Marketing yourself gets the job

Virtual Resume & Letter

Image by Olivier Charavel via Flickr

By Dorothy Perrin Moore, a professor of business administration emeritus, The Citadel.

Q: I am a recent newcomer to Charleston. I feel that getting a job depends on who you know. But I don’t know many people. How can I get a job without contacts?

A: Four things: First, understand it is not about you. The approach, “Here I am, here is what I have done,” will not interest many recruiters. Anyone with a job opening is interested in what you can do for them.

Second, market your skill set. Your education, background and employment record will be important, but sending the same resume and cover letter to 50 different potential employers and following the same personal script at any resulting interviews only makes you one of the crowd. Take advantage of the job coaching sessions held by the Center for Women. Having a job coach review your resume will enable you to gain a fresh view of your accomplishments and transferable skills. The position you find may not be in the job field you just left.

Third, make any position you apply for your sole focus. Do some research to find out what the company is likely to want. Tailor your resume and cover letter to their position description and explain how hiring you will advance their interests.

Finally, create the networks you need. Who you know and who knows you is important. As a newcomer, attend professional meetings and events of all kinds. Get involved in community and social organizations and your church. Circulate. Talk to people. Volunteer. Keep busy and always be professional. (See below.)

Q: I keep reading that the way I dress and act and carry my body is critical to a successful job search. What does this mean?

A: Appearances count. Most people make up their minds about someone in the first 10 seconds. A friend, a specialist in interviews, recently told me, “When she came in for the interview, I knew she thought she was wearing appropriate clothes, but she wasn’t.”

Unfair because people don’t see the inner you? Perhaps, but that’s the way things work. Proper attire and the projection will effect not only every job interview but also every potential business and social encounter.

Classic works best. In attire, this means ankle-length, well-tailored slacks or a knee-length skirt that is not too tight, a blouse with sleeves below the elbow or at the wrist and is not see-through, tight or cleavage revealing. Go light on accessories. Avoid long hanging or big loop earrings, jangling bracelets and long painted fingernails. Professionally groom your hair. Wear shoes that enclose the toes. Avoid heels that can get caught in a grate, sidewalk or carpet. Sandals and flip-flops are out.

Remember the importance of the first 10 seconds. Practice pitching your voice low and speaking slowly and clearly. Shake hands firmly. A shrill, piercing voice, nervous laughter and a handshake like a bear or a fish will strongly impact that first impression.

Upset that projecting a professional appearance in your job search excludes piercings, tattoos, strangely colored cosmetics, miniskirts and the sexy clothes you see on TV? OK, go ahead and make a strong statement of your personal right to express yourself. Just understand that you will probably need an independent income for the duration of your job search.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, July 24, 2009.

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