Category Archives: Jobhunting

Tiring Fast

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m a woman in my 50’s who is trying to make a career change. I’ve
sent out 50 resumes and haven’t gotten one bite for an interview. Do
you have any ideas for what to do? I used to be a school counselor.
Now I will do anything (but that).

Tiring Fast

 
Dear Tiring Fast:

The job market isn’t as bad as it was during the great recession, but
for middle-aged women it remains a tough place to make a transition.
You won’t face the tacit discrimination that motherly-aged women do,
when employers fear absenteeism because of sick children, which yes
is illegal but still happens tacitly. But you will be classified in the what-
happens-if-she-decides-to-just-stop-working bias as well as
competition from many other equally qualified folks.

 
I hate to say it but 50 resumes is a drop in the bucket. When you’ve
sent out 1,000 you can be tired. My best advice would be to seek out
headhunters, both the kind who is paid by employers and (I know you
will hate this) the kind you might have to pay for finding you a
professional placement. From doing the tireless work of planning and
crisis intervention, scheduling and coping with bureaucracies, and all
the manifold duties of a counselor you have acquired a great many
transferrable skills. You just need someone who is in the employment
industry to understand them.

 

Create resumes for counseling and for
administration. Then connect with recruiters, both in your area and
national folks. You can find many of them online who have list-serves.
Get on the list-serves of all local governments and non-profits too. And
then get yourself as many informational interviews as you can with all
the folks I just identified. Pitch yourself as reliable, experienced, and
incredible well-rounded, ready to tackle any job. See how many doors
they can get you into. It will take time.

Starting Over

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

A month ago I applied for my dream job but I have heard zero. I am
adult who went back to college in my 30s and just finished my degree.
Even though I am not the typical hire, I think all my earlier work in
construction proves I am a great employee, not afraid of messes or
hard work. Now I have business degree to go along with hands-on
skill. How can I sell myself as worth at least as much as a 21-year old?

Starting Over

 
Dear Starting Over:

Check to posting agency to see what the status of the job is. If it is not
yet noted as “filled” you can call Human Resources and ask what the
status and timeline is for filling it. If you get a friendly sounding
person, say you applied and want to know if you are still among those
being considered. Stay casual and optimistic, even if you are told you
are not among those still in the running.

 
If/when you get a rejection, call and ask for an informational interview
with the HR manager. Explain you want to introduce yourself, and to
find out how to best present your skills. Use your mess/hard work line
when you are in the meeting. Dress professionally and be very clear
that you are an asset exactly because you have rebuilt yourself
professionally, and that you will bring particular skills of teamwork and
perspective to any job they’d hire you for. This doesn’t ensure you an
interview the next time. But it does guarantee they’ll remember you,
and perhaps pass you onto the specific department to meet.

Moving On

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m in my late 40’s and about to reenter the workforce. I am
accomplished and intelligent. I think my skills are transferrable to a
wide variety of jobs, but on paper I look like someone who’s been in K-
12 education for most of the last twenty-five years. Do you have any
advice that will help me get in the door? I will consider anything from
an office job to retail, so long as I do not have to work 60-80 hours a
week without being treated with respect for trying hard to help kids.

Moving On

 
Dear Moving On:

Update your resume first, and not just the way you did it the last time.
Go online and find current protocol for resume formats. Don’t be
dissuaded from going onto a page 2; if you really have 30 years
experience it’s worth showing it off. Organize your professional history
by skill sets and job titles, as opposed to dates and employers. Re-
rank them based on the priorities of the jobs apply for. That’s step
one.

 
More importantly get used to adapting what you have done to what
people might pay you for now. Go online to every possible public entity
you might apply for a job. Research every posting that’s open,
whether you would apply for it or not, and make a list of all the
“supplemental questions.” The draft your answers to questions about
your experience with supervision, financial responsibility, diversity,
research and report writing, to name just a common few. These drafts
will give you a basis for your own answers when you actually apply for
jobs o land interviews. It really helps to have a few funny stories and
success stories for relevant topics. Practice saying them aloud,
succinctly and with confidence. Let your experience carry you.

Home Base

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My daughter’s a good kid. She graduated college two months ago after
majoring in fine at. Yes, I know, not a likely major for a well-paying
job. She’s worked at galleries and has fantasies about becoming the
director of a museum until she is recognized as a brilliant painter. I
love her and have always tried to support her dreams, not squelch
them. But she’s moved back in to my home, and I’m not seeing any
evidence that she’s seriously looking for a job, or thinking about
moving out any time in the foreseeable future. I’ve always had high-
level managerial positions in major national corporations. It wouldn’t
take more than a flick of my finger to life the phone and get her an
entry job in my company. I don’t want to railroad her into a future that
contradicts her heart. But I also don’t want her to settle in too
comfortably or long. What are reasonable guidelines to impose on her
job search?

Home Base

 
Dear Home Base:

A parent who can provide a job for a child, especially in a tight
economy, is a blessing. It’s also a curse, because the kid knows
there’s a safety net if no other work can be found, and that can slow
down or hobble a work search, especially when the parent is providing
a warm nest, good food, and emotional support rather than stress. So
you need to use the safety net as a motivator as well as a security
blanket. Translation: give your daughter a deadline to get a job in a
field that speaks to her heart and soul. But make it clear that if she
does not accomplish this by a reasonable deadline, say three more
months, that she will have to: move out?; start paying a hefty rent?;
accept a job at your company. The default job offer need not be
draconian, but it should be sufficiently boring and mind-numbing that
she feels motivated to look. Think filing in the accounting department.
You should also set aside family time to review her resume, coach her
about how to conduct a job search (including networking and
informational interviews), and teach how to present herself in
interviews. People who haven’t gotten a professional job before often
need practice. If you’re in management, tell her very clearly what you
think makes a good hire, and then help her become one. But above all,
don’t let her fail. If she’s a good kid, help her become a good adult.

Wants More

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Here’s my mini bio: I spent my youth involved in sustainability and
environmental activism after getting an English degree in college. In
my forties I went back to get a master’s degree in teaching. (Insert
rant about having to re-take horrible math classes.) Now I teach
English as a Second Language in a very small school district for wages
that rival migrant workers. I have benefits but am expected to
accomplish what can only be done with a 60-70 hour week. I have
served on some statewide curriculum-planning committees, in part to
meet people and network to a better job. A highly connected person
on one of them encouraged me to apply for a job at the local
university, a part-time teaching position. In an ideal universe I would
have kissed her and groveled my thanks. Here’s the problem: It’s to
teach a subject with which I have only passing familiarity, and would
occur during summer when I am already pretty booked, though with
pleasure and relaxation, not work. I like that she sees I am capable.
Do I accept, tell her what I really want, or decline?

Wants More

 
Dear Wants More:

No transition was ever made without some stretches, big or small. The
most important thing you have said is that someone who is connected
to an institution that offers you a completely different and better
professional track has expressed an interest in you. Being encouraged
to apply is not the same thing as being hired. But it is a very positive
signal that the seeds you planted are beginning to sprout.

 
Two steps are called for. First would be a phone call and if possible a
lunch with the woman. Tell her how excited you are about the
possibility, primarily because you want to create a new career track for
yourself. Give her enough of your back story to interest her and
impress her with your commitment and gumption. Then ask about the
specific course, being both confident and humble. Ask if you’re better
off waiting for a situation with which you have more experience or
saying yes and getting in the door. The conversation has one goal:
getting her to become your mentor. Do what she says and if you do
end up getting the job, work your tail off to impress as many other
people as possible. My predictions that a year from now you’ll be on
your way to a shorter and more fulfilling work week.

Bitter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got laid off from my primary employer of the last twenty years. I
took a two-year break to go work for a competing consulting firm five
years ago but came back when a different working group seemed to
have lots of work for me. They broke off to start a new firm and didn’t
take me along. So I have limped into my current situation without
having any internal managerial support. They just changed my
employment contract to billable only and gave me raise for hours
clients pay for. But they won&'t pay for overhead time and I lost my
benefits. I’ll make enough that I don&'t get unemployment but I have
no office to go to. I&'m angry especially because I came back to work
here a second time. Now I need to look for another job but I am so
suspicious of all managers I&'m afraid it&'ll bleed through in interviews.

Bitter

 
Dear Bitter:

You&'ll need a major attitude retrofit before an actual interview. But the
first task is getting in the door. Write a resume that&'s sharp and eye-
catching and that highlights your decades of professional skills and
achievements. Be sure to organize it around categories of what you
bring to the table. For example: management, supervision, marketing,
research and analysis, client relations, whatever’s relevant.

 
Practice your interview questions and answers with friends and even
former colleagues. Be prepared for questions like Why are you in the
job market? and Why you have changed jobs in the past? Do
everything you can to spit out your ambivalence with your toothbrush
water before you walk out the door. Employers have sharp eyes out
for disgruntled employees. They’re toxic to the organization and no
one wants to put a bad apple in their basket. Even though you feel like
you got a raw deal, show up perky and smiling. Give simple answers
like, The old company had revenue problems and decided to trim staff.
Then aim your answers to their questions towards the future. Practice
your delivery until you sound sincere

Out of Date

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother

I’ve had the same job for fifteen years. The boss is very eccentric and
values me for my calm ability to manage any crisis. His extended
family has had many of them! I’ve gotten paid for everything from
arranging bail for his nephew, moving his mother to assisted living as
well as normal things helping the company get a bid out the door. He’s
the owner and president so there’s no distinction between “work” work
and any other responsibilities he asks me to undertake. My ability to
solve strange problems has gone way up, as has my ability to talk to
strangers. (I’d been very shy before this job.) But my computer skills
and knowledge of software have declined in a scary way. I am
competent at what I know how to do, but when I look at what current
job openings are asking for I feel old, intimidated, and out of my
league. Now he’s going to sell the company and I am afraid the new
owners will put me out on the street. Friends who worked here and
saw the handwriting on the wall had accounting skills and got new jobs
pretty quickly. I am in my fifties, which doesn’t help in this economy.
Any ideas on what to do?

Out of Date

 
Dear Out of Date:

First things first. Even though you hear a loud clock ticking, you still
have a job. You&'re wise to prepare but being fatalistic won’t help your
mood or impress prospective employers. The new owners may keep
you on longer than you think. If you have a lot of corporate history
between your ears they may look for easy things for you to do with
your hand to keep access to you, at least during the transition. Worst
comes to worst you will get unemployment if the new owners lay you
off. But the time to mobilize is now.

 
But you’re wise to prepare. Go to the websites of prospective future
employers, especially larger organizations like local government,
colleges, doctor/lawyer office, hospitals, and insurers. See what job
titles they hire for that are similar to your skills and look very carefully
at the computer qualifications. Then put yourself on a tutorial regimen
during down time and personal time. Look also at the supplemental
questions most employers ask these days, even of administrative
employees. Everyone likes having staff who are calm and reliable,
strengths you should not sell short in interviews. PS Don’t be surprised
if the old boss calls for help later. Charge him double what he used to
pay you.

Go or Stay?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My boss, whom I love, just got offered a great job. It&'s a big promotion
for her and especially good timing because the company we work for is
on a steep downward slide. I want out too and have been looking, but
haven’t found anything that has the right combo of intelligent
supervision and chance to learn more. She just found out she has the
chance to hire an assistant and has asked me to apply. I definitely
want out of where I am but am a little concerned that having only one
boss will limit me if something goes awry and I have no one to vouch
for me from two sequential jobs. The rest of the job sounds it like has
similar headaches to where we are now, but she thinks it’ll all work
out.

Go or Stay?

 
Dear Go or Stay:

A bad boss is the bane of most working people’s lives. Having a good
boss would be an unimaginable dream and relief to them. A good
boss who invites you to follow her to a new job is a boss who not only
respects your skills but cares about your future and welfare. Unless
you have a reason to believe New Company is not a good fit for you,
for any of the normal criteria you would look at, such as wage,
location, job title, hours, bennies, etc, I think you should show up for
the interview. As though you want this as much as anything else you
care deeply about.

 
The reality is that she already controls part of your professional life. If
your company is dying and this is a chance to jump into a decent
lifeboat I say grab it. Another thing you should grab is some Old
Company stationary. Ask her for a letter of reference that you can use
for all time in applications. You might submit it as part of your
application to New Company too.

In Line

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Can you give me some very practical tips to prepare for a phone
interview? I know I could do the job if I get it. But there’s a pre-
screening interview– 30 minutes with one person– before an interview
with the whole team. I need to pass this test to get to the people who
really matter. Do you have any advice about getting past the
gatekeeper?

In Line

 
Dear In Line:

First, change your mindset. Right now, the most important person in
your professional life – other than yourself – is the phone screener.
Rather than seeing him/her as someone who doesn’t matter, recognize
this person holds the key to your future. Treat every moment of the
interview, and the interviewer, with your full respect, attention, and
appreciative cooperation.

 
List of the relevant items in the job description. Match that list with
what you’ve done in your professional and volunteer life. Be very
specific. Then come up with examples of how your experience fits what
they’re hiring for. Drum up sample questions. The obvious ones are:
What did you like most/least about your prior you’re your
strengths/weaknesses? Successes/failures? Work style/computer
skills? There will be more relevant ones, as well as answers you may
want to give if the question you’re asked doesn’t quite match your
strengths, as in, I haven’t done that exactly but I have done x, y,z.
But I am a very quick learner.

 
Practice your answers. Write them in paragraph form first and say
them aloud. Think 160 words per minute of answer. Mo answer should
take more than 90 seconds max. Once you can say them with a nice
balance of refreshing candor and chest-thumping humility, translate
them into keywords. Have a crib sheet in front of you with two
columns: question keywords in one, and answer keywords in another.
One nice thing about a phone interview is that you can keep some
resources handy.

 
Last: send a follow-up email first thing the very next morning. Say
how useful it was to talk, that it only increased your enthusiasm for
the job, and you look forward to meeting the full team at the next
interview. Holler if you get a call.

Angry

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m having trouble with a friend of five years. She is a self-employed
professional with a very strong personality and equally strong opinions
Usually I can handle it, but now I’m more fragile. I was laid off from
my job five months ago after more than ten years on the job. I put up
with all sorts of c**p, and the layoff/elimination of my job were part of
a structured settlement, in lieu of a lawsuit. I am legally eligible for
unemployment and very diligently looking for a new job. I knew the
risk when I took the deal but it was better for my mental health than
staying. Not sure I’d do it again, given the market, but that’s a
different tale of woe, ageism, sexism. She accused me of “bilking the
system” and is rudely sarcastic every time she asks how my job search
is going. Now she’s taken to emailing me low-level job
announcements, things equivalent to serving burgers. Should I ignore
this or call her on her elitist rudeness?

Angry

 
Dear Angry:

Your anger and building frustration about prolonged unemployment
are legitimate. Anyone who is responsible for her own professional life
cannot really understand what it takes to put yourself out there day
after day for the review and judgment of others. She clearly is not only
detached from the realities of unemployment but lacking in sensitivity.
That’s probably not what you should say, though I am sure you’ve
been tempted to tell her where to put the announcements.

 
Ignore everything until you are being social, say after a movie and
over a drink and until she says something clearly out of line. Then say
clearly, Do you realize that hurts? I’m looking for appropriate work,
and having to count every week and every dollar. I’m a good and loyal
worker who was between a rock and a hard place. I paid into the
unemployment system for more than ten years. Now it’s helping me
survive. If you want to be helpful, send me leads that are worthy of
who I am and what I do. Help me network. Please don’t discuss this
aspect of my life with me unless you are supportive. That’s how a true
friend would be helpful. Then shut up and let her think on it. If she
doesn’t change, save your social time and money for people who
appreciate you.

Getting Discouraged

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I&'m one of the long-term unemployed, one of those whose benefits has
run out. My problem is that after I was laid off, I went into a deep
depression and didn&'t look for work for over a year. I&'m trying to pick
myself up and get back to trying to find a job, but everywhere I go it&'s
rejection because I&'ve been unemployed so long. Any advice on how to
sell myself and land a job?

Getting Discouraged

 
Dear Discouraged:

Telling you that you’re not alone will be cold comfort and is almost
certainly not news. Even had you been looking for work during the first
year of the long-term part of your unemployment, the odds were
against you. So you’ve probably not hurt your chances for finding work
now. The economy is improving, albeit slowly, and you’re right on
schedule. Yes there is prejudice against the long-term unemployed.
You will need to work extra hard to overcome it. This is not only
doable but also necessary.

 
First thing: change is your resume. Declare yourself self-employed for
the period of unemployment and voila! you are, and have been, self-
employed. You can say you’ve been consultanting in whatever field
others have employed you. It’d help to drum up some friends or
relatives (with different last names) to serve as client references in
case you are asked. Also come up with some good war stories of your
time out in the cold being a “single shingle.” But as you apply for jobs,
stress that you prefer being part of a collaborative team environment.
Be ready to say how much you have missed contributing to a group
effort, and working within an organization.

 
Also, in the interim, do whatever you can to have a base of operations
that’s not your house. Volunteer at a local non-profit or intern in a for-
profit; but get yourself back among people who will be able to vouch
for your skills and productivity. Yes, you will be “giving your time away”
for a while, but that’s a fair trade to have current references
and the potential for new networking opportunities. Look for a position
that’s as close to what you did professionally as you can find. Stress
that your experience is a contribution, but that you want to find a real
job. Say your goal is to help set up systems that can be run by other
volunteers/interns later. Appear smart, useful, productive and
gracious. Maybe someone will make a job for you, or want to help you
succeed.

Need A Network

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I need to find a new job. And it needs to be in the state university
system where employees get tuition discounts for family. My son is
turning 18 and graduating this June. We thought he was going to take
a gap year, but he decided on school. I support his decision
emotionally and intellectually, but can’t afford it financially. I’m an
underpaid bilingual PhD in education, work in a local school district (on
a grant I wrote/won), plus volunteer in a peer-review education
network. How can I exploit my connections?

Need A Network

 
Dear Need A Network:

You’re already halfway there: you have a relevant network. You need
to exploit it in a way that turns people on, not off. The advice below,
btw, is true for anyone looking for any job, specifics notwithstanding.
Send emails to everyone in the network of folks who are in/work
with/might have connections with or at/or who are in a position to get
information about the colleges. The idea is to be your own Johnny
Appleseed: scatter your request as broadly as possible and ask the
recipients to do the same. It is important, btw, to send these requests
as individual emails, not a group mailing. Two reasons: People don’t
like being spammed; it discounts the level of their responsiveness.
Also, if there are too many recipients, you could easily be shunted to a
spam folder and your email may never be read.

 
The email should have structure/content similar to below:

Dear XXX:
[Para 1] I hope this email finds you well. [Para 2] I’m asking for your
networking to help me find a college position. As you probably know,
I’ve been working in the _______ schools. Now I want to work in the
university system. My goal is to [insert your pitch]. As a bilingual Ph.D
and successful grant writer I bring a depth of understanding and
experiences to the table. [Para3] My ideal position would be
________. I’d accept .5-1.0 FTE, doing any or all of: ___, ____,

_____, or _____. I’d greatly appreciate any leads or connections you
can share. Please send me any job postings or opportunities that come
across your radar, now and through summer. I’ve included my vita;
feel free to forward this email to others who might be hiring or have a
relevant network. [Para 4] Please contact me if you have any
suggestions, want additional information, or have time to brainstorm. I
deeply appreciate your support. Thanks in advance.

 

Most importantly before sending the email: Send a test copy to
yourself to catch any wierdnesses in font or formatting. Read it aloud
to catch bad syntax. Spellcheck your text and the spelling of
everyone’s name. Send thank you’s immediately to any respondents.
Repeat in six weeks if nothing happens.

Ready

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m going through a major life transition. I want to change my job (I
know, bad timing!), my health is tattered and my life seems not just
banal but permanently stuck. I don’t what direction to turn or how to
move. Can you give me some advice to start off the year that’ll do more
good than just joining a gym and losing twenty pounds? I need a
bigger makeover!

Ready

 
Dear Ready:

I’m empathetic. In a couple days I’m going to have back surgery and
as I’ve watched my world contract because of pain and medication I’ve
become much more compassionate about what it means to not be able
to do what I want. Readiness is a critical variable.
I’m going to answer you this week and next with 10 commandments
for starting the year off right. Hang in there with me. I’m going to
start with the outer world and end at the inner. They’ve both got to be
ready and work in synch to make the kind of change you’re talking
about.

The holidays were last month. A few actual weeks of M-F, 9-5 and
reality is sinking in: the fun is over and they actually expect you to
work for your paycheck. No more parties, less schmoozing, no juicy
bonus fantasies to keep you smiling. It&'s back to the grind. Work,
work, work. Accountability. Yikes.

 

And if that weren&'t enough, those pesky, familiar, resolutions that
sounded so promising a few weeks ago are like one more should
sitting heavy in your gut. So how can you use January to turn them
into reality? How can you make 2006 a happy and successful time?
Start here:

 

Commandment # 1. Clean your desk.

It may sound simple but it will force you to get a handle on where
you&'ve been lately. Fruitcake stupor or too much shopping, December
takes its toll. Rather than feeling like you&'ve been dumped onto
concrete, take some control of your re-entry. Buried under the seasons
greetings and the cookie crumbs are important things you need to
remember, things you once thought you wanted to do, things that
other people expect you to do. Get yourself off to a rolling start. Clean
through email, assemble files, make stacks, and make lists. Get out
your calendar and set priorities for the next few weeks, even if they
seem routine. Once you’re back in the saddle, you&'ll already start to
feel better and have some energy.

 

Commandment # 2. Update your resume.

Think about how other people will see you as you look for a new job:
your resume is the two-dimensional window they look through. It&'s a
reminder of what you’ve done in your current job, what you&'re good at
that you, your current and any prospective new employer should
value. Update your accomplishments, list new skills and current
references who&'ll sing your praises. Your updated resume will boost
your confidence for the here and now as well as for the future
possible. It&'ll help you be ready to apply for internal promotions as well
as identify areas in which you should seek additional experience or
training.

 

Commandment # 3. Do a reality check of your career.

Survey your work life. Be honest and realistic. See what&'s fulfilling and
what&'s lacking. Make two lists: on the left side of the page write
everything you like about your current situation; on the right side
identify what you want different by next December. Step two: see
where your commitment and motivation intersect. On the right list,
highlight the words that are most important to accomplish. On the left
list, circle what you’d be willing to sacrifice some of in order to make
those changes happen. You don&'t need to start on all of them
tomorrow. But getting your brain wrapped around the trade-offs will
help make them real. Open your mind first; your body will follow.

 

Commandment # 4. Set some specific goals.

Your goals may be around those pesky 20 pounds and a new job.
Don’t be shy. Name them and plant them in the center of your psychic
bulls-eye. Believing you&'re worth the upgrade is the first step to
achieving it. Visualize yourself in the new situation. Imagine yourself
vibrant and strong. Then start every day with a mantra. Repeat
several times to yourself: I deserve to [your personal goals here].
[Note: it helps do to this quietly so people don&'t think you’re a
muttering loon, but it really does help to say them out loud. It&'s been
documented that speaking the words has an actual impact on the
value you give them and the motivation they give you.] Action follows
intention. Decide where you want to go and you&'ll start taking steps to
get there.

Ready

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Can you give me some job hunting and interviewing tips? I am a few
years out of college. While I have been busy cobbling together lots of
part-time jobs, I have not yet scored the kind of full-time job that will
lead to a real career. I was an American studies major and thought
about going to law school, or getting a teaching degree, but decided I
should get some real world experience first. I’ve been doing a variety
of jobs dealing with at-risk youth, first through my mother (an
attorney) who hired me to do interviews with families in the judicial
system and then write up progress notes. I got work doing skills
training with dropouts, and then on-call work as a probation officer. I
also volunteer at a crisis line. I’m clearer and clearer that I am really
interested in working with at-risk youth, and, more importantly, that I
am really good at it. Kids like me and seem to trust me. Tips? Ideas? A
job you can hand me?

Ready

 
Dear Ready:

Nothing substitutes for a good resume. The other suggestions I will
make can augment that, but unless you have a piece of paper that
shows off all your experience and skills, you are unlikely to get hired.
In your case, organizing it by skill set rather than a list of jobs will
serve you best. Think about categories of work you have done: case
management, crisis intervention, interviewing and report writing, etc.
Summarize your experience in each category, and don’t forget to
include computer and office skills as a category. Then list your
professional experience chronologically in a separate grouping. If you
have other jobs (e.g. summers working as yard helper or at a food
booth), list those separately. Collect letters of reference from any
professional person whose title and organization will help you get the
job you want.

 
Scope out any agency or employer you think is likely to have work.
Call the HR director and ask for an informational interview. Say you’ll
come any time s/he would see you. Track all openings and apply for
everything. If you can get a foot in the door, for a meeting or an
interview, be ready to sound like a veteran, and yet still enthusiastic
and unjaded. Think about stories you want to tell about what you’ve
done. For every category, practice telling them so they are pithy,
engaging, and show you off well. Have two stories, one for your first
interview and one for the second. Most of all, stress your aptitude for
and success relating to this population. Say this is what you want to do
and that you’ll do a great job for whomever gives you the break.

GI Joe

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I used to be a computer repair person but didn’t have any degrees,
just a lot of hands-on experience. I joined the Army to earn money for
school so I could get into the higher end of my profession. If it has
parts I can fix it, now even more than before. I served two tours in
Iraq. I feel fortunate to have come home in the same shape I left. Now
I am looking for work, but can’t seem to get a call for an interview. I
know what I’ve learned from the experience and also how hard it was.
I don’t think I am “owed a job”, but I don’t want any stigma from
having served my country to make job-hunting harder than it is.
Ideas?

GI Joe

 
Dear GI Joe:

There are lots of wonderful things that veterans have to offer
employers. Unfortunately and sadly, there are also lots of biases that
non-veterans have about those who’ve been in war, derived in part
from PTSD news stories and in part because people are afraid of what
they do not understand. You will need to navigate those fears in order
to prove yourself. But your experiences also give you an edge over
civilians that you might be able to exploit. And unseen prejudices are
much less damaging than unseen IEDs. A lot will depend on the
connection that you make with prospective employers and their own
experiences with having served. You’re not limited to applying to
veterans but you will likely find them intuitively more receptive.

 

Organize your resume by categories of skills rather than chronology.
To be clear, the topic headings under “Experience” should not be a
chronological listing of jobs with US Army at the top. Instead, you
should have categories like Management, Technical, Supervisory,
Computer Skills, etc, and then bullets detailing what you are good at.
In your cover letter you should say you’ve just completed two tours
and that you offer a prospective employer the chance to hire an
employee with demonstrated reliability, work ethic, courage, and the
ability to be consistent and productive in the most stressful of
environments. End the cover letter with a request for an interview, so
that you can show the job offerer who you are and what you’re made
of. Don’t expect instant miracles, because it’s a tough market. But the
right person will recognize a great opportunity and you’ll get a chance
to strut your stuff.