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Evaluating Your Career

Maybe you're reevaluating your job title or position. Or you could be reentering the market after several years out. Or yperhaps you're looking to relocate or switch to a new company. Your experience and knowledge can help you effectively compete for desirable positions. However, unique challenges can occur with any experience leve, and it is important to gain a reasonable perspective within the current market

Considering your experience, possibly with decades at the same location, it is important to recognize the breadth and diversity of your talents and contributions. Don't apply for just any position, but don't view yourself as too specialized either. Take a moment to consider the following before applying

  • What is your professional occupation? What are you known for? If you are choosing to change occupations, decide what you would like to do. (For a bit of inspiration...)
  • What salary do you hope to earn? Again, there are several resources to help you determine what is average; check out and to get started.
  • What are your core competencies? What do you hope to achieve with your work?
  • What is your preferred company or work environment?

Jot down a few of your own ideal-job buzzwords and seek positions and companies with similar ideals. Above all else, remember that you are not a job title, and the right opportunities may exist along unique or previously untraveled paths.

Job hunts aren't exactly what they used to be, and taking a new approach is a to finding the right place for your next dream job.

Try examining sites focused on your particular experience level to find answers to your particular job-search needs

Update Resume

Take a look at your resume. Does it

  • shout out your accomplishments
  • Paint a vivid picture of the strengths (or competencies) for the reader?
  • Above all else, does it make your value to an employer immediately clear?

If not, it could use an upgrade.

The crucial content in your resume lies in both complete and relevant experience. While you likely have a variety of professional experiences, it is necessary to tailor each experiences to the new job you're applying for.


Review the basics. It may have been a few years since your last foray into the professional marketplace, and even the best resumes can be improved by a tip or two.


  • It is crucial to tailor your resume for each position you apply for.
  • Embrace moderation. It often can be tempting to include our entire history in our resumes; yet it can often be better to remove less relevant experience (you might talk about it later in the interview) than to crowd in too much. Focus on the past 15 years or the experience most relevant to the position.
  • Think "Clear and Concise" - Every point should serve to impress the reader and prove why you are the right person for the company.
  • Describe accomplishments, responsibilities, and achievements in a way that suggest they are completed (e.g., "monitored," "managed," "organized"). Start with this list of power words and apply those that relate to your experience.
  • Be mindful to avoid common resume blunders
    • Avoid focusing on your needs: Remember that positions are filled based on competencies of the individual, not specific tasks or responsibilities. Researching the position and the company will help you discover the major competencies the position is looking for - showcase your cpetencies that correspond with their needs.
    • Avoid focusing on responsibilities instead of results: When describing your work at previous positions, discuss brief points of achievement and results rather than outline tasks or duties.

What About a CV?

If you're involved in certain fields (e.g., academia, the law, research) a curriculum vitae (CV) may be required. Many opt to utilize the format of a CV to provide a more detailed and extensive presentation of a professional life (teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, and affiliations may be included).

If you have many years of diverse, substantial experience, it may be handy to have a CV prepared or to bring one to an interview.

Review MSU PREP, the Graduate School career and professional development model for additional information on CV preparation courses and information

CVTips is a great, complete overview on many questions you may have

Or look at for general basics and simple examples of CVs

With all resume and CV submissions, it is necessary to send a cover letter. No matter what, you want to include this document and offer the reader extra details the resume cannot provide. Wiki-how and other general sites have excellent tips, but be sure to check out the Career Links for Everyone page for additional articles and books to assist your writing process. One thing to keep in mind as you compose your cover letter is that this is where you can lay the foundation of why you want to work there and what you know about the company.

Making the Most of Your Network

Social Networking

Social networking, which experienced an explosion in popularity over the past decade, is quickly becoming one of the keys to unlocking and discovering employment opportunities and keeping in touch with colleagues. Just as face-to-face, traditional networking can provide unique connections and information, social networking serves similar functions. The differences (and for many, the benefits) include

  • 24/7 world-wide connection with people and information
  • Opportunities to link and connect with groups and organizations that would be out of reach through traditional networking
  • A large variety of diverse host sites to allow the process to be tailored to your comfort zone and needs.

Networking online is easier than most people think - you don't need to spend or waste a large amount of time to be effective. Ultimately, it becomes a matter of taking a few new steps in the right direction and you'll find the rest often comes rather easily.

For those completely unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of social networking in a professional sphere, take a moment to review some quick, informative resources

Social Media Literacy (for those starting truly from square one)

For insight on what sites are out there, what they are about, and how they can help you, this comprehensive summary should be extremely helpful

And for those already engaged in the realm of social networking, but looking to take new steps into its professional-capacities, see these

And for the real advanced group, make a point to check the score of your online presence! Go to for information on checking your online "score" and learning quick and easy ways to tweak your networking and increase your visibility.

Social Networking: Four Points to Gaining the Most From Your Profile

"As with any tool, it's all in how you use it"

  1. Remember that networking is a symbiotic relationship. You will not gain much from simply hoping that the people in your networks will provide you with resources and opportunity. It is necessary for you to share and contribute as well.
  2. Think about your professional branding: what you want to do, what you're interested in, what your network connections are interested in. Post content and concepts that will attract local professionals interested in the same information. Convey who you are in how you post and interact
  3. Regularly Contribute: The more you contribute, the greater level of visibility (read: opportunity) your profile will have. Update often with interesting and useful content.
  4. Transparency and authenticity: You need to be honest and clear with your posting. You never know what can grab someone's attention, and it would be an awful occurrence to catch a job opportunity with misleading or false information.

Face-to-face Networking

  • Everyone you know could be a potential lead for a new job. Put it out there that you're looking for something new, mention a few of your strongest professional qualities and skills, and keep checking in!
  • Perfect your "elevator speech"
  • Find opportunities and meet-up groups and organizations in the area (this is where social networking can be especially helpful)
  • Be creative! MSU Alum Kevin Donlin (author of "51 Ways to Find a Job Fast - Guaranteed!" and "Guerilla Job Search," with David Perry). His website is very helpful in thinking of creative and practical ways to uncover new job opportunities

Consider your interview skills and tactics, are you prepared to compete with the energy and confidence of professional competitors.

Consider the changes in interviews over the recent shifts in job market and demand

While some choose to relocate, there are often local and untapped options:
Think small. Often people believe that the only way to advance is to "move up" in position, salary, or company size. This is not the case. Incredible opportunities with smaller companies are often not advertised in want ads, internet sites, or other traditional measures. Try cold-calling or simply walking into the places where your skills or expertise may serve well. You never know when you'll meet your next job.

Starting to think about retirement? Here are a couple of resources for you to check into

Financial Planning Tips

Here is one book to help you think through planning for retirement, beyond just the financial aspects: Get a Life: You Don't Need a Million to Retire Well" by Ralph Warner (2004).

Many studies say that staying connected and engaged are some of the best ways to stay healthy post retirement. Here are a few resources for you to consider that you may find helpful

Administration on Aging (202) 619-0724. (Help older people in need.)

The National Retiree Volunteer Coalition (800) 899-0089 ext. 5091 (Work with universities and local governments.)

Senior Corps (800) 424-8867 (Helps seniors find opportunities in their local community.)

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