Get Off the Couch, Get Yourself a Job

Ellen Gordon Reeves flew across the county, from New York to Los Angeles, to make sure you get a job.

Reeves lectured on how to sell yourself to prospective employers last Thurs., Oct. 29, at the Santa Monica Main Library. She advised on topics from shopping for new clothes to preparing resumes and negotiating salaries. She is the author of the how-to book, "Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?" and has taught in the U.S. and in France. She has her Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was the education editor at The New Press publishing house for 15 years.

About 20 job seekers showed up: some retired, some students, some looking for part-time work and some recently laid-off.

Reeves advocates using the library for job hunting. "Research is a huge process of the job interview," Reeves said. She cited career counseling, computers, databases and periodicals as excellent sources for staying current with the job market.  

The experiences of the attending job seekers varied greatly.  Some of the backgrounds of the audience members included being a cupcake baker, a cemetery heavy-machines laborer, a mechanical engineer who does home repairs, an animator, an investment company employee, a rare coins collector, and accountant and a freelance writer. Reeves made a point of saying that "loose ties," people who are around you but whom you don't really know, are the best sources for job seekers. Proving her point, approximately four job connections were made that evening between attendees who had friends or relatives who worked in an industry and attendees who wanted to be working in those industries.  

Reeves shared her list of dos and don'ts:

Keep your resume to one page: Leave out your GPA and extraneous wording like, "Lists of Accomplishments," "Employment Objectives," and "References Available Upon Request." Your resume is your list of accomplishments and if they want references, they will call you and ask for them. Also, the interview shouldn't be about you, it should be about what you can do for your employer. Your resume should reflect that.   

Don't have just one resume: Tailor each resume to the job you are applying to. For instance, your resume for Urban Outfitters should have a different focus and listed experiences than your resume to intern at a brokerage firm.  

Temping is a great way to get your foot in the door: Once you are inside the company, you are one step ahead of the competition. You will learn the names of your future go-to people, learn about their hiring system and recognize what it takes to work there. Ask your temping agency if they have positions in the industry you're interested in and once you get inside the company, network and get noticed.  

There has never been a better time to be laid off, says Reeves, because you are not alone. If you tell your interviewer that you were laid off, chances are that they will consider it a consequence of the poor economy and not judge your character.

Stop looking for a job and start looking for a person: Reeves says that most people are hired because of who they know, not what they know. Instead of sending your resume into the black hole of cyberspace via a generic job hosting service, network and get to know someone in the industry who can personally pass your resume along to the HR office.

Don't raise red flags to employers: Sure, you're nervous. Maybe your self-esteem is low from getting laid off or you have no job experience to boast of, but do not announce anything that will make you look weak or will have potential employers feeling sorry for you. They want a bulldog, not a Chihuahua (sorry, Paris).

Laid off? Me, too! There has never been a better time to be laid off, says Reeves, because you are not alone. If you tell your interviewer that you were laid off, chances are that they will consider it a consequence of the poor economy and not judge your character. Just don't reveal too much (as one audience member did) by saying, "I was the only one in my whole department to be let go."  If you must explain, keep it brief.   

Present your best self: Your shirt should not be wrinkled. There should be no coffee stains on your resume and women should avoid showy high-heels or anything clubbing-worthy. You want to be taken seriously, so show your employer that you have an attention to detail and a respect for professional appearances.  

Get out! Even if you are jobless and depressed, do not lounge on the couch, eating from a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream while cruising "Lost" reruns. Not only will you not feel better, but you won't have interesting things to share with potential employers when you do get an interview.  

Go to your local café, attend a library lecture or stroll the farmer's market, anything to get you out of the house and be social. Reeves says that she was able to get air time on Sirius Satellite Radio because she began chatting with a woman in a Loehmans New York dressing room. The woman turned out to work for Sirius XM, found Reeve's work compelling and asked her to be a guest on one of the shows.  

"I met someone naked in a dressing room," says Reeves, noting that an unexpected meeting can often be your ticket to a dream job. "Get out of the house!"