Giving Your Stalled Job Search a Jumpstart.

Photo by steguis

So, you've been job-hunting for a while, and you've hit a dry spell. Your interview suit is gathering dust, your diet consists mainly of Froot Loops, and you're way too invested in daytime television. Your search needs to see some action, and soon. Here are a few tips to give it the boost it needs. 

Rethink your cover letter.

Be honest. Are you sending the same cover letter to every company? We know, it's much easier to copy and paste, but if you bait your hook well, you might get more bites. For every job you apply for—or at least the ones you really want—write an individualized cover letter telling them why you're the perfect candidate for their business. People know a form letter when they see one, so give them a personalized letter that stands out.

Use your network.

If you've just been trawling online job postings, you aren't taking full advantage of what's really out there. Most people get jobs through people they know. So go through your Facebook profile, flip through your church directory, ask your friends. Don't feel badly about requesting help from people you're only slightly acquainted with, either. The worst they can do is say no. Also, get yourself to as many networking events as you can. You never know who you might meet.

Ask for an informational interview.

Just because a company isn't ready to hire now doesn't mean they won't be ready to hire in the future. Ask for an informational interview to introduce yourself and learn more about the field you're interested in. Even if it doesn't result in a job, you'll get valuable interviewing practice and potentially make connections that could get you hired in the future.

Build your skillset.

Are you seeing skills that you don't have requested in job listings? While you're looking, take the opportunity to build those up. If the jobs you want request social media expertise, for instance, get a Twitter and a LinkedIn profile and read up on innovative ways to use them. If employers want someone with event planning experience, volunteer with an organization that will help you bulk up your resume. Read. Research. Give yourself the knowledge to shine more with every interview.

Broaden your search.

We're not in the business of crushing dreams here, but setting your job search parameters too narrowly can hold you back. If you refuse to consider any opportunity that isn't a Fortune 500 company in Manhattan, for instance, it goes without saying that you're limiting your options. We're not suggesting you lower your standards, but it can't hurt to expand your idea of what kind of offer you'd be willing to take, whether that means a lower salary, a smaller city, a less well-known company or a different position.

Don't give up.

It's tough out there. On average, it takes seven months or more to find a job in today's economy. Ugh. It's easy to start to feel hopeless, but chin up. The right job will come along, especially if you take the right steps to find it.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersJob LeadsSocial Media
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Tiny Shoes and Other Gimmicks

For sale: baby shoes, never worn (Ernest Hemingway)
Photo by Alastair Humphreys

Someone we know once received a package at his office that contained a baby shoe and a note that said, “I'll do anything to get my foot in the door!” There may have been a resume and a cover letter buried in there, but our friend's office was so amused (and not in a good way) by the baby shoe thing that the important stuff was completely overlooked. But even if it hadn't been, who wants to be the person who hired the baby shoe guy?

Creativity isn't a bad thing, and the baby shoe guy was obviously committed enough to getting the job to put time and effort into his presentation. His problem was that his gimmick undermined the substance of his resume. The overall feeling in our friend's department was that baby shoe guy didn't have a lot to offer in the way of actual experience, so he used an attention-getting tactic in the hope that they wouldn't notice he wasn't particularly qualified. That's the trouble with using gimmicks: they automatically suggest that someone is trying to put one over on the people doing the hiring. “Hey, look at this cute thing!” it says. “Please don't notice that my cover letter is written in crayon!”

“Hey, wait a minute,” you might think. “Aren't your fancy resumes just another example of this?” That's a question we hear occasionally, and it's a good one. The way we see it, the defining quality of a gimmick is the element of subterfuge. If you're flashy enough with your baby shoe or your cookie bouquet or YouTube video or whatever, maybe no one will notice your shortcomings.

A well-designed resume, on the other hand, is meant to highlight your qualifications. Our layouts bring the story of your career to life using proven design principles. If your qualifications are solid, we contend that a well-designed resume is the frosting on the cupcake of your professional achievement. However, if you majored in underwater basket weaving and your most impressive accomplishment is playing Call of Duty for 14 hours straight, there is no font, no color combination, no design element that can convince someone to hire you.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Baby ShoesCareer AdviceGimmicksResume AdviceResume Content
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From the Classroom to the Office: How to Write a Resume with no Work Experience

mortarboards and chairs
Photo by Ryan Maxwell

It's every freshly minted graduate's lament. “They say I need experience, but how can I get experience when no one will hire me?” We've all been there, when the euphoria of being a real live adult wears off and the search for your first real adult job gets particularly frustrating. But here's the good news: you have more experience than you think. No one manages to graduate from college without developing some useful skills. The trick is figuring out how to create a resume that shows how those useful skills transition from the classroom to the office. Here are a few things to think about.

Transferable skills.

Take some time to contemplate the skills you've developed that could be useful in your future job. Consider your college career. If you've written a thesis or completed a big project, you've honed skills like time management, organization and working with a group. Maybe you were involved in a club or other organization that required you to help plan an event while staying within budget constraints, write a proposal or speak publicly. Just because you didn't learn these skills in the workplace doesn't mean that they're not valid on a resume. You might also ask professors, committee members and other people you've worked with for feedback on what you do well. They may come up with skills you didn't even know you had.


If you're still in school, do one. Besides the obvious benefit of real industry experience on your resume, an internship also gives you a taste of what's really required in your chosen career, which can help you tailor your cover letter and resume when you start looking for a full-time position. And though you never know how these things will go, we know an awful lot of people whose college internships eventually turned into jobs, so take it seriously.

Volunteer work.

Besides being a good thing to do for your community, volunteering is an excellent way to beef up your resume. If you know what you'd like to do professionally, focus your volunteer position on that. For instance, if you want an event planning job, serve on the annual gala committee. Not only does this give you some real-life experience, it also tells your employer that you're a well-rounded, civically responsible person. Plus, if you're lucky, you'll make some valuable contacts, which brings us to...


If you're on the job hunt, it helps to come armed with some recommendations from people you've worked with in the past, especially if you don't have professional experience. These letters can be from professors, committee chairs and people you've worked with in groups or campus organizations, and they should be relevant to the job you're seeking.

Remember, the goal here is not to fib or overstate your knowledge; it's to show potential employers how what you know now can benefit their organization. And if you're frustrated, cheer up. Every successful career starts with a first job. You'll find yours.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceFirst JobGraduationResume Advice
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Refresh Your Resume

We've all written a few resumes in our time, but it's never bad to take a critical look at your current one and make a few improvements. Even a good resume can always be improved. Here are a few things to think about.

To objective, or not to objective?

Objectives are a controversial subject. Some old-school hiring managers like them, but lots of people these days find them to be superfluous. It's not like they don't know what position you're applying for, and the place to really sell yourself is in your cover letter. But if you do choose to include an objective, make sure it's simple—stay away from business jargon—and tells the employer what you can do for them, not what you want them to do for you.

Edit, edit, edit.

Ask yourself, “What's really relevent to the job I'm applying for?” Only include things that really apply. Remember, hiring managers don't spend a lot of time with your resume, so you need to grab their attention and keep it. That means getting straight to the point.

Show your accomplishments.

Don't just list your duties in previous jobs. No one wants to read a job description. Show that you got results.

Blah: Managed web site for local band. 

Better: Increased web traffic by 50%. 

Don't forget to include volunteer work or experience if it's relevent, especially if you don't have tons of work experience. Just because you didn't get paid for it doesn't mean it doesn't count.

Don't overshare.

No one needs to know about your hobbies unless they're relevent to the postion. Ditto your kids' names and ages, your high school GPA or how much you bench press. It's just too much distracting info when what you really want to be noticed for are your professional accomplishments.

Organization and grammar

If you're a recent grad with little work experience, start with education. If not, reverse it and put education at the end. Use bullet points instead of paragraphs because they're easier to scan, and make sure that you proofread. Use proper grammar, spell correctly and beware of little inconsistencies—periods at the end of some bullet points, but not others for example. Sure, a hiring manager might not notice, but what if they do? You don't want to seem sloppy.

Remember, a hiring manager only spends a few seconds with your resume. We can improve the design, but it's up to you to make it matter.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceResume Advice
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Lessons from a Colorful Job-Seeking Email

So, this email from a job seeker has been making the rounds on the internet lately. (see the article here)

First of all, we’re not 100 percent sure this is real, but it is hilarious. Poor Matthew. So unfortunate. Let’s take a moment to see what his misstep can teach us.

Lesson 1: Like fire or a samurai sword, email is deadly when misused. 

One thing about email that is both awesome and terrible is its instantaneous nature. It allows you to fire off a reply so quickly, you don’t take the time to carefully think about your response. If Matthew had taken the time to mull over Carl’s question, he might not have made his response quite so—magically delicious. No matter how eager you are to get the job, it’s better to write your reply, then take a little while to think it over and make sure you’ve got it right. A thoughtful response goes much further than a fast one.

Lesson 2: Be careful with your fonts.

Any design nerd (and we use the term affectionately, since we qualify) will tell you that Comic Sans is a no-no in a professional email. We think it’s a no-no in general, but we’re not going to judge you as harshly if you use it in a “please make more coffee if you drink it all” letter in the break room as we would if you use it in a professional context. Cutesy fonts just make you look goofy. Stick to something more serious, like Helvetica or Arial or even Times New Roman. Your potential employer may not care, but better safe than sorry.

Lesson 3: Proofread.

Then proofread again, and once you’re done, proofread one more time. Aside from looking like a bag of Skittles, this email is a grammatical mess. No matter how excited and eager you are to get your response back to a potential employer, it’s worth the extra time it takes to make sure you send a clean and correct reply. Even though email is a fast and informal means of communication, grammar is still important. Matthew says right there in his email that he pays attention to detail (you can’t miss it; it’s bright orange), but his sloppy grammar doesn’t do much to help his case. It matters.

Lesson 4: Asking a question is not unprofessional.

Clearly, Matthew didn’t understand what Carl was asking. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s fine that you don’t know everything. If you have access to a more established mentor, forward the email and see how they interpret it, or reply to the original sender and ask if they can explain their question more clearly. Sure, it might make you feel dumb and inexperienced, but you know what makes you actually look dumb and inexperienced? SENDING A FLIPPING RAINBOW EMAIL.

One thing that works in Matthew’s favor is that he’s clearly eager about his job search, and that’s a good thing. So thanks for being a cautionary tale, Matthew. Best of luck in your search!

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersLife LessonRainbow
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How to Get Job Leads With Social Media


Chances are, you already have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. But if not, you’re missing some of the most powerful weapons in your job-hunting arsenal. According to a recent survey from Jobvite, one in every six American workers has used social media platforms to find work.

The most powerful platform for actually finding a job was Facebook, with more than 18 million users finding work there. LinkedIn was credited for 10 million new hires, and Twitter led to 8 million jobs.

Those are some impressive stats—so if you’re using social media but not finding work there, what can you do to increase your odds?

·      Add more connections. Most of the survey respondents who got their jobs through social media are considered “Super Social,” with 150 connections or more on each network. Often, even people you don’t know well can alert you to great opportunities, so don’t be shy about sending out connection requests to people you’ve met—you never know when someone might post a status update to say that her firm is looking to hire a new marketing manager or graphic designer.

·      Update your profiles with current professional information. Though LinkedIn is a professional network by nature, Facebook is often seen simply as a social network, and many users don’t bother to share details of their recent work accomplishments there. Be sure to spotlight your work skills and post details about recent projects across all platforms—your updates might catch the eye of someone in a position to hire you.

·      Pay attention to your privacy settings. While social media can be a great tool in helping you get a job, your profiles can also turn off potential employers if they come across photos or language that doesn’t fit their values. Make sure that personal photos and private jokes are only accessible to your “real-life” friends, so they won’t create a negative impact for potential employers or recruiters.

·      Ask for referrals. When you’re looking for a job, it helps to be as proactive as possible. That may mean looking through your friends’ connections on Facebook and LinkedIn to find people who might be in a position to hire you, and then asking for an introduction. Don’t ask any particular individual for help too often, but if you send a polite letter explaining why you want the introduction, your friends (online-only or not) will likely be happy to oblige.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceJob LeadsSocial Media
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Going up in your career? With a well-crafted elevator speech, you could be


How many times have you found yourself at a party or a networking event and heard the question, “What do you do?” It's pretty much guaranteed to come right after you introduce yourself. It's a common question, but if you answer it well, it can also be an opportunity. That's why it pays to have a quick synopsis of what you do in your back pocket. This quick overview is sometimes known as an “elevator speech,” because it answers the question, “How would you describe your business to an important connection in just the space of an elevator ride?”

The most effective elevator speeches are succinct (about 30 seconds, but no more than a minute) and targeted. Figure out who you want to reach and what you want to say. Are you trying to get a job? Then make what you have to offer to a company the focus of your speech. Trying to sell a product? Make that your focal point. Figure out your audience and write to their needs. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Get excited about what you do. 

If you're really pumped about what you have to offer, your passion will come through, loud and clear. True passion tends to come across as genuine, not sales-y, so you don't seem too pushy or overwhelming.

Set yourself apart. 

Take some time to honestly ponder what makes you unique. In most cases, there are lots of people who have your exact job or skill set. What inimitable you-ness do you bring to the projects you take on?

Be honest and clear. 

When you're passionate about what you do and when you've really given thought to what you do well, you don't have to artificially inflate your skills or use confusing jargon to make yourself seem smarter and more important. Tell your story with honesty and simplicity.

Write, write, and write some more. 

Take some time to self-examine and determine your strengths and what you have to offer, then write several drafts. Don't edit yourself. (You can do that later.) Take lots of different approaches: quirky, serious, businesslike, fun. When you've written and written and written some more, put your work aside and sleep on it. After a few days, come back to it and edit. Whittle it down to less than a minute, and make sure it sounds authentic, because in order to make it a speech, you have to actually say it.

Practice makes perfect. 

In front of a mirror, alone in a room, role-play with a friend—it doesn't matter what you do to bring this speech to life, just do something. It has to feel natural coming out of your mouth when you put it into practice. If something feels stilted or just doesn't sound natural, change it. Yes, you will feel goofy about it at first. But once you really get comfortable with what you're saying, you'll be glad you did it.

It takes some work, but once you get comfortable with it, your elevator speech means you'll never be tongue-tied when opportunity knocks

  • Author Dodd Caldwell
  • Category Career Advice
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Save Money at Tax Time By Writing Off Your Job-Hunting Expenses


Tax time is upon us again. Are you paying more than you should be?

You may not have realized that you can deduct expenses related to your job search—and in fact, if you haven’t filed your returns yet, you can ask the IRS for a six-month extension to get everything in order. Here’s a rundown of some of the deductions you should be eligible for.

Resume services - If you’ve hired someone to help you craft your resume, or paid for a professionally-designed resume layout (like Loft Resumes,) hold on to your receipts: Any services related to creating and producing your resume or CV are tax-deductible.

Mailing expenses - Stamps are pricey these days. If you’re sending job applications out all over the state, carefully track what you’re spending on postage and mailing materials like manila envelopes and stationary. You’ll be able itemize these costs as well.

Travel expenses - If you caught a flight to New York for a job interview, you can deduct your plane and hotel expenses (though not the Broadway show you saw while you were there), whether or not you landed the job. And, even if you applied for a job 15 minutes away, you can deduct gas costs and parking fees for your trip into town. If you paid a babysitter or daycare center to watch your children while you were going on interviews, those expenses can be deducted as well.

Consultant and membership fees - If you hired a career coach or a recruiter to help you find work, any money paid for those services count as write-offs. Premium job site memberships, such as a LinkedIn Premium account or The Ladders, count, too, so don’t hesitate to subscribe to sign up for services that you think will help you find work. Want to join a trade group related to the field you’ve been working in? That’s tax-deductible, too, and it might help you gain some great leads on new career prospects.

However, certain job-seeking expenses aren’t deductible, such as:

Business attire and personal care services - Although you probably wouldn’t be buying a business suit and spending $100 on a new hair cut unless you had a potential boss to impress, costs for clothing and personal care and beauty services aren’t subject to deductions, so be careful how much you spend to make a good first impression.

Recreational club memberships ­- While it’s true that you might meet a great contact at the gym or the golf club, the IRS doesn’t believe that job-hunting is your primary purpose for signing up, so no deductions are possible.

The IRS also has some caveats about when any job-seeking expenses can be deducted: For instance, if you’re seeking a career in a new field, or you’re looking for your very first job, you’re not eligible for any deductions. In any case, the amount you can claim in tax breaks is limited according to how much you earned in the past year (assuming you earned anything). Check out the IRS’ Tax Tips for Job Seekers for more details, or talk to an accountant (also tax-decuctible) who can help you claim any deductions you may be eligible for.



  • Author Dodd Caldwell
  • Category Career Advice
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How to Create a Personal Blog that Lands Job Offers


A personal blog can be used for just about any purpose: You can use it to review concerts you’ve seen, take photos of your cat, or critique actresses’ runway dresses. Or, if you’re in the market for a new job, your blog can help you land one—if used wisely.

Here’s how.

Focus on your industry. If you’re serious about getting a job in HR, don’t spend all your time writing about old movies: With blogging, it pays to research and write about your personal take on recent trends and industry news. That lets potential employers know that you’re not just a card-puncher—you’re truly passionate about working in that particular field.

Establish a brand. It can take a long time to make a viable living from blogging, but building credibility and brand recognition isn’t nearly as difficult. Once you’ve focused on your niche, ask high-powered people within your field for interviews: Before long, your site will become a source of knowledge for industry leaders. When you go in for interviews, your blog can help you demonstrate your authority and knowledge.

Start conversations within your posts. Even the most powerful bloggers and companies love to see who’s linking to them, so don’t be afraid to link liberally within your blog posts. It’s an easy way to gain attention from industry experts who would otherwise never pay attention to you, and build up your Rolodex (improving your job-hunting prospects).

Comment on the blogs of people who might be able to hire (or refer you). Once you’ve written a few industry-relevant blog posts, make a concentrated effort to post thoughtful comments on the blogs of industry influencers who live in your area. Impress them with compelling comments, and they’ll likely take the time to look at your blog, and may even contact you about a job opening. Even if the process isn’t that easy, building powerful connections can always help open the door to a referral in the future.

Blog for a living. No matter what your career interests might be, building a successful blog proves that you’re a good writer and promoter. If your site really takes off, you may be able to rely on it for a living, using monetization strategies such as banner advertising, sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing. In most cases, however, it takes years of scraping by to get to that point. On the bright side, your blog is likely to help you secure other blogging gigs, even if they’re on different topics. Regardless of what you ultimately want to do for a living, blogging is a great way to build up a highly relevant skillset that will appeal to employers of all kinds.



  • Author Dodd Caldwell
  • Category Career Advice
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5 of the World's Most Creative Video Resumes

Like everything in cyberspace, video resumes will last forever on the Internet, so they should be produced with the utmost care, professionalism, and preparation. Even though a video may seem like a sufficient representation of your talents and experience, it is not a substitute for a perfectly written resume and cover letter. If done well, however, it may be what lands you the job of your dreams. Here are five examples of creative, personalized video resumes from job seekers.

Theo Ramsey’s Big Band Resume

Theo Ramsey has managed to incorporate a lot of elements in one, brief presentation. Aside from maintaining a genuine character throughout his video, Ramsey showcases his talents right up front. By combining still photography, music, and recorded interviews, he has produced a dynamic way to present himself to potential employers. One of the most interesting elements, however, is the inclusion of references. Though it’s not recommended to list one’s references on the actual written resume, when done carefully, outside sources in a video resume can add credibility. 

Erin Vondrak’s Singalong Resume

Erin Vondrak is dying to work for Valve, a company that creates video games—so she figured she’d have a little fun with her application by creating an animated video, complete with an original song about her skills and passion for working in the video game industry. Know your audience: While this type of approach likely wouldn’t go over well at a law firm, video game developers generally don’t take themselves too seriously and may appreciate a bit of humor.

Saji Nair’s Well-Traveled Resume

Be attentive to aesthetics and presentation. Saji Nair’s video is a great example of someone who uses her public speaking skills to her advantage. Her delivery is well-rehearsed without filler words (e.g. “um,” “so,” “like,” etc.), and it doesn’t appear as though she is fixated on a teleprompter. You should be familiar with your own strengths and professional background, so have it memorized (and this doesn’t mean “canned”)! Use natural language and leave some room for improvisation. Lastly, invest in quality. No shaky cameras, poor sound quality, or cheesy backdrops, please. Keep it sophisticated.

Devina Deascal’s Fashionista Resume

Deascal’s video manages to accomplish something very important— after a terse three minutes, we have a solid grasp of her experience, skills, passions, and education. Artistic camera angles keep attention trained on her the entire time. She also plays to her audience: the fashion industry. By performing multiple wardrobe changes throughout this video, she has become her own, living portfolio.


Matthew Epstein’s Google Plea

This video may be slightly controversial in its use of tongue-in-cheek jokes and monologue, but it is one of the most entertaining video resumes out there. Epstein solicits a few chuckles while keeping the material appropriate. He has fun with his presentation, showing he’s confident and willing to take risks. That said, a video like this would not be well received by every audience. The corporate world may be wary to hire someone who threatens not to wear pants to work. Epstein did get hired, though, and works at a start-up company in San Francisco where his imagination and wit are undoubtedly put to good use. 


You can now order your very own video resume here:

  • Author Nicole C
  • Category Career AdviceResume AdviceVideo cvVideo resume
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