Originally published on the Yahoo! Contributor Network Aug 27, 2009 and revised for 2015
Finding a Job
With so many resources available on the web from craigslist to monster to your local newspaper and more, finding a job should be easy, right?
Well, yes and no.
Gone are the days when you could walk into any company with even the slightest desire to work and walk out with a promise of employment. Today not only would you have to send a resume and fill out an application, you might possibly have to agree to no less than three interviews as well. The extensive interview process allows employers to "weed out" undesirable applicants, and with the number of applicants willing to fill positions these days, employers are in no rush to fill vacated spots, especially when loyal employees are willing to take on additional burdens without complaining.
Assuming your resume is perfectly prepared and that you have an employment coach to escort you through the process, you still might not get the job. Competition today is fierce. Don't think you can skate by with only a passing knowledge about what is required of you in the position you hope to fill, because somebody else more qualified than you is more than willing to step into that spot - the jobless rate is staggeringly high.
If you don't feel qualified to work in your desired profession, hone your skills or keep looking for something more suitable to your talents while you further your education. But if expertise in your desired field has prepared you for the job hunt, read on.
If you're looking for something local, look online through the classifieds section of your newspaper. Other online job searches will take you to forms asking you to list your skills, education, and desires. If you post your resume online, prepare yourself for an avalanche of job opportunities that has nothing at all to do with your capabilities. If your email inbox becomes filled with job opportunities for which you have no experience, and your objective is to find a job that matches your talents and abilities, refine your preferences - it will help you to better target your job prospects.
And if you're looking for a job that always offers benefits, check out government jobs at USA Jobs.
When employers request a cover letter from you that requires information about a previous salary, make sure you address every single question asked of you in your cover letter. For instance, if the employer wants to know why you left your previous employer, make sure you mention your reason(s) in your cover letter. Following directions correctly from the start ensures that you will be at least one step closer to getting that interview.
Writing the Cover Letter
The cover letter is the employer's first impression of you. Is it neat? Is it well written? Does it convey a sense of professionalism? Have you addressed every issue raised by the employer?
Make sure you list your full name, address, phone number, email address, and any other relevant contact information. Have a friend or family member examine the cover letter before you send it. Word processing programs can detect misspelled words, but if you meant to write about your two previous employers, make sure you spelled it "two" and not "to" or "too".
Include only information relevant to the job and to your qualifications. Anything longer than one page might find its way into the trash bin even before it's read.
One resource for writing spectacular cover letters is Best Cover Letters which offers samples of cover letters specific to different types of jobs.
And don't forget to attach your resume. A variety of resume samples targeted to specific employment types can be found at Resume For Jobs.
Preparing for the Interview
Before the interview, research the company. Prospective employers will be impressed that you were conscientious enough to learn about the company and that you can speak intelligently and knowledgeably about it.
Unless you're applying to be a sumo wrestler, dress appropriately for the interview. Act confidently. You might have to tell yourself that you really don't need the job and that the interview is for practice to help you relax. Appearing too eager can make you look desperate.
Think of the job interview as a kind of date. First impressions are important. Look the interviewer in the eye, not in a Ted Bundy kind of way, but in a personal it's-nice-to-meet-you way. Shake his or her hand with a firm, but not too firm, handshake. The point is to demonstrate confidence, not aggression, desperation, or terror.
And when your potential employer reaches out to shake your hand, do not hand her a floppy fish-like extremity that feels like you've just had your bones removed. Learn how to give a proper handshake.
While you want the employer to hire you because of your skills, experience, and personality, exposing too much of your personality might not be the best route to take on your career path. Imagine Robin Williams interviewing for an administrative assistant job while he awaits his first big opening. Sitting on your head on a chair might not be the best approach in getting the job (unless you're applying for a crazy acting job, of course).
So if you are waiting for your "big break," and if you're really serious about getting a job, curb your desire to "be who you are" when sitting in the interview seat.
If asked about a previous employer for whom you have no kind words to say, mention no names. Your new employer can investigate if necessary. One reason you don't want to give negative feedback about your former boss is that you don't know if the person interviewing you at the new company is a relative or friend of your previous employer. Also, your new employer may look upon you as a gossip who gathers tabloid material and who might expose every disturbance you encounter if hired.
Ask questions. It shows you are interested about your position. Also - in a positive manner - ask about your employer's expectations of you. It lets him or her know you care about what your contribution to the company will be.
If you previously made vacation plans that will interfere with your expected start date, unless you are specifically asked about vacation plans during the interview, don't mention them until you agree to be hired. Once you agree to be hired, mention your plans at that time in a confident (not arrogant) manner and tell your employer you understand the time off will be unpaid.
For an amazing array of likely questions that will be asked during your interview, go to Job Interview Questions. They offer so much help in so many areas.
If you sincerely wish to work for one specific company, be persistent. Send a thank you note directly to the interviewer - by name - after the interview is over. Express your wishes again to work there. If you hear nothing by the decision date, call and politely ask if they've hired anybody yet, reiterate once more your desire to work there. Don't appear as a stalker, but do let them know that your interest has not waned. Again, present yourself as interested, not desperate.
Keeping Your Job - Or Not
You now have office buddies, you're happy with your new job, and you're making money. But what if the money isn't paying the bills?
What if you are the breadwinner in your family and you took whatever job you could find. The poverty level in 2009 for a family of 4 in the United States of America was $22,050. A minimum wage earner in 2009 working 40 hours per week made $15,080 a year BEFORE taxes.
If you work at a job that pays minimum wage, you will need to know if and how often your company gives raises. Some companies promise a 4% raise and a 4% bonus at year's end. Two years later, the raise and the bonus drop to 2% and eventually raises and bonuses stop altogether. While you feel loyal to the company, they obviously don't feel loyal to you.
Or do they? Would they be willing, despite their stated cap on wages, to offer you more money or a better position so you could keep your job? More likely, soon after you vacate your position, your workload will be slammed onto the back of another employee. How a company values its employees is shown in actions, not words. Maybe you should have paid attention to the turnover rate before you sent your resume.
And speaking of turnover, have you ever wondered why the turnover rate is so high at some places? Think about this: If you start a job at a rate of $9 per hour (which = $18,720 per year in a 40-hour week - higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour), and you work for a company that offers only a 3% per year raise, it will take you 10 years to reach $12 per hour. And it will take you nearly 25 years to double your pay (see chart).
Year1 - $9.00; Year 2 - $9.54; Year 3 - $9.82; Year 4 - $10.11; Year 5 - $10.41; Year 6 - $10.72; Year 7 - $11.04; Year 8 - $11.37; Year 9 - $11.71; Year 10 - $12.05 ($25,084.80/yr,); Year 20 - $16.16 ($33,612.80/yr.); Year 25 - $18.16 ($37,772.80/yr.).
At that rate you are doomed forever to live in poverty. But if you work for a company, making only $9 per hour for one year, by year's end you will have gained enough experience to find a better paying job somewhere else. The downside to frequent job changes is that you appear unstable, but if you maintain integrity at your current job by showing up on time and putting forth your best effort, you will garner enough support from your current employer to attract the attention of someone who believes you are worthy of your asking price.
And if you enjoy working for your current employer, maybe it's time to discuss upward mobility with your human resources director. Businesses usually post jobs on bulletin boards in the cafeteria or in other locations around your place of business. Many companies hire from within, looking outside only if nobody from within fills the position. By going directly to the personnel director you show your interest in maintaining allegiance to the company. It would be worth her while to monetarily reward you for your loyalty.
Asking for a Raise or for Time Off
As time goes on, many employees find their job description changing as they take on more and more work. When somebody leaves the department, nobody else gets hired to fill the position and you absorb her job. What has happened and what seems to be happening often today is that your work has doubled and you were never paid more for doing it. Your employer EXPECTS you to work twice as hard while not rewarding you with more pay.
If you feel you deserve a raise, or if you haven't received a raise in more than a year, here is some quality advice: NEVER ask for a raise. And NEVER ask for time off.
As an alternative, DECLARE your intentions. For instance, saying, "Can I take next Friday off?" usually elicits this type of response: "No!" But confidently saying, "I have to be off next Friday," usually accompanies this type of response: "Oh, OK." If your company has a policy that requires you to fill out a "request time off" form, fill it out, hand it directly to your employer or place it in the inbox, and let him or her know, by word or with a note, how important the time off is to you. Don't cower before your boss when you hand in the form.
The same holds true for raises. When you ask for a raise, you give your employer only two options, yes or no. Many bosses will say no, simply because they are bosses. However, it could also be because the company has put a cap on raises.
Instead of asking for a raise, ask for an appointment and have ready (in case they ask for one now) a list of everything you have accomplished, including any awards of recognition and whatever increase in workload you have been carrying since your last raise. Start writing your list weeks before you ask for an appointment and include EVERYTHING in your report from the moment you arrive at work to the minute you leave your job. Some bosses have no idea what you do, and a black and white clearly written job description makes your recorded description indisputable.
If your boss refuses to increase your salary, if you can't keep up with the growing economy, and if the cost of living keeps rising, it may be time to consider leaving your present job.
Quitting A Job
Sometimes no matter how hard you work, no matter how many times you declare your reasons for deserving a raise, and no matter how many hours of unpaid overtime you give to your employer, nothing you do is ever appreciated. Eventually you realize that your amazing work ethic is being ignored and you are being abused.
But how do you leave a company when you feel loyalty toward it? If loyalty is the case, consider this: is the loyalty reciprocated? Does your employer want you to succeed as much as you want the company to succeed? If the answer were yes, they would want to see you do better with your life. But if the answer is no, they don't deserve you.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have another job lined up before you quit this job. Etiquette requires you to give a two-week notice. Your resignation can state simply, "I will be leaving (this company) as of (date)." Sign it, date it, and place it in an interoffice envelope or directly on your employer's desk. Some companies conduct exit interviews so they can discuss with you any unpaid vacation time, 401K disbursements, insurance, etc. and your reason for leaving. Be honest, but remember, the person who asks you is probably going to be the same person who recommends you to your next employer.
Some companies treat their employees so disrespectfully no notice is necessary. Probably, if you check around the community, you will discover what everybody else knows to be true: the company has a terrible reputation and was never worthy of your time or your effort in the first place.
Red-flagging A Job
Pay attention to your own feelings about accepting employment. As a future employee, you too get to weed out the "undesirables" from the pack. Before women's lib became highly vocal in the 1970s, many women found themselves working for what can only be described as perverts. With no voice, many of them endured the pain and frustration of working in uncomfortable environments where sexual favors where forcibly imposed. Today women (and men) can report the abuses. This linked article gives lots of helpful information about how to report harassment at work.
In Closing - Improving Your Chances For A Better Job
Most of our days are spent working. Because the jobless rate is so high, we often hear that we should be lucky to even have a job, but a minimum wage job doesn't pay the bills. Low-income families can qualify for free classes to improve their chances of getting a better paying job. Some businesses offer educational grants applicable to job-related classes. Check with your employer to see if such benefits are available. Also check with local state agencies to find out what opportunities are available to you. Keep improving yourself and you will keep improving your income.
And finally, some work at home - or work from home - jobs are legitimate. Word of caution: check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been lodged against those businesses. And check out their rating.
So whether you're looking for office jobs, driver jobs, retail jobs, part time jobs, or work at home jobs, good luck with your search!
Compliance Assistance - Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.
National Conference of State Legislatures Minimum Wage by State in effect June 1, 2015. Washington, D.C., has the highest minimum wage at $9.50/hr. 21 states still (as of June 2015), require employers to pay only the federal minimum wage stated above.
United States Department of Health & Human Services THE 2015 HHS POVERTY GUIDELINES
Looking fora job? Check out USA Jobs