Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I moved from a large city to a small town elsewhere in the region. In the city I could easily live off the $25 per hour I earned as a leasing agent or administrative assistant.
Whenever I fill out applications online here or interview at a staffing agency, salary is always the problem. I've had to drop from $25 to $10. I get no call-backs from the temp service.
I've considered going back to school for a trade, but I still owe for loans I had to take out for my BA.
A: Dear Stranded, Have you tried telecommuting with your old boss?
Whenever possible, interview with people first rather than fill out applications. Explain which skills you used to earn $25 per hour. Make a strong case for yourself, which might lead to a better offer.
If the area just won’t pay more than $10 per hour, work multiple jobs and/or start a business. Be more aggressive with staffing agencies. If you haven’t, sign up for temp-to-perm. Don’t wait for calls. Ask how often to remind them. Occasionally, go back for an in-person motivational session.
Impractical? Develop another way to stand out.
Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I have been job hunting online since getting my MBA in 2009 and finally landed a part-time permanent job. Feedback about my résumé from friends is positive. Otherwise, only my part-time employer has weighed in on it. What should I be doing?
A: Dear Full-timer, You will be if you ask employers what they think, listen for the same criticism more than once and adjust your résumé. If you’re hunting online exclusively, you close the door to employer feedback. Also, if you’re not attending professional meetings, you’re losing opportunities for extremely helpful pointers.
Returning for an undergraduate or graduate degree implies that you’ll get something better than what you had before, or at least something on par, tight economy notwithstanding. Applying for a job with a lesser title will raise eyebrows. If you want to be considered with other entry-level people, make a case on your résumé for employers to hire you rather than a young, wet-behind-the-ears competitor.
Accept feedback graciously, but don’t jump to make every change suggested. You want a strong résumé, not one that accommodates everyone except for you and your career.