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Starting over in the job market

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Focus on Finance by Melanie Parker

Question: I recently was laid off after 20-plus years at my job. I am nervous about looking for a new job and starting over. Any tips on where/how to start?

Answer: The economic crisis in the United States has led to record job losses and layoffs that have affected nearly every industry. While it may not seem like it right now, this crossroads in your life is an opportunity to evaluate your financial future and perhaps pursue a different career path you may not have otherwise considered.

There are many resources available to help in your search. Your local newspapers’ classifieds section is a good place to start. Quite often businesses that advertise job openings in the newspaper require you mail them a resume. Most communities have career centers where they will give you a computer test, assessing your skills, experience and interests. From that information, they will give you applications for local jobs that would be a good fit for you.

If there is a specific business in which you are interested, visit its website and see if it is an option.

A temp agency also may be a good choice. They, too, take the guess and leg work out of a job search. Much like a career center, they assess you and offer positions that are your best fit.

Regardless of whether you seek assistance through an agency or hit the bricks yourself, you need to create a resume. Even if you are filling out an application and a resume is not required, preparing one helps you organize your thoughts and prepare for an interview.

Having a written record of your work history makes filling out an application much easier, too. Tailor the resume to the type of job for which you are applying, emphasizing related skills and coursework.

There are resume templates available through many computer software programs and online. If you do not have a home computer, visit your local library. For a very small fee you can even make copies there.

Call the employer. Ask about the application process: “Good morning. My name is John Doe. I was wondering if you had any positions open and, if so, how I might apply.” Your call usually will be routed to a hiring or human resources manager.

If the company has any openings, they’ll either ask you to come in and fill out an application or ask you to send a resume by mail or email, in which case you should inquire, “To whom should the letter be addressed?” They will give you a full name, which you should write down, asking for help with the spelling if necessary.

The application: Fill the application out neatly, entirely and with no mispellings. Do not leave anything blank. If it is something that does not apply to you simply put N/A — non-applicable. I cannot express these points enough. I have seen many qualified individuals lose an opportunity for an interview over these simple infractions.

Ask to speak to the hiring manager and try to hand the form to him or her personally: “Hi, we spoke on the phone yesterday about the (job title) position. Here’s my application. Let me know if you need anything else.” This gives the employer a chance to see you, so dress professionally and present yourself well, and put a face to a name.

Follow up: If you filled out an application but the hiring manager wasn’t there at the time, call three days later, ask to speak to the manager, and confirm the application was received: “Hello, this is (your name). I filled out an application on (day you came in) and I just wanted to confirm it was received.”

If you sent a resume by mail, call a week later to confirm its receipt. If you sent it by email, call the day after.

Tips: Always be honest when filling out a job application.

  • If you get an interview, follow up with a thank-you letter.
  • Never, ever “bad mouth” your previous employer during an interview.
  • Always thank the employer for their time and consideration.

Alternatives: Is going back to school an option for you? There are grants available to assist “seasoned” people who have found themselves back in the job market go to college. Contact the financial aid office of a college you would be interested in attending and they will be happy to provide you with grant information specific to you and your needs.

Lastly, if you have left a job where you had a 401(k), it is very important you speak to a financial adviser immediately to find out what options are available. If you opt to receive a payout check, you have 60 days to roll it over into another retirement account before it becomes taxable income. By creating another retirement account, you can avoid large common tax consequences.

Melanie Parker is marketing director at The Wright Legacy Group, LLC.

What is Focus on Finance?

Have a question about your finances? Submit it to the our panel of local experts who answer your questions on The News-Enterprise Money page every Sunday.

A panel of local experts with experience and knowledge of this community respond to questions about 401(k)s, 403(b)s, annuities, certificates of deposit, home mortgages and/or refinancing, investing in the stock market, financing retirement, reducing income taxes and related topics. Email your questions to: focusonfinance@thenewsenterprise.com or mail to: Melanie Parker, The Wright Legacy Group, LLC, 1104 Julianna Court, Elizabethtown, KY 42701.