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Don't be a clown

Claire McCabe -- You majored in business at a major university. Then, you got your master's degree in Spanish. After working for a corporate bank branch for a few years, you went to work in client services at an advertising agency. While there, you dabbled in freelancing for your city's art magazine.

You've done it all, and you don't know quite where to start when it comes to looking for a job. You're a fabulous writer, have great people skills, are a whiz at accounting and you speak three languages fluently. You can apply for all kinds of jobs! You're versatile, well-rounded and talented. With all of this experience, you're a shoo-in for any job, right? Maybe. Although you have mastered the art of being a multidisciplinarian, you are still going to have to prove how all of your experience can be useful in your next career. The job search can seem like a three-ring circus, but it is possible to come out of it not looking like a clown. The following tips will help you turn your multiple talents into a starring role as the ringmaster in the job of your dreams!

Limit the amount you have to juggle. It's impossible to apply for jobs in every field out there. It's just too difficult! Instead, try to narrow down your choices. What are you really good at? In your past jobs, what fields have you thrived in? When you worked at a certain place, did you love one part of the job, but hate another? Use your past experience to determine what field you will find the most success in. Three is always a good number because it leaves room for two fields that are possibly related and one that varies quite a bit. For example, your three choices could be advertising, public relations and IT. The first two are closely related and you have experience, but you have always been interested in and took classes in IT. Think: what skills do you have that are applicable to all three fields? What skills are right for some career paths and not for others? Can you draw any similarities among your three fields of interest?

In a three ring circus, only focus on one ring at a time! At a circus, it's rare that something special is going on in all three rings, right? The spotlight is always on one ring at a time. The organizers want you to focus on and enjoy everything they have to offer. You should take the same approach in your job search, even if it means extra work. For each of the three fields you have chosen, you are going to need a targeted resume. Use key words that are relevant to each field. Before you create your resume, jot down buzz words that apply to each field. Then use those words in your resume to explain why you are the right pick for the position. For each resume you create, limit the amount of information you have on each one. Concentrate on eliminating clutter in an effort to show that you are focused. You want to demonstrate that you have many talents as a versatile applicant, but you want to appear focused on one career. You want recruiters to think you are dead set on starting a career in their field, even if your interests are all over the place!

Don't clown around! Take the guess work out for your prospective employer. The problem that often occurs when people are applying for jobs in multiple fields is that they keep just one generic resume. Resumes are not one size fits all. How can you expect to stand out when your resume reads like every other clown's? It should be clear to recruiters what your objective is. In each resume, change your career summary to fit the position. Simply put, your objective is to do the job that they are offering, right? It goes without saying that when you are applying for many different positions that you have different descriptions because the positions and fields are different. Above all, be concise. The average employer gives each resume he or she receives only 30 seconds, so you need to tailor your resume to make a maximum impact up front. Even though you may have had a great software development internship in college, that doesn't necessarily make you a great candidate for that client services job you are trying to snag. What experience do you have that makes you a good fit? On each resume you will need to add and subtract relevant past experience and skills.

Know what's going on in all three rings. If you are applying for jobs in many different sectors, you need to be super organized. You do not want to be caught off guard when you get a call for an interview. First, know the difference between the fields you are applying for, even if there is a fine line. You cannot bluff your way through a job interview in this economy. Do your research on each company before the interview. Know the company's mission statement. Know who their clients and competitors are. You might feel overwhelmed with the sudden influx of information you are starting to learn, but potential employers are impressed when you have done your homework. You should leave each recruiter that interviews you with the feeling that they are the only company you want to work for. They want to feel like you have selected them for a special reason, not that you will take any job with any company in any field.

Think of those circus dogs, jumping through hoops, leaping through fire! You want each prospective employer to think that you are willing to do the same for them. By developing targeted resumes, specific to each field, you are already getting ahead of the game because you are cutting out some of the noise from the crowd. A focused resume is the first sign of a hard worker. With your carefully crafted resume in hand designed to target specific fields, you will be in the center ring, poised to bask in the spotlight while all the other clowns fight for attention.

Claire McCabe, author of Don't Be a Clown: The Art of Juggling in Today's Economy, is with e-resume.net, the leader in online resume writing.

© 2003 CareerBuilder.com

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