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Published: Tuesday, 6/6/2006

Ask the Good Girls

Co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating

REJIGGERING YOUR JOB HUNT

Dear Good Girls,

I am a substitute teacher with some business background and computer skills. With my husband out of work and college bills approaching, I need a steady paycheck and benefits. I apply to every relevant job I find listed on job search Web sites. When I started looking last year, there didn't seem to be many openings, but lately there has been a steady stream of possibilities. I have redone my resume and applied promptly to each opening I've found. But nothing has happened. No interviews, never mind offers. Am I doing something wrong?

Dear Reader,

While you are not doing anything wrong, you could be doing more that is right. Stop trying to push yourself into the job market, advises Wes Kimes, vice president, executive consultant, Right Management Consultants in Chicago. You should create a pull for yourself instead, a personal 'brand.'

Pulling yourself, as Kimes defines it, is a more dynamic, yet fairly straightforward approach. The first step is to figure out what you have to offer the organizations where you want to work. List your skills and capabilities, and then prepare to answer the following question: How do you create value for a business?

Let's say you have superior accounting, computer and training skills. Take that list to the next level by defining your capabilities in terms of the problems you solve. A 'push' approach would be: 'I have accounting and computer skills,' Kimes says. A 'pull' approach would be: 'I put my accounting and computer experience to work in reducing account receivables cycle time, or to develop targeted prospects for the sales team.' That's what you will be selling to prospective employers.

Next comes figuring out your target market, which requires answering two questions, says Kimes. What kinds of businesses could use your special combination of skills? Within that group, who has enough revenue to pay what you are worth?

Startup companies may be problematic, for example, because they generally need to use their capital to get launched, versus companies that rank on the Fortune 1000 list. However, if you want to be highly valued, then your best bet might be an organization that only has one or two people with your skills on staff.

The third step in Kimes' job search scheme is networking. Make a list of every connection you have and then prepare your brief speech. You now can tell them what kind of job you are looking for and how you create value for potential employers. Follow that with a simple question: Whom should I be talking to?

It's much easier for people to help you if you can tell them exactly what you need, Kimes explains. If you just put out a general plea for help, they will want to help you on an emotional level, but they won't do anything because they won't know how. This way you engage their business thinking.

Once you land a job, make sure to update all the members of your network. Thank them and offer to reward them if they ever need your help. Treat your friends and colleagues well and they will long serve as an invaluable source of support, advice and sometimes even a lift up to the next rung on the ladder.

Got a problem at work? Leslie Whitaker, co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating, would like to hear from you. Send Leslie an e-mail at goodgirls@contentthatworks.com or write to P.O. Box 5063, River Forest, Ill. 60305

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