Cartoonist Charles Schulz, famous for his Peanuts strip, said: "Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use."
But these days to land a job, especially a dream job, requires careful navigation of a tough and competitive terrain – a feat that requires you to use every single one of those gears plus some.
Though Connecticut's unemployment rate is as high as 9 percent, there is job growth in several sectors such as manufacturing (durable goods), professional and business services, educational and health services, and leisure and hospitality, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Regional CPA firms are hiring public accountants with either an auditing or tax background," said Duane Sauer, Division Director, Finance and Accounting at the job placement agency Robert Half International, Hartford. "But given the excess supply of accountants, companies are being very picky right now and are hiring only highly qualified professionals with industry experience, software experience, or in the case of students, GPA scores as high as 3.5."
There are plenty of opportunities for independent work as well. In addition to hiring accountants full-time, Sauer said firms are outsourcing bookkeeping and accounting work. He advises job seekers to scout for potential employers in the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants' annual resource guide.
Sauer said accountants with two-three years experience could expect a starting salary in the range of $55,000 to $75,000 annually. Recent graduates start off at between $40,000 and $55,000 per year.
He advises job seekers to pull out all stops. "Use all resources – job boards, temp agencies, social networking sites," he said. "Students should focus on campus recruitments, internships and networking opportunities."
Professionals associations such as the Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers, Advertising Club of Connecticut, Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Connecticut Nurse Practitioner Group, and Project Management Institute (Southern New England Chapter), offer valuable resources to job seekers. These include mentoring services, networking opportunities and access to job boards.
The importance of being able to market oneself to employers and peers in the industry cannot be over-stated.
Dr. Narasimhan Srinivasan, Professor of Marketing, University of Connecticut, offers some tips. "First of all, show how your skills match with the needs of the employer," he said. "Second, networking is the best way to get a job. Alumni networks are powerful. For example, most Supreme Court clerks are hired from Yale and Harvard law schools, because they share a similar culture and mindset."
"Must-haves" and "Don'ts" in Your Resume
John K. Brubaker, Owner, Professional Resume Plus LLC in West Hartford, said individuals are obligated to put their best foot forward when they're applying for a position they believe is right for them. The first step is to write a strong resume, which helps the candidate land an interview with the company.
He listed the three biggest mistakes applicants make on their resumes.
Wrong length: "My rule of thumb is that if your job pays $75,000 or less a year, you need a one-page resume because of the number of applicants. If you're scaling back or transitioning from one field to another, then you need one page. If the job pays between $75,000 and $125,000, or if you're moving upward in your career, you need two or more pages."
1970's mindset: "Avoid listing job descriptions – it is unnecessary, too boring, and not unique enough. Use the precious space for other information."
Claims without evidence: "For example, don't just claim you have great interpersonal skills but offer nothing to back it up. Be specific."
Brubaker also offered three must-dos.
Write to your audience: "Picture who is reading your resume. For example, a small machine shop has a different environment compared to a large corporation. Reading the advertisement is the best way to do this."
Capture your uniqueness: "Every person has something unique to offer, whether it's a continuous record of success or a great attitude. Use very specific phrasing. For example: An unquenchable thirst for performance excellence. List your strengths in pairs. For example: A unique combination of skills and experience or customer service and operations. Include evidence in other places in the resume."
List achievements: "At least 20 percent of your resume must consist of achievements. It must be strong enough to get you an interview."
So how does one pick a good resume writer? "Ask for samples of work. Getting to know a client is very important – you should feel confident about the person who's writing your resume. It's a personal process," said Brubaker. He pointed out that most professional resume writers offer a free consultation, and fees range from $50 to $700 per resume.
If You're Changing Jobs
Yes, even in this economy, you can leave your job in hopes of finding a better one. That's what Steven Morissette did when he resigned as a financial controller from the Connecticut Lighting Centers in Hartford last December to advance in his career. "It was time to see what else was out there," he said.
But the transition was neither quick nor easy.
"That phrase 'always a bridesmaid, never a bride,' well that was me," Morissette said, referring to the eight long months he spent looking for a suitable position. "I was short-listed for many, many interviews."
This August, he landed his dream job with Inergy Propane in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
Morissette said he couldn't have done it without the support of his wife and having planned ahead financially. "You have to go into this with eyes wide open. Anticipate a good six to eight months (of not receiving a paycheck)," he advises. "You do get discouraged. That's why you need the support of family and close friends. But in the end when things work out, it's all worth it. I'm, very, very happy."
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