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How can I make my resume appealing to employers?

resume1Shane from Red Rocks Community College asked:

I have been out of the workforce for almost three years.  I have been taking classes to pursue a degree and now that my course load will slow down to half time, I want to get some part time employment in my chosen field. I am concerned about my resume.  It does not reflect any experience in this field and does show the gap in my employment. What are some creative and truthful ways to dress my resume for success so that a potential employer can see I am strong candidate candidate?

Hi Shane –

The first thing to remember is that your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document.

Its purpose is NOT to present a general summary of everything there is to know about you.

Rather, its purpose is to present the most relevant information about your qualifications (education, experience, skills and characteristics) in meaningful and accessible ways.

Here are some quick tips:

Your Contact Information

Provide your name, email address and one phone number.  If you have a LinkedIn account and you maintain that account, you should also list the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your contact information.  Don’t provide multiple email addresses or phone numbers, and only include your mailing or physical address if you can find a compelling reason to do so.

Warning! I saw it on a resume template is NOT a compelling reason!

Ask yourself:  Does a potential employer really need to see this information in order to consider me for employment?  If the answer is “no,” leave it off your resume.

Your Education

If you are using your education at the catalyst for a significant change in your career path, put your education before your experience.  It is more relevant to where you want to go with your career, so it will be of greater importance to potential employers.  I assume that you are pursuing a degree that related to your chosen field. (I certainly hope so!).  Use your Education section to highlight relevant coursework, experiential class projects, academic achievement, etc.

Don’t assume that potential employers know anything about the degree you are pursuing.  You have to explain it to them.

Ask yourself: What about my education do employers need to know in order to consider me for employment?  Focus on that information in your resume.

Your Experience

Your past experience may not be directly relevant to the types of jobs you wish to pursue, but it does say something about your maturity, dependability, professionalism, ability to work well with others, ability to deliver quality service, and a variety of other skills and characteristics employers value and seek in potential employees.  Use your Experience section to illustrate (through examples) the qualities, skills, and characteristics you offer.

Don’t simply list job description information!  Job descriptions say nothing about you – they are all about the job itself.  Your resume should be about you.

In describing your experience, focus on YOU and not on the the positions you held.

Your Time Away from the Workforce

You mention that you have been out of the workforce for three years AND that you have just transitioned from being a full-time student to being a part-time student.

Be ready to have that conversation with potential employers.

Be ready to talk about how you are using the opportunity away from the workforce to get more education, to become more skilled and to become skilled in new areas.

Whether you left a job to go back to school or your job left you, you decided to take advantage of the opportunity to become more employable!  THAT is a good story!  That is the kind of story potential employers like to hear.

Your Interests and Hobbies

Be careful including hobbies and interests on your resume.  Make sure they are serving a legitimate purpose.

They show I am a well-rounded person with diverse interests is not a strong enough reason to include hobbies and interests on your resume.

If you are a very competitive person, and competitiveness is a characteristic employers in your field seek in potential employees, including a hobby that fuels your competitive spirit can be a good thing. Competitive sports, for example.

If you are a history buff and a rich knowledge of history is a beneficial in your chosen field, include this information on your resume.

If you are a marathon runner, and you are seeking employment in fields that require personal discipline, endurance, individual effort and perseverance, include this information on your resume.

Get the idea? Everything on your resume must serve a specific purpose.  If it doesn’t serve a purpose – take it off your resume!

Answer this One Simple Question

You stated in your question that you want employers reading your resume to see that you are a strong candidate.  Look at everything you are thinking of putting on your resume and ask yourself:

How does this information show employers that I am a strong candidate?

If you don’t like your answer, see if you can refine/restate the information truthfully so that it will show you are a strong candidate.

If you can’t find a way to effectively refine/restate the information truthfully, it probably doesn’t belong on your resume.

Two last bits of advice:

  1. Seek out the assistance from the career coaches and counselors on your college campus.  You will find they can be really helpful.
  2. Check out my Resume Writing Guide and the sample resumes in my Resume Gallery.  Combined they offer a lot of examples of how to effectively present your qualifications in resume format.

Good luck!



Does Going to a Trade School Make More Sense than Going to a 4-year College?

trade schoolHave you spent hours looking for the perfect college for you or your son or daughter to attend?

Look at official brochures and websites and you will see descriptions of beautiful campuses, accommodations including game rooms and lounges, pools available for use throughout the semester, exciting experiments possible in a hi-tech laboratory etc., etc.

Do you really want to pay for amenities that you may never use? Is the amount of choice provided overwhelming? Perhaps it would be best to scrap the idea entirely.

Yes, for a moment, put aside your thoughts of which 4-year college to attend and focus instead on the prospect of streamlining your options by considering a technical or trade school.

A trade school may provide you with the skills you need to make a living doing what you love. Trade schools have numerous benefits that differ from those associated with going to a regular 4-year university, and sometimes they lead to careers with better job security.

Have you always had an interest in gardening? You can make a living as a gardener/landscaper going to a gardening and landscaping school.

Trade schools allow you to skip the general education that 4-year universities require. Rather than take general education classes needed to accrue the required number of credits for a 4-year degree, you can dedicate more time to getting hands on experience in your chosen field.

Go to a trade school, and you will get a highly focused curriculum that allows you to develop specific knowledge and skills, from the very general and basic to highly specified and professional. Educational programs are intensive and focused, so students are guaranteed in-depth knowledge that is delivered by professionals with extensive experience in the same field. Trade school students also are encouraged to develop their problem solving skills in ways related to issues that may arise during employment.

Trade school saves time

Most trade school degrees and certificate programs can be completed in less than two years; a much shorter time than the typical four to five years spent at university.

Trade school saves money

Because going to a Trade School saves time, it also saves money. Families in the United States spend on average $32,000 dollars a year on one child’s college education. Multiply that by four and you may emerge as a graduate with years of debt on your shoulders. In contrast, the amount you pay for a trade education is significantly less, ranging from $4,000 to around $30,000 for the entire certificate or degree.

Trade school may provide a greater chance of employment

Getting a four-year college degree will not guarantee you a job upon graduation. Most employers require candidates with education and some experience and established skills that will enable them to hit the ground running within the working community. Depending upon your desired career path, a trade school degree may help you hit the ground running more effectively, more quickly and more economically than will a four-year degree.

Yes, it is true: If you attend a trade school, you will miss out on the “college experience.” But, trade school will provide you with a very intense and focused education in a positive learning environment and can considerably increase your chances of getting a good job upon graduation, all while potentially saving you up to 50% of the money you would have spent on a traditional college education.

“Make today’s efforts pay off tomorrow. That’s what my two-year degree from Porter and Chester did for me. It opened the door to an awesome career and a great future.”

Tony G. (quoted above) got a trade school degree from the Porter and Chester Institute.  He didn’t have much, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted to do – and he thanks his trade school education for much of his success. Trade schools provide a complete and well-rounded education for much less money than and time than what is required to complete a four-year college degree.

Is a trade school right for you?  That depends upon your career goals.  So, be smart.  Do your homework when researching college options.  You just might find that a trade school is the best choice for you. The choice is yours, make it smart.

About the Author

Ray Holder is a career coach. After completing his education from Porter and Chester Institute and working for 15 years in other fields, he now helps people from high school age to those in their thirties and beyond make sound career decisions.

How should I follow up on an introduction to a potential employer?

first-impression2Jerry from Grand Valley State University asked:

How can I most effectively follow up on an introduction to a potential employer? 

I briefly met a man who owns a small holding company in my home town. We exchanged cards, and he asked me to send him my resume.

What is the best way to follow up?

Hi Jerry

Timing is everything!  The longer you wait, the greater the possibility the potential employer will forget he met you.  So, here is my advice:

Follow up within 24 hours

Strike while the iron on hot!  That is, follow up while this potential employer still remembers meeting you.  If you wait too long, he will forget his offer to review your resume, and you will develop a reputation as someone who doesn’t follow through in a timely manner.

Remind him who you are

In the email or letter that accompanies your resume, remind him who you are and why you are contacting him. Very likely, he is a busy guy who doesn’t remember the details of every meeting or introduction. Bring him back into the moment.  Remind him it was his idea that you follow up with your resume.

Be brief and to the point

Don’t go into a lot of detail.  He already wants to see your resume.  Don’t feel the need to include the details in the body of your email.

Follow instructions

If he told you to send your resume, do so!  If he asked for a resume and references, provide that.  If you follow the instructions he gave you – no matter how informal those instructions may have been – you will show that you know how to follow instructions.  You will show you are dependable.

Market yourself

Toot your horn a little bit.  Give him reasons to review your resume immediately.  Don’t go overboard here, but take the opportunity to market yourself a little.

Ask for the next meeting

Conclude your email with a request for a next meeting.  Regardless of whether this potential employer has current openings, he can be a valuable professional contact for you immediately or down the road.  Ask for a meeting.  The better he knows you, the more willing he will be to consider you for a job now or in the future (provided, of course, that you make a good impression in the meeting!).

Following is an examples of how you might craft your email follow up:

Dear Mr. Smith,

It was a pleasure meeting you last night at the Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting reception for ABC Corporation.  I enjoyed learning about how you started your holding company and grew it into the successful enterprise it is today.

Thank you for taking interest in me and my career. As I am sure you will recall, I will be completing a bachelor’s degree in business and finance in May and am eager to begin my professional career in business with a local company such as yours.

Per your request, I have attached my resume to this email for your review.  I am eager to visit with you again and learn more about possible opportunities with your company.  

All of my classes this semester meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I am most available to meet on Tuesdays and Thursday.  I will call your assistant next week to inquire about scheduling time on your calendar.  In the meantime, please feel free to call or email me.

I look forward to continuing our conversation!

Best Regards,

Jerry Candidate

Good luck!


Will future employers find my current experience valuable?

add_valueNick from Montclair State University asked:

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business and have been working in the real estate industry as a sales associate. This is my first job out of college and I was wondering if  future potential employers will find value in my real estate sales experience? 

Hi Nick –

There is a lot packed into your question, but I can sum up my response in two statements:  Employers will find your current experience valuable if they understand it and if it is relevant to their hiring needs.

Employers will find your current experience valuable if they understand it

Employers don’t inherently “get” you.  They don’t understand you, your interests or your experience until you help them do so.  Informational interviews, resumes, cover letters, professional networking activities and job interviews all give the opportunity to help employers understand who you are, what you want and what you offer, but they will only understand you if you do a good job of describing yourself.

In your resume, don’t just list job descriptions. Rather, provide examples of what you actually did.  Examples of what you did illustrate what you capable of doing and make your qualifications understandable.

In cover letters, address how what you offer and are seeking line up well with what the employer is seeking in candidates.

In interviews, tell your story.  Don’t rehearse or script the “answers they want to hear.”  Be honest and focus on the aspects of your qualifications that matter to the employer.

In your professional networking and informational interviewing, practice sharing your examples and ask questions that will help you better understand how you might fit into their worlds.

Your job is to help potential employers understand you.  Make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Employers will find your current experience valuable if it is relevant to their hiring needs

You might have exceptional experience and a tremendous skill set, but if your experience and skills aren’t what an employer needs, that employer will not find your experience or skills particularly relevant.  They will probably think – “Wow, that’s a talented guy.  If only I needed someone with those skills and that experience.” – and then move on to the next candidate.

When looking for a job, look for a job that matches well with the experience, skills, talents and interests you offer.  If what you offer is relevant to what an employer needs, and you do a good job of making yourself understandable to that employer, you will be a competitive candidate.  It is that simple and that complex – at the same time!

Does that mean you are destined to a career in real estate sales because that is what you are doing right now?  Absolutely not!

It does mean that if you want to move into different field, you will have to demonstrate to employers in other fields that you mean it, that you understand their fields, and that you believe the skills and experience you developed in real estate sales will transfer well into their worlds.

Answer the following four questions well, and employers will find your experience relevant

1. Why do you want this job?

You have to be able to explain and defend your reasoning for wanting the job for which you are interviewing.  “Needing a job” is not a sufficient response. You have to explain how you think the job fits you.

2. Why should we hire you?

You are not the only candidate, so why should they select you?  Again, “needing a job” is not a sufficient response.  You have to explain how your combination of experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics match up with the experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics they are seeking in candidates. You have to explain how you think you fit the job.

3. Why do you want to work for this organization?

You must demonstrate that you have done your homework.  When you say “I’d love to work for your company!” – you have to be able to back it up.  What is it about the company that you find appealing.  You have to be able to explain how  and why you think you will fit in their culture.

4. Why do you want to work in this profession/industry?

You must demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the profession/industry. They aren’t going to just take your word for it.  Just as every company’s culture is unique, every industry and profession has its own unique features and characteristics; features and characteristics that – depending upon what you are seeking out of your career – can be viewed as advantages or disadvantages.  You have to be able to explain that you understand their world and will be able to fit in their world.

See, it just that simple and just that complex – at the same time.

Good Luck!


Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Southwestern Advantage Company

SWAdvantageLogoAbout Southwestern Advantage

For over 140 years, college and university students from all over the world have participated in the Southwestern Advantage summer sales and leadership program.

Southwestern Advantage serves as the core company of the Southwestern Family of Companies.  It’s in this program that students are trained in life skills such as independence, confidence, self-motivation and goal-setting.  They run their own business selling an integrated learning system to families throughout North America

Southwestern Advantage was established as a publisher in 1855 by Reverend J. R. Graves in Nashville, Tennessee.  Originally called the Southwestern Publishing House, Southwestern Advantage is recognized as the oldest and one of the most respected direct selling companies in the US helping young people build character, gain life skills, and reach their goals.

Since 1970, nearly 100,000 students have participated in the Southwestern Advantage summer sales and leadership internship program. Many former Southwestern Advantage interns now hold distinguished positions in their respective fields. U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was part of the Southwestern Advantage internship program, as was Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas.

In fact, there are thousands of doctors, lawyers, authors, pastors, teachers, entrepreneurs, and homemakers who have had the experience.

ralphbrighamAbout Ralph

Ralph Brigham is the Global Director of Campus Relations for Southwestern Advantage.  For the past 11 years he has been traveling to universities around North America, Europe, Africa and Australia coaching hundreds of corporate recruiters and speaking to campus officials.  Ralph holds a doctorate in Adult and Higher Education Administration from Montana State University.

Prior to joining Southwestern, he spent 25 years in higher education, primarily as Career Services Director at Montana State University.  Ralph has served as president of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and is a certified Life Coach.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

We recruit for participants in our Summer Sales and Leadership Internship Program.

Southwestern interns get the chance to run their own business during the summer, selling educational books, CDs, software and other resources to families in their target communities

After an intensive week-long sales training and leadership development program at the Southwestern Sales School in Nashville, Southwestern interns head to their target communities, secure housing with a host family (we help with housing, by the way), and “start their businesses” selling Southwestern Advantage educational resources.

Our interns pay their own travel expenses, traveling to Nashville for training and to their target communities (most car-pool).  Once they reach their target communities, their expenses are minimal.  The host families charge nominal rent.  Of course, interns have to pay for their own food and local transportation.

Students come to the Southwestern Intern Program from over 340 colleges and universities and nearly 30 countries.  Each summer, approximately 2,500 students take on the challenge to become independent contractors and learn all aspects of running a business.

What about the Southwestern Advantage Internship Program appeals most to students?

Probably, the most important thing to most of our participants is the opportunity for personal growth, as well as to make a positive difference to families and their children. A summer running one’s own business, out of their normal “comfort zone”  causes a person to grow in confidence, flexibility and adaptability, resourcefulness, cultural awareness, and communication skills with all types of people.

The chance to sit down with families and their children and diagnose what some of their educational needs are, then suggest solutions for them, is a powerful and personal interaction with other people. Many students tell us that returning at the end of the summer to deliver their products, and show the children how to best use them, is one of the greatest experiences of their lives.

Another major appeal for many students is the entrepreneurial nature of the work and the opportunity to make a good deal of money.  The potential income the Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program offers is very appealing, but the money doesn’t come easy; and we are very upfront and honest about that!

The most successful Southwestern Advantage student dealers choose to work long hours, six days a week. Running your own business can be challenging, but very rewarding. The amount of money you save throughout the summer, however, depends directly on the individual intern. The average gross profit last summer by a Southwestern Advantage intern in their first year was about $8,000. Some first-year interns made over $20,000, while some did not make any money, usually because they discontinued their work long before the summer was over. There is a definite learning curve in this activity, as in most others.

How much you make and save over the summer is directly proportional to your work habits and how you apply the training you receive in the Southwestern Advantage Sales School. Just like any other entrepreneurial endeavor, if you are not working, you are not making any money.

If you need a guaranteed salary or a set amount of income, our internship program may not be right for you. But if you think you are inspired by the challenge and believe you prosper in an environment where there is no ceiling on potential, it may be right up your alley!

Some students are attracted by the opportunity to travel.  The Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program gives students the opportunity to see another part of the country, or in the case of participants in our International Program, a whole other part of the world. Our interns gain independence and maturity by relocating to another community. They become part of the community and get to know many fascinating families.

Many students are looking for sales experience. Let’s be honest here: Most students do not go to college to major in “Sales,” and most college curricula don’t focus on sales, but most of us end up in careers that involve selling. Whether it is ideas, information, products or services, we are all selling something.

Our internship program gives students something they aren’t getting in the classroom – sales experience! There are lots of summer jobs for college students that simply offer a paycheck. However, that’s precisely what they are – jobs; not career training. Our summer internship program is not a job, it’s career training, valuable for just about everyone, regardless of major.

Some students are inspired by the challenge.  Life is full of challenges, and our summer internship program is challenging. For some students, our program offers the kind of challenge they seek; to be out of their element, in a new place, getting to know new people, creating their own opportunities.

No one ever said life would be easy – and this program is not for those looking for an easy way to spend a summer. The students best suited to succeed in our program are those who have an inner desire to study hard and work hard, and those who are coachable. Prior sales experience is not necessary, but the willingness and desire to grow, learn and take on new challenges is.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

We recruit all majors, and our program is valuable to students in all majors.  Often, people think that our program is only for Business students, but we have very successful students from Engineering, Nursing, Agriculture, Psychology, Communication, Education, the Liberal Arts, and the Natural Sciences disciplines.

Academic major is less important than program fit.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

The Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program is THE pathway to other opportunities with the company.  Some graduates who have worked with Southwestern Advantage during the summers while in college, come to work for one of our “sister” companies after they graduate.  They love to hire graduates who’ve had several summers with Southwestern Advantage.  Our sister companies offer sales-related opportunities in fundraising, executive search, consulting, training, Insurance and Investment services.

What do you look for in candidates?

Candidates must have the ability and willingness to travel to a different part of the country for the summer.  In addition, we want students who are entrepreneurial-minded and want to develop that aspect of their personality and skills.  We want students who study hard and work hard. They need to be both coachable and persistent and have a competitive spirit

We look for students who want to grow outside their comfort zone, have a track record of trying different things and having success.

Lastly, I look for a firm handshake; that almost always makes a positive first impression.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

GET INVOLVED on campus.  Don’t just join a group, though; just “belonging” means nothing.  When I look at a resume and see that a student is involved in a student organization, I want to know how and how much.  The first thing I ask about is their involvement.  How did they make a difference?  Find a way to make a difference; to get some sort of leadership or project management role.  We want interns that get involved and make a difference.

I also think it is beneficial to volunteer your time in service to others. Volunteering builds character, and we want interns of impeccable character.

In general, do whatever you can to develop yourself, your understanding of your career options and your goals.  Find out what motivates you and do that!

If you are motivated to work hard and work for yourself, we’re interested in getting to know you better.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Learn how to work with people that are not like you.  There are a lot more people in the world unlike you than there are people just like you.  It is important that you can work and play well with people from different backgrounds than your own.

Take advantage of the career services at your university as much as possible.  And, get to know your professors.  The best thing a couple of our recruiters said they did in college was to form personal relationships with their professors.

Sit in the front row, answer questions in class, and take advantage of office hours.

Do at least one internship; do more than one if you can!

Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Believe it or not, I have seen students bring food, take calls, and respond to texts during interviews! That is just disrespectful.

Showing up late, not paying attention, not taking notes, not asking any questions; these things show me you’re really not interested in what we offer.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

I love it when candidates show up early, have their resumes ready, and are attentive and “present”  and engaged during the interview.

Candidates who learn my name and use it, that dress respectfully and are clean shaven or not overly accessorized.

First impressions are really important.

SalesCalls6_27_08321-300x199If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Do a Southwestern internship for at least two summers while you are in school!  Learn to run a business, and learn to lead others as they run theirs!

Don’t just take classes! Take advantage of the services, programs and opportunities offered on campus, and get to know your professors, advisors and classmates.

Spend time actually planning how to succeed during your university years and spend time actually planning how to succeed during your career after graduation

I am frustrated with my job search. Can you provide insight or new ideas to consider?

frustrated-businessmanRalph from Wright State University asked:

I am growing extremely frustrated with my job search.  I recently completed my MBA and I haven’t found a job. I continue to search high and low for employment opportunities but I haven’t had any success. I also have an MPA degree and a BS in Family Resource Management with a minor in Economics.  My goal was to obtain my MBA and transition into the private sector since I do not have a lot of experience. 

I decided to apply for jobs that were entry level positions just to get my foot in the door, but I think I am being viewed as overqualified.  I apply for positions that are commensurate to my experience and education as well.  I thought since I was going for entry level positions I would at least get interviews.  This job market really have me questioning why I even attended college since I am not reaping the benefits and have a pile of student loans to repay.

I am considering eliminating some of my education from my resume depending on the job and including some only when it is necessary or relevant to the job.  I think this may be unethical, but I am not sure.  

The reality is this: I have mouths to feed and bills to pay.  I have to work and working part-time without any benefits or unsatisfactory pay is not cutting it.  I have even applied/registered at temporary agencies to enhance my job search. Can you provide me with some feedback or your thoughts?

Hi Ralph –

I can sense your frustration and will do my best to offer you some advice:

You must give employers a compelling reason to consider you

The fact that you need a job is not – in and of itself – a compelling reason for an employer to hire you.  As a candidate you must possess a set of qualifications (education, experience, skills and qualities) that match those the employer is seeking in candidates.  Further, you have to communicate your qualifications clearly and effectively to potential employers.  Looking for a job is like being a sales representative, and the product you are selling is you.  When you are in sales, you know that potential customers will not buy your products just because you are selling them.  You know you have to demonstrate that the products you offer meet a need the prospective customer has   When you have established the fact that what you offer might meet their needs, prospective customers have a compelling reason to listen to what you have to say.  A job search is no different.

You do not have to list all of your education on your resume

Your resume is a marketing document.  As such, it should include and highlight the elements of your qualifications that are relevant to the opportunities you are seeking.  So, if the fact that you have an MPA is not relevant to your search, don’t list it!  Rename your education section RELEVANT EDUCATION and list only your relevant degrees.  The same goes for other information on your resume.  You not have to give “equal time” to all aspects of your experience.  It is perfectly okay to emphasize some experience and de-emphasize other experience.  Applications for Employment are comprehensive informational documents, resumes are targeted marketing documents.  Be sure you are treating your resume like a resume (a marketing document) and not an application for employment.

You have to be ready to answer the difficult questions authentically

You know those questions you hope they won’t ask?  They WILL ask them – at least some of them – so you must be prepared to answer them.  You have to make you make sense to them.  A potential employer is going to look at your qualifications and ask questions like:

Why did you get an MPA?  Do you want to work in accounting? 

Why did you choose to pursue an MBA after getting your MPA?

What types of positions interest you most and why?

Why are you a good fit for this position?

Why are you interested in this position?

Why do you want to work in this industry?

Why do you want to work for this company?

How do your qualifications match up well with our needs?

You need to focus on high payoff activities in your job search

If scanning the online job boards and applying for everything you can find is your primary job search strategy, you are not focusing on high pay-off activities in your job search.  I suggest you follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to your job search:

Invest no more than 20% of your time in the reactive part of your job search (checking the online ads and responding to what you see).

Invest the 80% of your time in the proactive part of your job search (building and nurturing your network of contacts, researching the industries you want to enter, getting to know and getting known by people who can help you find a job).

You should set weekly job search goals that are challenging but attainable

Looking for a job when you really need a job is no fun.  I know from personal experience.  I have been in a situation similar to yours twice in my life.

The best way to manage the process is one day and one week at a time.  At the start of each week, set some goals that are challenging enough to keep you focused but attainable so that at the end of the week you can celebrate your success (or hold yourself accountable for not meeting your objectives for the week).  Each week, assess how you did versus your stated goals for the week and set your goals for the next week.

If you treat your job search like a full-time job – that is, invest at least 40 hours per week (when you are not employed) – you have to hold yourself accountable for how you are using your weekly 40!

Ask yourself, “Am I investing a full 40 hours per week in my job search and what am I doing with that time?”  If you don’t like the answer to that question, you have to change course.

Ralph, you have a lot of very big questions that are hard to address thoroughly in a forum like this.  I hope that my responses have been helpful.

Keep plugging away.  Search hard and search smart, and you should experience more success.

Good Luck!


Please learn how to write – it does matter!

I wish more people would focus their time, attention and energy on writing well.

I read a lot.  It is part of my job.

I have 20+ daily Google Alerts set up to help me sort through and prioritize articles, data and information online.   I usually have three books “in-progress” at any given time on my Kindle.  I review emails, news releases, web content, sales collateral materials, reports, resumes and other documents every day.   I also read articles from print and online newspapers, blogs, magazines and other media.

Like I said, I read a lot, and there is a lot of poor quality writing out there!

The way you write says a lot about your professionalism, attention to detail, educational preparation and, ultimately, your ability to represent an organization as an employee. 

Your communication defines you. People, particularly employers, judge you on your ability to communicate orally and in writing.

And, guess what?  Different rules apply in different situations.

The language, tone and sentence structure appropriate for business is different from the language tone and sentence structure acceptable when texting friends and family or writing a personal blog. For example, you shouldn’t LOL in a cover letter or business email, nor should you accent your resume with emoticons.

Grammar matters.  Sentence structure matters. Your ability to correctly develop and articulate complete thoughts, statements, stories and other messages matters immensely.  Your ability to logically communicate an argument or defend a position is critical. Write poorly and no one will care what you meant to say.  Great ideas can be killed by bad writing.

Journalists must write and edit well (and in AP Style).  They must also know that writing for print is different from writing for broadcast and different from writing for the web.

Screenwriters must write well and follow the structure, form and styles of screenwriting.  In addition, they must be good storytellers.

Professors must write well, follow the rules of academic writing and scholarly research and be ready to write a lot. “Publish or perish” is still the battle cry of assistant professors seeking tenure.

Successful business professionals know that writing business plans, sales proposals and client correspondence is different from writing personal letters, research papers or essays.

A well-written business plan or proposal can help you get a business loan or win a new account.  Poorly written ones can put you out of business.

To excel in public relations, you must know how to write news releases, backgrounders, media alerts, executive summaries and client profiles.  You can’t afford typos or grammatical errors in a one-page news release!

Every profession requires unique and specific writing skills, but all professions require that you be able to construct grammatically sound, coherent and professional documents.

Unfortunately, I have read a lot of really poor writing from people who genuinely believe they are very good writers. Do I have you questioning your writing skills?  If so, get some assistance.

Contact your University’s writing center (most universities have them, you know!).  You might also consider reading William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well or Stephen King’s book On Writing.

Whatever you do, please learn how to write.  It really does matter.