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30 days to a good job

Marty Nemko -- There are no guarantees. If you lack skills and have an unpleasant personality, your job search could take years.

But for many people, it's realistic to find a good job within 30 days – if you spend those 30 days correctly. Here's how.

DAY 1

Decide on either a focused or a diffuse job search. In a focused search, you identify a specific job target (for example, marketing manager for an e-commerce company located within a one-half hour's commute from home.) In a diffuse search, you're willing to accept a wider range of jobs; for example, any job within a half-hour's commute that requires good writing and organizational skills.

Look in Sunday's paper, identify upcoming job fairs, and put them on your schedule.

Pull information from the Internet about your target industry or profession. You might start at wetfeet.com or jobvault.com, which provide free capsules on many industries and companies, plus more detailed profiles for a fee.

Next, search on the industry's or profession's name using a meta-search engine such as looksmart.com, alltheweb.com, or go2net.com. Find professional and trade association Web sites at asaenet.org. Find online discussion groups on that industry at www.topica.com. Plan to spend one hour on this research. More than that is often overkill.

Create a resume. Find a model resume to work from. Visit any bookstore and you'll find tons of resumes to pick from.

Substitute your information in your model resume. Create two versions of your resume: one fully formatted for printing out, the other in plain text to paste directly into an e-mail or onto a job-hunting Web site, like College Central Network.

Important: Developing a resume is a few-hour, not a few-day activity. Some job seekers spend weeks primping their resumes when they could be doing the more productive job search activities.

Start index cards on each of the 35 geographically desirable employers most likely to hire you for a job you'd accept. List the name, main local phone number, and if possible, the Web address. (Don't forget about non-profits and government agencies.) If your Yellow Pages or the Internet don't provide enough on-target employers, head to a large public library.

Collect information on your target employers. Use the organization's name as the search term on looksmart.com. You'll probably find the employer's Web site and other sites mentioning the employer. Supplement your research with ceoexpress.com, a portal for business information. Again, avoid overkill.

DAY 2

Continue with the company research.

Create a cover letter. Make it short and simple. The longer it is, the more likely you’ll sound desperate. As in romance, even a whiff of desperation is a turnoff.

Phone each company's main local number and say something like: "Hi, I'm updating my mailing list. What's the correct spelling of your vice president of marketing (or whoever is likely to be in charge of hiring an employee like you.) And what's their direct-dial phone number? And their e-mail address? Can you connect me with (name)? If the switchboard operator asks what it's in reference to, explain that it's complicated and that you'd prefer to explain it to that VP or leave a voice mail. When you get the hirer or his voice mail, leave a message.

After each call, e-mail your resume, cover letter, or hand-written thank-you note as appropriate.

DAY 3

Finish phoning your 35 target employers.

On another set of index cards, list the 35 people most likely to know someone who could hire you for an acceptable job.

Phone all 35 people. Your day's work isn't done until you've had 35 conversations, including those with voice mail. Whether you get the person or voice mail, leave a message.

You should be able to complete 35 phone calls by the end of the day: perhaps 20 three-minute voice mails = one hour. 15 phone calls averaging 10 minutes = 2 1/2 hours. A half-hour of dialing time and a half hour of breaks will bring you to the end of the day.

Today and over the next few days, from those 35 contacts to employers and 35 to your personal network, you'll probably get 5 to 15 returned phone calls. Right after you get a return call, send the appropriate resume, cover letter, and thank you note.

DAY 4

Finish sending resumes, cover letters, and thank-you notes.

Search the best job sites on the Internet. Two excellent compendia of such sites are Guide to Internet Job Searching by Margaret Riley Dikel, France Roehm, and Steve Oserman, and Career XRoads by Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler. It helps to check out the job search sites, such as College Central. At each such site, do one or more of the following:

1.Search the job listings. Sites like College Central contain hundreds of thousands of job openings, searchable by job function, industry, salary and geography.

2.Sign up for a personal job scout if the site offers one. Do that, and you'll get an e-mail notifying you whenever a new job is listed that meets your criteria.

3.Post your resume. CareerBuilder offers privacy and confidentiality options, so you don’t have to worry that your boss will discover that you're job hunting. Not all sites are private so make sure you are aware of their policies before posting. Resumes may stay on some sites for months, so to avoid your next employer thinking you’re still looking months later, put the current date on the resume you post.

DAY 5

Respond to on-target want ads in local newspapers and trade publications. Don't waste your time responding to ads that aren't a good fit. Your cover letter should include a section with two columns: on the left side, list the job requirements; on the right side, explain how you meet each requirement.

If, and only if, you're seeking a job for which you have previous experience, contact employment agencies and recruiters. Look in your Yellow Pages under "Employment Agencies." Don't consider agencies that ask for money -- the fee should be paid by the employer. To find an appropriate recruiter, call the HR department of a target employer and ask: “I’m looking to submit my resume to a headhunter for a (insert type of job) position. When you use a recruiter to find that type of employee, who do you use?” Executives might find appropriate recruiters (often called headhunters) in the Directory of Executive Recruiters, available in most libraries.

Unlike in other cover letters, the cover letter to an agency or headhunter should include your salary requirement. State a range such as "$65,000-75,000, depending on the nature of the position." Also, explain that you don't want your resume sent to an employer without your permission. If you have planned to contact an employer, it is better that you do it directly; if the agency does it, the employer must pay 25-30% above your annual salary to the agency. That 25-30% might be just enough to motivate the employer to hire someone they unearthed themselves.

DAY 6

Make follow-up phone calls to companies to which you sent resumes. Whether you get voice mail or a person, leave a message.

DAYS 7-28

Continue to respond to on-target want ads, both those in the newspaper and those sent to you by the electronic job scouts, and to search job sites.

Attend the job fair(s) you identified earlier. Arrive early. Stop at each booth and give your few-second pitch.

By this time, you should have lined up multiple interviews on days 7-28. Bone up on interviewing techniques.

DAYS 29-30

Negotiate. When you get a call offering you a job, don't negotiate terms on the phone. Make an appointment for the next day. This subtly makes clear that you won't accept just any offer. If you've done all the preceding steps, chances are you have multiple irons in the fire, which will improve your negotiating position. Prepare for the negotiation by creating a list of comparable salaries for the position. You can often get these from www.jobstar.org, from trade publications, or from local employment agencies that specialize in your field. No one model will work for everyone, but having worked with 1,400 clients, I've found that this approach helps the most people to land a good job quickly.

Career coach Dr. Marty Nemko is the author of Cool Careers for Dummies.

(c) 2002 CareerBuilder.com

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.