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I Need a Job - Now What?

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You know you need a job, but where do you start? Perhaps the biggest key to a successful job search is realizing that looking for a job is a full-time task. The more you know about yourself, what you have to contribute to an employer, and the type of work you are looking for before you search job listings, the more directed, and successful, your job search will be. So, where do you begin?

Get to Know Yourself.

It might sound silly, but sitting down and really thinking about what you like and what you are good at can save you a lot of time and effort. It will also help you apply for a job that you will be successful at and enjoy.

What do you like? Sit down and list all of the things you like. Do you like to be on a computer? Do you like to read or write? Do you like to talk to people? Do you like working with numbers? How about working with children or animals? Besides just listing activities, also list the types of environments you like to be in. Do you like being someplace where there is always something going on, or do you prefer to be somewhere quiet? Do you like getting up in the morning or staying up late at night? Once you have a sizable list completed, move on to the next step.

What are you good at? First, list any special degrees or certifications that you have - including a high school or college diploma or GED certificate or any technical certifications. List everything from CPR to computer programming certifications. Next, list activities - such as typing, repair work, or cleaning that you are good at. Don't just stop at "work-related activities" - think about your hobbies and interests. Also list any personality characteristics you have that might be helpful in certain types of jobs. For instance, do you interact well with people? Can you make decisions under pressure? Are you good with children? Can you work by yourself and stay motivated?

Know What You Have to Contribute to an Employer.

Take a moment to list all of the things you can contribute to a job - list your employment experience and the tasks you performed at those jobs. List any "character" skills you have - such as a positive attitude, a willingness to learn new things, being on time, and your ability to work independently or as a team player. Think about the type of job you want and what types of things might be required for that job. If you were hiring someone to fill that position, what would you be looking for? Then list those skills or experiences, if you have them. This helps you understand which types of jobs you could contribute the most to.

Know What Type of Job You Want.

You might think this step is "too easy" and skip over it - however, you might be surprised at the answers. Make three columns on a separate page: "required" "preferred" and "nice, but not necessary." Then write the components of your perfect job, from the type of people you work with, the type of schedule you would like to have, to what you would like to be doing. Don't forget the types of benefits or wages you desire. Then list the components in the columns on the page. If you must work a certain schedule, put that down in your "required" column. If you would rather not work weekends, but you might if it meant getting the job, put that in your "preferred" column and so forth.

Keep this list handy as you search for jobs. Compare the job descriptions, the schedule, and the work environment to the things on your list. Of course, no job will match everything on your list, but determining which positions match most closely to what you would like to do will help you know which job openings you should respond to.

Talk to People.

In business terms, this is called "networking." Make sure that everyone you know knows you are looking for a job - and what kind of job you are looking for. Talk with your family, friends, neighbors, and associates in any volunteer or community groups you are involved in. Ask them to keep an ear open for any job possibilities.

One of the best networking tools is to keep in contact with one or two people from previous jobs. They know what type of worker you are, so they are in the best position to recommend you to someone who is hiring, or let you know of job opportunities that would interest you. It is a proven fact that people hire people they know first, - before they even look at resumes from people who responded to a "Help Wanted" ad. Employers will seek to hire someone recommended as their second choice. The more people in your network, the more chances you have of finding out about a position you might not have heard about, and the more chances you have of getting a personal recommendation.

Use More Than One Resource.

When you have figured out what kind of job you want, it's time to actually start looking for a job. Don't get stuck using just one resource to search for a job. Companies often choose only one or two outlets to publicize their job openings to minimize expenses. Look at all available options such as online job boards, weekly employment newspapers, your local daily and weekly newspapers, and job fairs.

Take some time to visit stores, restaurants, businesses, or hospitals that you are interested in working for. Many times businesses only advertise their open positions in their physical location. When you visit an establishment to inquire about employment opportunities, dress as if you were going to a job interview. Many times your impromptu visit might lead to an impromptu job interview and you should leave them with a good impression.

Apply Selectively.

Once you have gathered all of your options, start comparing the job descriptions and requirements to your list of "required," "preferred," and "nice, but not necessary" columns. Your job search will be much more successful if you narrow down your choices to those jobs for which you have the skills and experience requested. You also want to make sure that the jobs you are applying for are jobs that you would want to have.

It is also important to apply to each job individually - don't just send out mass applications or resumes. Make sure you take the time to follow the specific directions for applying given in each job announcement. Many times employers won't even look at an application or resume if it is improperly submitted.

Be Positive.

Waiting to hear about a potential job can be nerve-wracking. Remain upbeat and positive and continue to keep your eye open for other possible positions while you wait. Continually working to improve your skills, education, and experience is also a good idea while you are waiting. Whether it's a night class or a volunteer opportunity, taking every advantage to improve your chances of getting the job you want is always worthwhile.

For more information on beginning a job search, click on the titles below.