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Recession-Proof Your Career

Tips for Career Management During a Recession

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

It's everyone's dream. As you stroll down the street the perfect job opportunity falls from the sky into your unsuspecting hands. Is your resume ready to go? Have you prepared great responses for your dream job interview?

Of course you haven't. The irony is that most of us aren't ready to move quickly on the job front, even for our dream job. Resumes and job interviews can be intimidating and we often avoid thinking about them until the last moment.

Finding your dream job during a period of economic recession isn't easy - but it's not impossible either. Companies are still hiring, they're just pickier and the competition for jobs is more intense. So if you want to get your dream job in a recession, you need to be well prepared.

Our Career Management Action Plan will get you ready.

  • DO - Update your resume
  • DO - Cultivate references
  • DO - Practice letter writing
  • DON'T - Go into an interview without doing research

Think of this as a career fitness program.

Update Your Resume
When was the last time you updated your resume? We know you could have it ready in 10 minutes. Great, we'll get out the stopwatch. You've got to check out dates and list assignments that have changed over time. You need to review the outline of a resume if your duties have drastically changed or you have been promoted. We know it's almost as much fun as bankruptcy, but at least it can pay off.

Career Management Checkup Questions:

  • Is your resume current?
  • Will your resume survive a computer scan?
  • Can you get by with just one resume?

Your resume doesn't have to be a full time job, but it does require constant attention.

Career Management Action Plan:

  1. Constantly update your resume. Look at your resume at least once a quarter. Does it still describe who you are and what you're doing? Do you need to revise your job tasks? Your objectives section? Have you received an honor or have you started volunteering?
  2. Use keywords. Words matter. Especially the words in a job description you're applying for. What is the proper format of a resume submitted online? Frequently, a computer will do an initial keyword-based scan of your resume before it is delivered to a hiring manager or recruiter.. That's the bad news. The good news? The keywords are usually right there in the job listing. Underline the words that are important and then repeat them liberally in your resume.
  3. Resume(s). Many of us have more than one job title in us yet we try to make it by with only one limping resume. We know people who have four or five resumes. Now you probably won't need that many, but you do need to have a specific resume for each different job title. We recommend two. Your resume should list tasks, objectives and achievements in a way that specifically targets the job title you're seeking.
Cultivate Employment References
To many job seekers employment references are nothing more than an afterthought. To employers, however, positive references can seal the deal. Your employment references are one of your most valuable assets so cultivate them with care.

Career Management Checkup Questions:

  • Do you save your best contacts for the most important jobs?
  • How often do you check in with your employment references?
  • How do you deal with a former boss who hates you?

Resumes can get you an interview, but good references are often critical to landing a job.

Career Management Action Plan:

  1. Prioritize your employment references. The last thing you want to do is have your top referrer play endless phone tag with McManager whose drive-thru reference approach could sink you. Go through your employment references and divide them into bronze, silver and gold. Yep, we're getting ready for the Olympics.
  2. Check in before and after. Let your employment references know when you've given out their name. Then keep them posted on what happens - don't leave them wondering. You've asked something of your employment references, so take the time to return the favor by giving them an update.
  3. Create an alternative employment reference. Everyone has a bit of bad blood in their employment history. It could be a boss who is just waiting to dump on you. Sometimes this can't be prevented. But there can be ways to avoid Mr. Bile. Was there another manager that you can refer them to who is evenhanded in their evaluation? A committee chair? A former coworker who got promoted to manager? Or get creative and give the name of a former customer.
Practice Letter Writing
Getting a job often means being a man, or woman, of letters. Resume cover letters, thank you letters, resume and interview follow up letters - you get the drift.

Career Management Checkup Questions:

  • Do you tell them why you are the perfect candidate for the job?
  • Do you keep it short?
  • Do you write a thank you letter after an interview?

Outclass the competition with these resume cover letter and thank you letter writing & etiquette tips.

Career Management Action Plan:

  1. Write an elevator pitch. If you had only 60 seconds to sell yourself to an employer, what would you say? An elevator pitch is an abbreviated description of you and what you can bring to an organization. Use your pitch to bridge the connection between your skills and their job.
  2. Shorter beats longer. No one really takes the time to read anymore. Wait, you're still reading! But that is a rarity and we thank you. Keep your resume cover letter short and thank you letters short. Think movie trailer, not feature film. Get more cover letter tips.
  3. Give thanks. Hiring managers often say that they never hire anyone who doesn't write a thank you letter. A simple note will cost you about 10 minutes and .43 cents. We know cheap and that is cheap, especially if it lands you the right job. An attitude of gratitude. It will not only get you hired, but you'll make your momma proud. Don't forget that second interview thank you letters count as well. And thank you letters for multiple interviewers require more effort, but the efforts will pay off.
Research, Research, Research
The ultimate rule of keeping your career in shape is to stay savvy - and never, ever go into a job interview cold. Know everything you can about the companies that interest you. Learn as much as you can about company leadership, stock prices, recent acquisitions and other trivia.

Check-Up Questions:

  • Do you study the company before a job interview?
  • Do you anticipate and practice for job interview questions?
  • How do you stay in shape for job interviews?

You've got your foot in the door and now we'll show you how to ace a job interview.

Career Management Action Plan:

  1. Do your homework. Go visit store locations for the company you'd like to work for; check out their website; network to find people who've worked there; talk to their customers. And when you're done with that, figure out what challenges they are facing from reading newspaper articles.
  2. Anticipate their questions. There are tons of job interview books at your local bookstore or library. You can also talk to people in that industry. This isn't foolproof, you can always end up being asked a surprising question, but most interviewers ask questions that are predictable and for which you can prepare.
  3. Interview for jobs that you don't want. We love this strategy because it really works. To prepare yourself for your dream job interview, get in shape by interviewing for jobs that you don't want. Apply for one job per month. One caution, most of us are competitive enough that once we get in the interview we decide that we really want the job. Remember this is practice and use the job interview to rehearse your performance.
Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell author the weekly internationally-syndicated workplace911 column. Bob's a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Sherrie's a work relations expert and award-winning comedian. Together they offer 12 years of quick, intuitive and humorous column responses on their workplace911.com website. You can e-mail them at bs@workplace911.com.