Get Paid for Your Work – Negotiating a Freelance Contract

Associate, Dallas, TX
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During a time of unemployment, some individuals make finding a full-time job into their main pursuit. After putting in long hours and hard work, something ultimately comes through and the task is done. Then there are those people who work for themselves. While freelancing allows great latitude and more control over what you do and the time you spend doing it, it also confines you within the realm of constantly seeking out work and renegotiating your terms of employment. There is more job security, as you control your own destiny, so to speak, being your own boss and in charge of seeking out new projects. And yet, there is less security, for there is no way of telling how long that lag between the end of a project and the beginning of a new one will be. Read on for a list of negotiating tips, so that you can ensure you get the most out of your freelancing experience.

Write it Down

First and foremost, whenever you negotiate a contract with an employer, be absolutely sure to put all terms down in writing. If you instead opt to commit to something verbally, you run the risk of having an employer change the terms on you, or conveniently remembering them in a different way. Write it down, and should troubles arise, you can take your documents to a third party and settle the problem accordingly.

Agree to a Price Upfront

When you discuss project details with an employer, it’s important to discuss compensation at the outset. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through the job to bring it up – by that point you might already be too embroiled in the work to easily get out of it if an employer refuses to compensate you properly. And never, under any circumstances, hand over work without first agreeing on the value of your efforts. If you turn over your work without first setting a price, you turn over all power.

Set a Date

Negotiate a date on which you will be paid in full – and write this down in the original contract. That way, you hold an employer accountable, and if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, you can pursue the next necessary course of action. If you don’t set a date, you give the employer the opportunity to continue pushing off payment later and later, which keeps you in a state of limbo and prolongs an already unhealthy business relationship.

Procure a Retainer Fee

After you have set a price and a pay date, require that your employer pay you a retainer fee. This is an amount of money that an employer pays you upfront in order to secure your services. Even once you draw up a contract with an employer, you can still run into a tricky situation at the end of your business relationship: your employer may claim that you did not live up to the terms of your end of the bargain, or may lack the finances to pay out to you in the end. A retainer fee ensures that you do see at least some of the money for your work, regardless of your employer’s funds or their opinion on the quality of your work.

Understand the Time Commitment

It’s important to have as thorough understanding of the project as possible, at least to a point where you know how much time you will be spending on it. Why? Several reasons. Some people may wish to negotiate pay based on an hourly rate. If you originally underestimate how much time a project will take you, it may be difficult to go back and convince your employer of the time that the work actually took, and of how much you truly deserve to be paid. It’s also imperative to know how much time you need to devote to the project so that you manage your time well. Getting the work in on time is built into your part of the contract, and failure to do so may delay or nullify payment. Finally, understanding time constraints can be helpful so that you can convey this information to the employer. If you establish exactly how long you will be spending on a project with an employer beforehand, you can avoid having them demand superfluous work or hours from you throughout the process.

Understand the Project

A nice segue from the discussion on time commitment, you must understand the project you are undertaking, and so should your employer. If you are asked to complete one thing, make sure that this is the thing that you deliver in the end. This will help keep you on track, as well as lessen the likelihood that an employer will claim that you did not provide the work you were supposed to, thus ensuring that you don’t run into unnecessary issues when it comes to getting your paycheck.

Freelancing can be tricky – more often than not, you don’t have someone else advocating on your behalf, and there are many uncertainties that you run into working for a new employer every few days, weeks, or months. But freelancing can also be a lot of fun. Who doesn’t like being their own boss and changing the scenery every now and then? Just follow these simple guidelines and enjoy the ride!

Until next time,
The Doostang Team

Improve Your Image to Increase Your Income

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC –

Equity Analyst, New York, NY
Resource Manager, Nationwide, US
Investment Analyst, Boston, MA
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Being unemployed, under-employed, or under-paid may happen at any time. Several strategies can be effective in increasing your income, regardless of how fully employed you may be.  Savvy approaches to get your skills noticed aren’t just for the unemployed.  If you are dissatisfied with your employment situation, try these methods to improve your bottom line!

1.  Make your accomplishments visible.

Use the corporate structure in place at your organization to ensure that your contributions are recognized by the right people.  For example, almost everyone serves on committees of one kind or another and the purpose of a committee is to accomplish certain goals deemed important by the company.  Volunteer to take on additional responsibilities as part of a subcommittee and clarify everyone’s tasks for inclusion in the minutes. The documentation you have just created is typically circulated throughout the organization, so you don’t have to highlight your own contributions. The corporate structure has taken care of announcing your accomplishments for you. Follow up after the task is completed to close the documentation loop with your contribution clearly recorded. This type of strategy works equally well with non-profit Boards and community groups.

2. Make yourself valuable.

Contributions outlined above will also make you valuable to the organization. Most companies offer many opportunities to extend your value, such as special projects, community involvement, or employee morale-boosting events. Being valuable doesn’t mean compromising yourself.  Select an activity that is consistent with your own values or interests and your value will be multiplied by your enthusiasm for the project.

Be certain you are central to the corporate mission.  It is easy to lose sight of your value if you have been under-valued in this serious economic downturn. Don’t allow a negative job climate to erode your confidence.

3.  Make yourself viable (as a candidate).

Qualify for special projects and new positions within an organization as well as for an entirely new position by presenting yourself as a viable candidate. Basic credentials form the foundation of a solid applicant, however key aspects include skills and characteristics that set you apart from the competition. Enthusiasm is one example, but also consider areas of additional training. Broadcast the unique work history that qualifies you for the position, project, or negotiation.

4.  Be a Team Player.

A “can-do” attitude and quiet acceptance of responsibility will be noticed.  What is your work ethic?  In other words, if your work is caught up, do you kick back or look for areas to jump in?  The latter is highly valued in most organizations. Say, there’s a major direct-mail campaign that everyone is discussing, but it’s in another department. Walk over and offer to help out.  Even if you feel the task is menial, the work has to be done – that is the sign of a hands-on manager, a role that is typically valued.

5.  Learn a New Skill or Language

It is the time of year for Adult Education catalogs to start arriving in the mailbox. The programs offered are often not as trivial as one might think.  Adult Education has progressed far beyond ballroom dancing and ethnic cuisine. Think critically for a moment about the competition – peers at your current job or other candidates.  How many actually have second language skills or specialized technology training? These are two common offerings in most community education programs, so begin using a few evenings to develop skills that set you apart from others.

6.  Tune in to Market Perception of the Company.

Hear some less-than-positive reports from customers or the competition?  Let the boss know.  Granted he or she may already be clued in, but this behavior speaks volumes about your loyalty and business acumen. If the boss already knows of the bad news, you have still distinguished yourself by identifying trends and putting the well-being of the division and company first.

Build on this basic list to polish your image. Everyone has had experiences with poorly performing staff members, as peers or subordinates. At the other end of the spectrum, there are also examples of outstanding employees.  Typical characteristics include ingenuity, good work ethic, and pleasant demeanor.  Consider what is valued in your own industry, and project the image of the type of person you would like working for you! Highlighting unique qualities can increase your value, visibility, and personal bottom line.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Doostang News December 27: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Job Search

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The New Year signifies a shot at a New You – a chance to hit the reset button, so to speak, and realign yourself in a direction that leads to better health, more exercise, or greater knowledge.  The problem is, junk food tastes so much better than Brussels sprouts, you don’t have the time to keep up with all the daily news sources and stay on top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and that one-year gym membership loses its shine in February.  It can be hard to stay on top of your goals, but if you make the effort when it comes to your job search, it really will pay off.  Moreover, if you set short-term, concrete milestones for yourself, you’ll be more likely to stick it out.  Here are some ideas:

  • Resolve to build out your professional network.  Hold yourself accountable and vow to meet a certain number of people – say, two – per week.  You could also decide that you will attend one to two networking events per month.  Picking a number and sticking to it is important, and it’s also a helpful way to track the people you meet and when you met them.
  • Promise to yourself that you’re going to really make your job search a full time job, and set a goal for yourself as to how many jobs you will apply to each week.  If it helps to break it down to a specific number of jobs per day, do that; just make sure you set a goal and don’t fall below it.
  • Decide to have a happier, healthier year by taking up a hobby or volunteering.  It’s hard to sit in front of a computer all day and search for a job, so commit yourself to an activity or join a group that meets once a week, and make it a part of your routine.  It’s important to get out and remain social, so that you don’t get too worn out by your job search and lose steam.
  • Commit yourself to learning a new skill or subject matter.  Use your free time to broaden your mind, and consider taking up something that will allow you to bring more to the table at a new job, so that you can become a more attractive candidate to hiring managers. Were you always hoping to one day learn Spanish or HTML? Now is the time to do it.
  • If 2010 was a rough year for you as far as job search goes, consider seeking the aid of professional services that will look over your resume or coach you on how to perform in an interview.  Perhaps this is something to add to your holiday wish list for those who have no idea what to get you.
  • Make a resolution to build your online presence and leverage social media channels to get a job.  Sign up for various social and professional networking sites, and craft an image that you want employers to see.  Consider starting a blog that serves as an online portfolio of work or as a further networking tool, and make sure that you update it once a week.
  • Perhaps the most important resolution is to find a way to stay positive, even though you may be feeling anxious about not having a job.  A positive person will be more productive, will exude enthusiasm and confidence to hiring managers, and will be more likely to land a job that they enjoy.  Do what you can to keep your head up, whether it’s yoga, a weekly movie night, time with your kids, or anything else that relaxes you and keeps you happy.

Staying on top of New Year’s resolutions isn’t always easy; but if you really think them through, establish small milestones for yourself, and follow a set course, you’ll effectively end up where you want to be!

Happy New Year,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News November 22: What Are You Thankful For? Finding the Silver Lining in an Unsatisfactory Job or Unemployment

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It’s that time of the year when we take pause to reflect on all that we are grateful for in our lives – our health, families, good friends, homes… Even if there are things that aren’t going perfectly at the moment, we can take comfort in what we do have, and determine a course of action in order to obtain the things we want. Perhaps now is a good time to do the same for our professional lives, pinpointing where we are and where we want to be. Here are some points to consider, whether you have a job that you are unhappy with, or are currently unemployed and job searching.

What is working for you?

Broadly speaking, what are you grateful for in your current position? All negatives aside, what is it that keeps you showing up at the office each morning? Do you get paid well to do something you’re good at? Do you enjoy the people around you? Is this a necessary stepping-stone to where you envision yourself in the future? There must be something positive you can draw on, and understanding what that is will help you determine what is important to you in a job.

If you don’t have a job, think about the last time you did, or about a situation where you had a big project that you were working on. What worked for you and what didn’t? What environment was most conducive to success, and who were the key players that you were able to best collaborate with? Once you start putting together a list of the things that are most important to you in a job and a job setting, you’ll be closer to determining your ideal career.

What are you learning?

Even if finding something that you can be grateful for in your job is a huge stretch, at least you can be grateful for the fact that you are learning something. Perhaps you’re honing skills or gathering knowledge that you can take with you to your next position. Or maybe this simply means that you are learning how to better put up with people that you can’t stand to be around, or strengthening your will by clocking into a position that you abhor day in and day out. Even if you’re unhappy with where you are, there is always a way in which you are improving who you are as a professional or as an individual – or both.

If you’re frustrated with your job search, be grateful for the tenacity it takes to get up each day and hunt for your next opportunity. Perhaps you’re meeting new and interesting people in your efforts to network, or learning about opportunities you never knew existed, and hence getting a better grasp on what sort of position you’d like to pursue. What are you learning about yourself, as you work to hold yourself accountable each and every day?

Working at a job that you are unhappy with, or feeling unhappy about your current lack of a job, can be a trying experience. But be thankful for your ability to rise to the challenge and keep moving forward, despite apparent lack of morale – indeed, it takes a considerable amount of morale to commit yourself to anything. If you’re dissatisfied, figure out why, and what needs to change. If you feel stuck, experiment and determine what works and what doesn’t. Even the best opportunities will be rife with roadblocks, and your ability to handle these will really determine where you’re capable of going.

Thankfully yours,

The Doostang Team

Hot Career Tips for the Unemployed

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC –

Research Analyst, New York, NY
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If you are presently unemployed, your days are likely spent scouring job postings, emailing prospective employers and submitting your resume to online websites. Even the most dedicated jobseekers, however, probably have too much idle time on their hands. With no set hours or routine, it could be very tempting to get lazy.

Before you resort to sleeping into early afternoon or reaching for the remote control, there are several ways to make productive use of this time.

Here are just a few suggestions as to how you can maximize downtime that will not only keep you active, but will make you a more attractive job candidate:

Perform charity work where you can utilize your professional skills.

There are dozens of ways you can contribute work-related talents for the betterment of your community. Signing up for a volunteer post within an established organization is only one option. If you get creative, you can carve out your own niche.

For example, if you are a marketing professional, find out if your favorite charity needs help launching their latest awareness campaign. A teacher can look into helping a local literacy organization. A sales professional can help an organization find donors and raise money. A technology professional can assist with a nearby school’s computer upgrade.

Such activities not only enhance self-worth by aiding a worthwhile cause, but they also enrich your qualifications and demonstrate to an employer that you are keeping your skills sharp while unemployed. You’ll likely make valuable contacts as well. You never know who you will meet! It could just be the person volunteering next to you is looking for someone with your qualifications or knows of a position opening up in the office next door.

Accept a temporary or consulting gig.

With unemployment at the highest it has been in more than two decades, it could take a little longer to land that dream job. Broadening the scope of positions you are willing to consider may mean you have to make some compromises. If you are adamant about accepting only a full-time job, you could be inadvertently doing yourself a disservice.

If you impress an employer during the course of a temporary assignment, it could lead to bigger and better things. After all, what better way is there to convince a boss what you are capable of than actually showing them? The best case scenario is that you are offered a full-time position and your search is complete.

The flip side isn’t so bad, either. Even if it comes to an end, a temporary position will help you earn some money, make some contacts, and provide an additional credential to include on your resume. That will help fill in the dreaded employment gap while showing employers your skills are not getting rusty.

Take a course related to your field.

Whether it’s a college course for credits or a one-day seminar, enhancing your education sends an excellent message to anyone in position to hire you. It exhibits your desire to keep your skills current and shows you are using your time wisely.

To make the most of this benefit, be sure to enroll in something related to your work. Though taking a course for personal enrichment can be rewarding, it simply won’t carry as much weight as something relevant to your field. For example, a partner in an accounting firm will be more impressed with a candidate who learned about the latest tax codes than one who took a photography course.

If you participate in any of these activities, don’t forget to update your resume and cover letter to let employers know. Finally, remember that while these activities will keep you busy, don’t neglect your job search. Job hunting should always be considered your number one “job” while you are unemployed.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

The Best Resume for a Bad Economy

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

M&A Analyst, New York, NY
Business Associate, Palo Alto, CA
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With unemployment at its highest level in more than 25 years, many professionals are out of work for the first time in their careers. Things may look bleak, but for those worrying they will have to go from earning six figures to minimum wage, take heart. Though no one wants to settle for a job that is far below one’s worth, there is good news.

There are some creative strategies a job seeker may consider that will not adversely impact his or her long-term career outlook. In fact, just a few small strategic changes to your resume can instantly increase your job-hunting prospects even in these rough economic times.

Broaden Your Scope

You may have spent your entire career in one industry, but it may be time to also look around for positions in related fields. If you not are willing to settle for anything less than your dream job, go for it — but be willing to wait. For most, especially those already out of work, finding a job as soon as possible is important. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must settle or take a step down. All that’s required is an open mind to consider a comprehensive range of lateral possibilities.

For example, a human resources professional who specializes in recruitment may now branch out into related functions such as employee relations, benefits administration or even generalist positions. A laid-off newspaper copy editor could move away from the struggling newspaper industry and apply his or her skills for technical writing or public relations roles. A real estate sales representative can look into sales positions for other industries by emphasizing his or her transferable skills.

To compete with others who may have had more direct experience, you can level the playing field by highlighting valuable transferable skills on your resume rather than focusing just on specialized experience.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Titles

Instead of seeking out positions based on job title, it may be time to adjust your strategy or you risk limiting your prospects. Concentrate on job descriptions rather than titles. This doesn’t only apply when looking through postings, but also when it comes to branding yourself correctly on a resume.

Rather than listing a very specific job title as your objective, indicate something more general. A more general objective will broaden your appeal to recruiters and hiring managers weeding through resumes.

Don’t Fall Into The Overqualified Pile

You may have far more experience for a position than required, but you still want to be considered for the role. Downplaying your achievements is never advisable, but if you are a job seeker with “too much” experience, simply avoid going back too far on your resume. After all, highlighting accomplishments from 1976 will usually not help you anyway since it is from so long ago. Employers are most interested in your recent experience.

As a bonus, you will avoid another pitfall in the process. Discrimination of any kind is, of course, illegal, but unfortunately, it does happen. As a general rule, there is usually no compelling reason to go beyond 20 years on your resume.

Don’t Agonize Over Employment Gaps

It wasn’t too long ago when a resume reflecting any gaps in employment was taboo. It was thought to raise glaring red flags, implying something amiss in your job history. In a robust economy, it’s understandable for an employer to question why a jobseeker didn’t work for a long stretch of time. But in times like these, an abundance of well-qualified people are out of work through no fault of their own. It is simply reflective of our times.

That’s why there’s really no reason to be overly concerned about gaps in a resume — within reason. If you haven’t worked for six months, it doesn’t really require an explanation these days. If you’ve been out of work three years, that’s a different story. In such cases, it’s usually best to tactfully indicate the reason right on the resume to prevent an employer from speculating.

Minimize “Job Hopping”

In tough economic times, many jobseekers accept temporary assignments or perform consulting work as they search for permanent positions. Such experience is valuable because it not only helps pay the bills, but also demonstrates a strong work ethic and shows you are keeping your skills sharp. However, listing a series of several jobs over a short period of time on your resume could project an inaccurate image of a job hopper to an employer who is just giving your resume a preliminary glance. The best way to present this on your resume is to group consulting work together so you showcase your contributions without giving it too much valuable space, adversely impacting your overall presentation.

There’s little we can do to change the economy, but with the right strategy, your resume can help show your true worth — even in today’s tough job market.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Be a Big Fish in an Overcrowded Pond

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Analyst, New York, NY
Marketing Director, Mid Atlantic States
Investment Banking / Private Equity Analyst, New York, NY
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How do you stand out as a great candidate in a sea of unemployed applicants competing against you? A hiring manager recently told us “I need to fill three key positions at the plant. These jobs are posted and right now with the unemployment rate being so high, I’ve been getting 200-300 resumes per position. It would be ideal if I can find candidates through word-of-mouth.” The large crowd of candidates is not just a problem for you the job seeker, but also for the hiring manager. Hiring managers often look first to word of mouth referrals to find good candidates, save time, and make a better hire.

Having a network contact pass on your resume automatically makes you a big fish in the pond. The hiring manager above would pay closer attention to the resume of a candidate referred to him than he would to the 200 resumes dropped into the database from the job advertisement. Hiring is still a people-centric action. People hire people. Computers don’t hire people.

Technology can make it easier but it can also make it more difficult. It is important to make sure your job search is multi-faceted and includes not only responding to online ads but networking, cold submissions, targeted marketing, and recruiter contacts. Big fish work harder than little fish to make themselves stand out in the crowd. Successful candidates have a great resume, a cover letter that grabs the reader, and a plan to use those tools aggressively to gain attention. Are you a big fish or are you a minnow? Minnows sit back and wait for something to happen. Big fish go after things aggressively and proactively!

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Doostang News June 28: Dealing with Rejection – What to Do when You Don’t Get the Job

Investment Analyst, New York, NY
Consulting Analyst, Boston, MA
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Combing through online job boards, sending emails, setting up meetings, dressing the part, and following up all take a lot of focus and can feel exhausting, quite frankly.  But the real sting comes when you’ve gone through the entire process, maybe made it through several rounds of interviews, and then you’re told that the company decided to go with someone else.  Now, it’s easy to check out.  Maybe you’ll send a quick one-liner to the hiring manager or won’t reply at all.  What’s the point anyway?  There is a point actually, and it’s that it is important to keep all of your current and possible work relationships as friendly and open as possible.  Here are a few important reminders, when faced with rejection:

Say Thank You

We cannot stress it enough – it is so important to say thank you every time you interact with someone in the job-hunting process.  And while you didn’t get what you wanted in the end, you must still show gratitude when you are not the one chosen for the job.  Think about it:  the hiring manager probably spent long hours reviewing applicants, making phone calls, and setting up interviews.  The fact that they considered you in the first place, let alone took the process far enough to actually meet with you, shows that they saw something in you.  So reach out to this person like they reached out to you originally.  Ultimately, you want to leave a sweet taste in their mouth so that they will consider you in the future.

Show an Interest in Future Positions

Another thing you can – and should  – do is to flat out ask to be considered for positions that might come up.  This will convey your interest in the company and show that you are eager for further opportunities.  If you make it clear that the position you were just turned down from is not the only position you are willing to consider, the hiring manager will know right where to go when other jobs open up.

Wish them Luck

Make sure to wish the hiring manager the best of luck.  It shows that you are above any hard feelings, and genuinely care about the company – which, after all, is something hiring managers look for in potential candidates.  It gives your final correspondence a confident note and lets you leave on even terms.

There’s no point in being rude or petty when someone turns you down.  After all, you never know when you may encounter them again, so it’s imperative to retain your composure and act as if you were still in the running for the job.  Stay gracious, and you will go far!

Better luck next time,

The Doostang Team

Fear Will Cripple Your Job Search

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Investment Banking Analyst, New York, NY
Consultant, Greenwich, CT
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A self-defense instructor talked to his class about the vital need to keep panic at bay. “Panic,” he explained, “Makes you freeze mentally. If you stop thinking, you’re dead”. The same can be true when you suddenly find yourself unemployed in a world of high unemployment. Panic can set in. Panic at unemployment has the same effect as panic in response to a personal attack. It can make you stop thinking and if you stop thinking, you significantly limit your job search options.

Andy is a 50-something industrial engineer. He’s never, ever had to look for a job. Jobs always found him through word-of-mouth or due to his great reputation in his industry. That changed last month when Andy’s latest project was cut due to lack of funding and he suddenly found himself without a job and no fresh prospects. With a mortgage and a daughter in college, Andy panicked. He was in uncharted territory and he didn’t know what to do.

Job search had changed dramatically since the last time Andy had put together a resume. Resumes aren’t mailed or faxed anymore and now he had to consider something called applicant tracking systems. He wasn’t just competing against other engineers in his state or region but with engineers from India, Japan, and China. His professional identity was on the line and he suddenly felt all his hard work over the years was worthless.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the new “normal”. It’s scary and it’s not pretty, but your response shouldn’t be panic. The correct reaction should be a concentrated effort on education, connection, and marketing. Just like the self-defense instructor noted, “If you stop thinking, you’re dead.” In job search, if you panic and stop thinking, you will find yourself making no progress toward reemployment.

The first thing Andy needed to do was get educated. He had no familiarity with modern job search techniques or the conditions of the market. He knew “things were rough” but the reality of the fight he faced was a surprise. Understanding what you are facing goes a long way toward killing the fear of the unknown. Andy needed to get with a career support professional to discuss his situation, find out the dynamics of the market, and learn about the different tactics available to him for finding his next job. He was far behind the learning curve because he had not had to job search in years and years.

Next, Andy needed to connect with his network. His long tenure in his industry gave him a huge advantage over more inexperienced competitors because he had connections and tentacles that reached deep and wide. Andy knew a lot of people, and many were in key positions to make things happen for him. He had kept this network fairly warm over the years, too, since he had been constantly working within the industry. To get things moving in his job search, Andy had to get busy reaching out to people to start searching out opportunities.

Employers are always looking for the most efficient way to hire. The entire Internet job search phenomenon was built on finding more efficient ways to find, screen, and hire candidates for jobs. In a market flooded with well-qualified, available candidates, electronic applicant tracking systems are blowing fuses trying to keep up with the influx of new resumes. With all the candidates rushing to the front door, Andy needed to come through the service entrance in order to get in front of decision-makers. That meant networking and talking to his connections. People hire people. Applicant tracking systems don’t hire people. They just sift through the masses. Andy needed face time and he had a network that could offer that to him.

Andy had never had to conduct a formal job search so the concept of marketing his career was especially foreign to him. Andy needed guidance on what to do. The career support professional he worked with helped him see that his career is an entity – a little mini-business – that has to be marketed to prospective buyers (employers). To accomplish that, Andy needed a marketing plan and the collateral materials to help him establish a profile. Andy worked with his career support professional to build a resume, cover letter, and all the other marketing materials he needed to conduct a top-shelf self-marketing campaign.

Once armed with knowledge, a support system, and the right marketing materials, Andy was no longer terrified. He was a man of action – one who had a plan of attack. He was putting that “fight or flight” impulse for survival to positive use and fighting to get his next job. It would have been very easy for Andy to become a deer in the headlights. Panic will cause you to freeze. Fear will cause you to strike out blindly in defense. Knowledge will give you direction, and support will give you the tools you need to overcome your challenges and win out in the end. Understanding the situation and having a plan will banish fear and help you make progress toward getting out of the pit of unemployment.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Doostang News May 10: Skill Building – Taking Advantage of the Time Between Jobs

building-skills-while-unemployedJunior Trader, New York, NY
Consultant, Boston, MA
MBA Intern, San Francisco, CA
Business Analyst, Chicago, IL
Sr Private Equity Executive, Geneva, Switzerland

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One of the greatest upsides of unemployment is all the free time you have on your hands. And while it’s tempting to use this opportunity to catch up on sitcoms and indulge in the late afternoon nap, it’s a better use of your time to learn some new skills that will make you a stronger candidate in the job market and a more valuable employee. So here’s a list of a few skills to focus on while you still have room for self-improvement in your schedule:

Learn How to Use Different Operating Systems

Sure, it seems like things generally remain the same from one computer to the next. But once you’re thrown onto a different operating system than the one you’re used to, you’ll find lots of minute differences that can really trip you up along the way. So in order to build your resume – and for the sake of the future IT guy’s sanity – take some time to familiarize yourself with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Stay In the Know

It’s easy to fall behind on current events when you’re busy working a full day. So savor the time you have off and familiarize yourself with the world around you. It’s wise to stay current on world events because you never know when they will come up in discussion. Knowledge of current events provides you with great talking points and may aid in making important decisions at work. More than this, it’s important for the unemployed individual to stay current on industry news. This is the stuff that will most definitely come up in interviews, so you really don’t want to miss the boat here while you’re sidelined for a few months.

Work on Body Language

Learning how to maintain eye contact, provide a solid handshake, and abstain from fidgeting during a conversation will help you just as much in your everyday life as it will in your job search. Work on your body language now and it will become second nature to you over time, and hence, one less thing you have to focus on when you walk into an interview.

Get Up on Time

Another joy of unemployment is the pleasure of sleeping in – but this is a treat that you should indulge in sparingly, as oversleeping can be a slippery slope. So instead, train yourself to get up early in the morning. Once you’ve mastered this, try scaling back on the number of times you hit the snooze button. When you stop dreading the whole morning wake-up routine, you’ll start your day off on a much better foot and will be more productive overall.

Grow Existing Relationships

It’s one thing to network like crazy while you’re searching for a job or already have one. It’s another to spend time building those relationships. And since you have the time, make it a point to get to know people from both personal and business walks of life. Not only will you have an array of valuable relationships in the long run, you’re also bound to hone your people skills and become much better at networking.

When you don’t have a place to be Monday through Friday, it’s enticing to while away the days playing Xbox or basking in the sun. And while here at Doostang we are by no means encouraging you to turn in your controller and lawn chair, we do suggest that you devote some time to sharpening the skills that you can carry with you wherever you may go.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team