career

I Just Lost My Job. Now What?

iStockphoto.com |  wildpixel

iStockphoto.com | wildpixel

Life just threw you one of its trickiest curve balls. You’ve been told by your boss you are out of a job. Regardless of the reason, you feel overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, economic pressures, and the uncertainty of your future.

Stop. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone, and a little knowledge is a lot of power in your inevitable climb back into the workforce.

It’s natural to feel lost, scared, and discouraged. In this day and age of an increased focus on corporate profitability and shortening career tenures, the experience of losing your job – either through layoff or getting fired – is increasingly common.

Time to refocus. Effectively managing the situation and preparing for your next step can often enhance your success in getting prepared to reenter the job hunt. Many others have successfully navigated such situations, and so will you. Even if this unfamiliar territory, having a good map and the right tools can get you to your destination. To paraphrase an old Irish saying the road will rise up to meet you.

Step 1 – Identify What Happened: The how, when, what, and why you lost your job directly impacts your approach to finding a new position. You’ll likely face more difficult questioning if you lost your job for performance issues than if your position was eliminated as a result of a merger or acquisition. Then think about the professional skills you’ve acquired and how they’ll impact your positioning in the market, the roles you’ll pursue, and the value you’ll add to your next employer.

Step 2 – Assess Your State of Mind: Losing a job can be traumatic, so be honest with yourself – are you ready to go back into the job market? Maybe you live paycheck–to–paycheck, and you do not have the luxury to wait until you are truly ready, but any extra time you are able to devote to yourself will ultimately be helpful in your job search. Perhaps you have severance, or savings, or a whole lot of travel points you can use to give yourself the necessary time to assess, decompress, and rejuvenate. If you need time to get right, and you can make the financials work, it may be worth consideration.

Step 3 – Craft Your Story: Conventional wisdom is that it is easier to find a job while you’re still employed than when you are unemployed. When you are unemployed, you are subject to an extra level of scrutiny, and even those who suddenly find themselves out of work due to no fault of their own can find themselves on defense during the hiring process. You’ll need to open any conversation with a potential employer by explaining what happened that caused the separation from your past employer. Here’s why – if you can set the tone and deal with the tricky parts first, you’ll be able to move onto more important topics. Write down and polish your version of what happened, massage it, and practice it like you’re going on an audition for the biggest starring role in town. The “What happened” question will come up in every interview, so be prepared.

Step 4Build Your Toolbox: You’ve determined you’re ready to get moving on the job hunt. Time to actively evaluate and upgrade the essential job hunting tools. You’ll need to look at your:

Resume: Is it updated with your last position and all the accomplishments, skills, and experiences you’ve acquired there? Is it Applicant Tracking System (ATS) ready, so that it has a chance of making it through to the recruiter? And is it clean, accurate, and free of errors?

 LinkedIn Profile: Recruiters comb LinkedIn to find talent, so you need to be ready. Just like your resume, have you updated your profile to reflect your latest experience? Is it robust and detailed, with a detailed job history? Have you uploaded a recent profile photo? And work on getting some recommendations for your profile from former peers and clients – employers look at these and place value in them.

 Job Boards: Have you uploaded your latest resume to Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder?

 References: If you’ve been let go from a job, these are going to be even more important that you may anticipate. Your last boss may or may not be willing to speak favorably about the quality of your work. Find peers, past supervisors, internal customers, or other individuals at your last company who are willing to sing your praises. It’ll help reassure a potential employer that you’re a good risk. It bears saying, make sure you choose co-workers or supervisors you know will provide favorable feedback – I’m just saying, vet your references. I’ve seen people get burned by inadvertently providing poor references.

 Wardrobe: Don’t forget to get modern, appropriate outfits and shoes for interviews. Get your best professional attire dry cleaned and ready for action. And Buy a new pair of shoes that are for interviews only.

Step 5 – Tap Into Your Network: There is no reason to go it alone. You likely have a professional and personal support network, and generally speaking, people are willing to help. Assess your network and determine your best options. Bear in mind, your network is a matrix with multiple degrees of separation. Don’t be afraid to give your resume to friends – networks are large and often unpredictable, and your resume may land on a hiring manager’s desk and you’re a perfect fit. It happens, and a lot more than you may be willing to believe. But people can’t help you if they don’t know you need help!

Step 6 ­– Consider Alternative Employment. Temporary or contract work can do a fantastic job of paying the bills while you’re looking for a full-time role. A temp job may also become permanent, or you might learn of another opening that’s even better through that temp job. Contract positions have the added benefit of expanding your network of people, affiliations, and skill sets.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

High-Impact Resume Strategies For Creative Professionals

iStockphoto.com |  scyther5

iStockphoto.com | scyther5

The most substantial asset graphic designers, art directors, interior designers, photographers, fine artists, marketers, and other creative professionals possess is their ability to translate a concept into an attractive visual presentation. It is both their tool and their trade.

When meeting with hiring managers or potential clients, creatives need to demonstrate their ideas and experience in a professional fashion.

The first piece of work such an applicant usually presents is their resume. A beautifully designed resume, with nice fonts, illustrations, layouts, and graphics can quickly demonstrate to a hiring manager at an advertising agency or within a corporate marketing department a candidate’s visual design and copy writing skills.

But, the realities of the corporate job application process get in the way. Companies often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to gather and sort resumes, and on top of the challenges they present to every applicant, they can even more quickly derail applications for creative professionals.

Creative professionals tend to focus on form, building complex layouts in programs such as Adobe InDesign that incorporate graphic illustrations and other elements. Applicant tracking platforms, on the other hand, generally require a plain, simple design in order to parse resume data – this means a resume created in Microsoft Word, with a single column of text. These systems often disregard (or can’t read) anything presented in text boxes, graphics, or tables, and recruiters will generally pass over resumes that the system hasn’t been able to fully understand. A resume with a complex design will appear at the bottom of the applicant tracking system’s ranking of the applicants against the job description.

So, how can creative professionals increase their chances of securing an interview and, ultimately, the job?

  • Build an ATS-Friendly Version of Your Resume. In order to make it easier for the applicant tracking system to parse the data and, hopefully, give your resume a higher ranking, use a single-column format. Don’t include large tables or graphics, as these can make a resume hard to scan. Even if you follow these guidelines, there could still be issues parsing data – if so, try saving your resume as a .txt file and uploading that version. And use your ATS-friendly resume for all online applications.

  • Keep a Graphically-Designed Version of Your Resume Handy, Too. Yes, you’ll want to have two versions, because the hiring manager will use the designed version to evaluate your creative eye. If the applicant tracking system lets you upload attachments along with your resume, absolutely upload your graphically-designed resume, along with samples of your work. And print out copies of this resume to hand out during an interview.

  • Develop Your Portfolio and Put it Online. A nicely designed portfolio of your work is a fantastic way to highlight your skills and achievements. Create an online version with your best work samples, and include a URL link to your portfolio in the header of your resume. You can also post this in your LinkedIn profile for greater exposure.

  • Don’t Rely Solely on Your Online Application. There’s a lot you can do to get noticed. After applying online, try to identify the decision-maker for the position on LinkedIn. Then send him or her a brief note – via LinkedIn or through email – to inform them that you’ve applied online, and ask where you can send your resume and portfolio samples. A well-timed message can potentially improve your changes of being seen by the hiring manager, regardless of how the applicant tracking system scores your resume.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Three Compelling Reasons To Keep Job Hunting During The Holidays

iStockphoto.com |  RyanJLane

iStockphoto.com | RyanJLane

It’s the holiday season, everyone’s taking their vacations, and companies just aren’t hiring. Time to forget about the job hunt until the new year, right?

Wrong!

It’s true, hiring does slow down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s also true that things come roaring back on January 2. But here are three compelling reasons to keep plowing ahead with the job hunt during the holidays.

  1. Those jobs are still posted online, right? You can still apply, which means they’re still looking to hire. The companies are still gathering resumes. And sometimes job postings have automatic expiration dates, and if you miss them then you lose your opportunity. Go ahead and apply.

  2. There are fewer people working at your target company, but the corporate recruiter might be one of them. The holiday season is catch-up time for HR. Most of the hiring managers are on vacation, so it’s an opportunity for recruiters to review applicants with less interruption. I can confidently state from my days in HR that the holidays were extremely productive for identifying and screening candidates, and preparing packets of resumes for the hiring managers to comb through when they return to work after New Year’s Day.

  3. There are fewer job applicants, too. Your competition is busy attending Christmas pageants and visiting the relatives in Minnesota, so they’re not applying to jobs at the moment. That means fewer applicants, and if the recruiter’s working, there’s a greater chance that the recruiter will take a look at your submission because the pile of resumes to review is more manageable.

Enjoy the holidays and the New Year!


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.