Recently, President Obama spoke about finding more jobs for Americans. He vowed, "I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them." I'm in the business of finding people jobs, so I listened with rapt attention. Admittedly, the unemployment rate is 9.1%. Still, on the last business day of July, there were 3.2 million job openings! What does that mean? It means there are jobs, you just have to apply for them and be driven enough to expend a little extra effort for that job. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (8.9 percent), adult women (8.0 percent), teenagers (25.4 percent), whites (8.0 percent), blacks (16.7 percent), and Hispanics (11.3 percent) showed little or no change in August. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As the President was speaking, I couldn't help wondering what I would do if I were unemployed. Would I have the drive to attend to all the little details that can give you that edge when you step into an interview? I thought about some of the recent graduates I'd seen the day before at a career conference. Honestly, I was appalled. Some of these college graduates looked very professional, and if I were a recruiter I'd have hired them. But so many more were just slovenly, unkempt, and completely unprofessional. I couldn't believe they didn't grasp the importance of a neat and polished appearance! I have some advice for the (no doubt) high achievers who just didn't bother to check the mirror before they left home.
First, flip flops under your dress or pantsuit is noticeable. If your feet hurt or you don't feel like walking in your heels or flats, then wear your flip flops outside and discreetly change before you get inside the career fair. Because we are noticing your feet, not just your handshake, grade point average, or resume! Okay, maybe the parade of flip flops was because I was in Southern California, but I don't care if you're interviewing on an island in the Pacific--no flip flops!
And then there were you ladies who clearly believe that "professional" means throwing a jacket over a cocktail dress. You need to know that even with a jacket, I can still see the sparkles on your dress. And just as there's no crying in baseball (did you see A League of Their Own?), there are no sparkles at work. Never! Please. And the truth is, a cocktail dress is always too short, even with pantyhose. So just bite the bullet and buy yourself a simple sheath dress that hits below the knee in a solid color. You can wear it to every interview, and since it's plain, you can change it up with different jackets or belts, and you'll get lots of different looks out of one dress. And people won't wonder if you ever made it home last night.
Now, whatever you do, do NOT wear your evening shoes instead of business shoes. What? You've never heard of women's business shoes? Look, I can tell a person's maturity level by the height of her heel or the style of her platform. Even if you're on a budget, there are many places to buy inexpensive shoes that you can save just for interviewing or work. You'd be wise to invest in a pair or two. Check out T.J.Maxx, Marshall's, or Payless ShoeSource for some great deals on stylish shoes. Recently we published an article that may help you--Professional Business Attire: Invest in your Image. One of the things the article points out is that makeup should be light and natural, and not your dramatic evening shadow. First impressions are everything!
And okay, here's a very important piece of advice. I'm just going to say it and move on: The worst place to find a significant other is at a career fair, where people are looking for jobs and not companionship. Dress to impress your future employer, not the opposite sex. You'll have more luck and get more respect with a conservative look than a sexy one. Recruiters notice everything.
Finally, it's not just how you look that makes an impression. It's also your resume, which represents you when you're not there to speak for yourself. I've noticed that people are still making typos and spelling errors on their resumes. I saw one recruiter actually circle the spelling error and tell the applicant that it would need to be changed before she'd give the resume consideration, and she advised the applicant not to give out the resume until it was changed. That's how jarring a typo can be--it can stop the application process, cold. So understand, it does matter.
In this frustrating job market, please know that there are jobs out there. I see companies who are actively seeking diverse candidates--look at Cummins, TSA, Freddie Mac, U.S. Secret Service and Wal-Mart, just to name a few. For a current list of companies currently recruiting, go to www.hnmagazine.com
And remember these, my basic "get real, get a job" tips:
1. Get a new job and get over your unemployment check.
2. Do the research on the jobs you want.
3. Match the employer's needs with your qualifications.
4. Be flexible in everything, from rate of pay to job duties. It's okay to start at the bottom!
5. Be persistent.
6. Maintain good eye contact when you're talking to recruiters.
7. Have a good firm handshake.
9. Display a good attitude, even if you have to fake it.
10. Find a mentor. You'd be surprised how willing other people are to help usher in the new generation.
11. Follow up. Don't figure you didn't get the job just because they didn't contact you. Call them back, and check in on a regular basis until they tell you definitively to go away.
12. Attend a career fair. Attend them all.
13. Join an organization, one that puts you in contact with people doing what you want to do.
14. Watch what you release on your social media sites as public information. Make sure you have a good online reputation, because employers and recruiters do check them.
15. Join LinkedIn. And connect to everybody you can.
Don't let your appearance or a typo keep you from getting the job of your dreams. Make that extra effort to present yourself in the best possible light, from your makeup to your resume to your shoes. Do your homework, invest in the right clothes, and do everything you can to position yourself to meet the people you want to work with. And whatever you do, leave your flip flops at the door!