahead:
The first month of the year is a great time to assess your resume. Do so by asking yourself these questions: Does the document do a good job of selling your talents and skills? Does your resume portray a person who's more interested in helping a company succeed than receiving personal accolades? If the answer to either question is no, it's time to get to work.
February is the perfect month to create a template for cover letters. Most recruiters scan cover letters quickly, so be sure to keep the introduction short and to get right to the meat of your pitch. You want to reiterate the highlights of your resume, pointing out your major accomplishments and how they have helped your current and past employers. Once it's time to actively pursue a job, you'll plug in information that's specific to the job and company you're courting.
Spend the month of March creating a contact list for networking purposes. Call up your high school and college for an alumni directory and go through your holiday card address list. Gather up old phone books, yearbooks or any other collection of names from your present and past. Use them to select 150-200 people who you could use to create a network.
Join any relevant professional organization in your area. A good professional organization offers mentoring, industry insight and special training. It also offers numerous people in your profession who share the same talents and dreams as you. If you impress someone, it's likely your name will come up when their company is looking to hire new employees.
Look into any volunteer organizations in your area, whether it's a tutoring center, homeless shelter or an assisted-living facility. It's a great way to help others and to meet people who may be able to help advance your career. Since many volunteer agencies count on large numbers of people to help them fulfill their duties, there should be plenty of management-types offering their time. And they could be of great assistance when it comes to finding a new job.
Drop a quick card, letter, email or phone call to the people on your networking list. A list of great contacts doesn't do much good if people don't remember you — or are offended by the fact that you only contact them when you're looking for work. Find a way to keep your name fresh in their minds at least once every six months.
Read up on the job market. Check out websites and recent business periodicals to get a gauge on the industries that are thriving and the industries that are dying in your area. Are you working in a field that's slowly being phased out in your region? Is there something you should be doing to strengthen your skills for any upcoming career changes? Are companies leaving your region?
What does the future look like for your current employer? Read through industry publications to find out what others are saying. Have you noticed any red flags at work? Are employees from certain departments being phased out? Is management bringing in new clients to meet employees? Have you heard rumors of a prospective sale?
Thanks to fall sales, September is a good month to head out to the store for an interview suit. If you do purchase something, experts agree that an approach focused on the basics is best, meaning navy blue or gray suits. Take care of all the details as well, including shoes, ties, belt, attaché case and other accessories.
Take some time this month to practice your interviewing skills. Have a friend ask you some standard interview questions to see how you answer. It also helps to talk to yourself in front of a mirror so you can check out your body language and facial expressions. You should also record yourself answering questions — video and/or audio — so you can hear the pacing of your answers.
Give yourself a self-review. Which aspects of your job do you do well? Which areas do you need to work at? List your strengths and weaknesses and explain why you feel that way. Read through recent performance reviews and see if you've made any improvement in the areas that were marked as satisfactory or below.
Read that November review and put a new plan into action. Figure out what you need to do to be successful in your career and content with your life. Share your observations with a friend, co-worker, supervisor or network contact that you look up to. Perhaps he or she could offer some advice on how to give your career a short-term and long-term boost.
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