- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

The Washington area's economy has been hit hard, from troubled giants such as WorldCom to small start-ups that ran out of money.

With thousands of people recently laid off, competition for jobs is heavy. That is why it is important to get creative when it comes to resume writing and job hunting.

Here's some advice from job seekers and career counselors:

•Absolutely post your resume on an online career board, such as Careerbuilder.com or Monster.com. But remember, thousands of other people are doing the same thing.

To make a resume stand out online, post several versions of it, says Dawn Haden, senior career adviser for Careerbuilder.com. Her site allows prospective employees to post five versions of their resume.

"In today's market, you may need several versions to target different areas with different keywords," Ms. Haden says. "You may need to look outside of your areas of expertise. This is a longer process than it was a year ago. I would say 18 months ago it might have taken three or four weeks to find a new job. Now you can substitute months for weeks."

The best resumes "focus on telling their corporate story" concisely, she says.

"Be specific and concrete," Ms. Haden says. "Use adjectives that paint the whole picture. Many people forget that the person reading the resume does not know your whole story."

Still, don't take too long to tell that story. Keep resumes to no longer than two pages, unless you are looking at a CEO-level job, she says.

It is very important to tell the truth as many companies will do a personal background check, Ms. Haden says. If you were laid off, there is no shame in mentioning the restructuring, she says.

"You are not alone," Ms. Haden says. "There are a lot of great candidates in the same boat."

Competition on online job sites has been extremely stiff, says Alan Carter, a pseudonym for a Northern Virginia man who was laid off from a high-tech job in June. He signed a confidentiality agreement with his employer upon taking his severance package.

"You have to be a perfect fit," Mr. Carter says. "Or else it is largely a waste of time. People spend forever posting resumes and get no responses."

Even in person, the job market is tough these days. A recent high-tech job fair at Northern Virginia Community College attracted 2,000 job-seekers more than double what sponsors such as Virginia Reps. Frank Wolf and Thomas M. Davis III expected.

•Don't necessarily take the first job that opens up.

"Nine times out of 10, it is a false start," says Ruth Luban, a California psychologist and author of "Are You a Corporate Refugee? A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned and Displaced Workers." "People get so panicked about the cash flow stopping, they take the first job offer. If it doesn't work out, it is so much harder to do it all again. "

Angela Morris agrees. After a layoff, the Sterling, Va., marketing executive took a job offer with a small company in Fredericksburg, Va. She says she was so happy to have a job, she was going to put up with a commute of more than an hour each way.

Four weeks later, she was laid off again.

"It was hard not take it personally," Ms. Morris says. "It was almost more painful than the first layoff."

Ms. Luban's advice: "Take as much time as you can afford. You can reduce expenses, even refinance your house to buy some time."

•Look at every friend, neighbor and former co-worker as a potential job lead.

"Pretty much every interview I have had has come from a personal connection," Mr. Carter says. "I have called friends, and friends of friends."

Says Ms. Morris: "Absolutely do not burn any bridges. I have always kept contacts at every place I used to work."

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