Bill Means, director of the Career Center at Queens University of Charlotte, has a front-row seat to the U.S recession.
Each month a growing number of people enter his doors seeking career counseling. Many are laid off. Others worry they are about to be.
So what advice does Means have for job seekers amidst one of the worst economies in recent memory?
“The first thing that I say to people if they are downsized is, ‘You are not alone,’ ” he says.
With major layoffs announced almost daily, the rules have changed, he said. Don’t assume the next job you land will be similar to the one you left.
Start by doing an honest inventory of your interests, skills and values. For some, this may lead to new careers. Others may start businesses of their own.
“Look at this as an opportunity to do something even greater than what you’ve done before,” he says. “In other words, you might find your passion in this opportunity.”
For those seeking employment, Means offers these tips:
Sharpen the resume: In today’s competitive job market, he said, job-seekers should write a fresh resume for each job they apply for. Include key words and phrases lifted from the various job descriptions. Include a professional summary that outlines your skills. And if possible, seek help from a knowledgeable source or a professional resume writer.
“The resume is the first tool that a potential employer will see in most cases.” he said. “It will proceed you, so it really needs to reflect, as best possible, who you are and what you bring to the table.”
Consider new options: Periods of prolonged unemployment can be excellent times to acquire new skills or return to school. Some of the best prospects today, he said, are with the federal government, healthcare, energy and education. “And be flexile about being relocated,” he said, “because the next job might not be here in Charlotte.”
Hone the interview: Recruiters today are asking better questions. They are asking applicants to cite specific examples of when they solved specific problems using specific skills. These are known as “behavioral-based interviews,” Means said. Find someone skilled at conducting such interviews and have them tutor you.
Stay connected: Find a community organization and volunteer your services. “Sometimes that can lead to a full-time job, or you are the first to know about jobs that come open,” Means says. Join professional organizations or re-connect with fraternities or sororities. He also says job-seekers should apply for at least five or six positions a week. If that is impractical, he said, aim to talk to at least that many people each week who work in your profession.
Means said he was reminded this week of just how stressful unemployment can be when he read of a California man who killed his wife and five children before taking his own life. He and his wife had both lost their jobs at a hospital.
“It’s important to be around people who affirm who you are,” he said. “You want to be around people who can support you in the transition. And if you need to get professional help, seek it.”