Five Professional Tips for Job Hunters

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By Ashley Claire Simpson

Looking for a new job can be as turbulent as the emotional journey of dating and relationships. It’s easy to get your heart set on a new position and then feel utterly devastated when it doesn’t come to fruition. It makes sense that people feel this way. With all the time and energy we pour into earning our paychecks, it’s important for our work lives to be satisfying.

The economic downturn of 2007-2008 changed the job search process for everyone, and trends among the older members of the workforce trickled down to affect everyone looking for gainful employment.

“It is taking much longer for folks to find jobs,” said Michelle Davis-Younger, the president and founder of 1FORHR LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Manassas. “People are afraid, so they are staying in jobs much longer. Unfortunately, many seniors have to remain or go back into the workforce to take care of their grown children, who are coming back home to live with their families, too. It changes the job landscape for everyone.”

The process of identifying and securing a satisfying job can require a significant amount of time, effort and strategy. Read below for five professional tips to consider when you search for your next job.

1.Start with a good, hard look at your resume. As much as some things have changed, some remain the same. Your resume is still the first view of you that a potential employer will get, so you
need to polish it knowing that first impressions last.

“It is essential to update and proofread your resume,” Gala Johnson, the vice president of marketing at the Manassas-headquartered Employment Enterprises Inc., said. “Having a typo in a resume is a non-negotiable for our recruiting team and most companies. Put month and year dates in your resume. Don’t make the interviewer guess if you worked there a year or a month. Have a separate list of references, including names, titles, company names and contact information.”

In addition to having a crisp, clean resume, you should know the contents of your resume well enough so that you won’t just regurgitate the information during any in-person interviews. “Do your research on the company and come to the interview dressed professionally and with a hard copy of your resume,” Johnson said. “We have the e-version but want to see how prepared you are at the interview. Another non-negotiable is walking in unprepared for the interview. Do mock interviews and nail your elevator
speech to elaborate on your resume, not just repeat it.”

Having the right relationship with your resume is important for recent college graduates and for older people in the workforce. The ability to market your experience the right way both during in-person interviews.

“Baby Boomers need to follow the same advice as Millennials,” Johnson said. “You should always focus on the positive. Your technical skills may not be as savvy as a recent grad, but your knowledge and experiences count. Don’t apologize for anything, and don’t underestimate the value of a knowledgeable, experienced worker.”

2. Prepare to be flexible and get creative. As the owner of a business that provides basic Human Resources functions for small companies as well as resume writing and resume preparation services for job search candidates, Davis-Younger has a window into both sides of the job search process. “It costs a lot of money to bring someone on board,” Davis-Younger said. “Naturally, a company wants to make sure they are getting the right fit, so be prepared for anything and everything that’s legal. From three-hour
interviews to personality or aptitude tests, be prepared for everything that comes up.”

For those trying to enter a new industry, look for internships or even volunteer opportunities for related experience. “In most cases, you will have to get some experience in the new industry,” Davis-Younger said. “No one will hire someone who has no experience in a position they are looking to fill. Then, use your
related volunteer experience to help with selling yourself. That you volunteer will also say a lot about your character.”

Johnson said that temporary job placements are also a great avenue for young people starting out and for anyone who may want to take steps toward a new career path. “Get training and education, and if you want to try various jobs before committing, a temporary staffing company could be the answer,” she said.

3. Stop, look and listen when it comes time to talk salary. When an interviewer asks you to name your price, stop yourself from declaring the first number. “He who gives the first number always loses,” Davis-Younger said. “Let the company come to you with a number, and then you negotiate. You should also find out the benefits and any perks that can be used instead of straight salary, such as paying for your cell phone, offering bonuses, and more.”

A combination of analyzing your own finances and doing adequate research on what your local industry peers are making can only increase your chances of driving up the salary offer.

“You need to have an idea of what you need to make should you accept any job,” Johnson said. “You have to know what expenses you need to cover and what you need to live on. Do the math. Don’t listen to what the ‘statistics’ show about what you should be earning. Each person is unique and has individual needs and talent. Letting a company know that you have a range in mind is always good as it shows you are willing to negotiate, but that you don’t price yourself too low or at an unrealistic high.”

There are plenty of free resources online, too, to help you identify that range. “Always research on Glassdoor before an interview or accepting an official offer,” Johnson added. “Be aware that salary
varies depending on the metropolitan area. You can use Wanted Analytics and LinkedIn to compare pay in similar fields.”

4. Look at the whole [benefits]package. There is such a thing as a hidden paycheck. While of course you must make decisions based on your family’s well-being, don’t respond to a job offer until you’ve considered all the benefits it does—or doesn’t—offer.

Some of the perks that come with a job can absolutely make up for a few numbers missing in a paycheck. “The trends now are for organizations to give more time off or to offer more work-from-home options so that employees can strike a healthier family-work balance,” Davis-Younger said. “Then, a lot of people today want to work for companies who are active in the community.”

From stellar health insurance to 401(k) programs with generous company matches, there are many ways for an organization to more than make up for a paycheck on the lower end of your salary range.

5. Never give up. Even if you have to accept a position that falls short of “dream job” status, think of the move as a strategic placement as opposed to a disappointment.

“Never settle,” Johnson said. “If you have a passion or a vision for what you want to do with your life and your career, pursue that route. If you need to pay rent or eat in-between finding that perfect job, then working as a contractor is always an option. Short-term or long-term employment solutions will help pay
the bills while you look for that ‘dream job.’ And sometimes, that short-term job turns into something you didn’t expect and becomes the ideal job that you didn’t know you wanted.”

Ashley Claire Simpson ( is a corporate communications professional by day, but her real passion is learning more about this community—and world —by writing for publications like Prince William Living. She has been crafting features and human interest articles since her college newspaper days at the University of Virginia.



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