Job Search Advice: How to Explain Your Unemployment (and Get Your Confidence Back!)

Peggy McKee
By Peggy McKee

See all articles by Peggy McKee
See Peggy McKee’s expert page

It seems that there’s always been a stigma attached to being unemployed, and even in this economy, when so many people are without a job for a lengthy stretch, it still causes candidates to be uncomfortable and nervous about telling people that they’re unemployed. They don’t quite know how to handle the situation in the job search or in the interview.
It’s very important that you keep in mind that unemployment is a temporary state. Just because you’re unemployed, that does NOT define you. The only difference between being unemployed and employed is ONE offer letter…or one phone call, one contact, or one interview. That’s all.
So tomorrow when you get that job offer, will you be any different than you are today? No.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves who we are. So I want you to go back and look through your resume and think about your documented successes. If you don’t have them documented there, they should be. (This might also be an excellent time to compile your brag book, if you haven’t already.)
I also want you to think about calling people you’ve worked with in the past. You know who your great supporters are—the manager you had in ’95, or the person who tried to get you to come over to his company in 2000, or the gal who wrote your great review in 2003. Call those people and say, “Hey, look—I want to be honest with you. I’m feeling a little down because of this very tough job market. I’m about to go into some important job interviews, so I want to be strong about who I am and what I have to offer. I was wondering if you could take a moment to talk to me about how you experienced me and how you would describe me to others. Maybe it would help me describe myself and remind me of the successes I’ve had in the past. Anything I can do for you to return this favor, I would be happy to do.”
Sometimes, hearing someone who loved you in the past talk to you again about what you did for them, about how you secured XYZ contract or how you solved ABC problem or how you communicated with so-and-so in such a way that it did ______ for the company—or how they’d love to hire you if they had a spot or how they’d love to recommend you—is enough to give you the strength of character and feeling of confidence so that when you talk on the phone to a potential employer, it will project in your voice. And when you meet in person, it will project from your heart. And I want you to have that.
Just because you’re unemployed right now, doesn’t mean it’s forever. It’s temporary. And it’s no indication about what kind of a tremendous employee you are—and will be to the company who takes advantage of the opportunity and hires you.

Peggy McKee has over 15 years of experience in sales, sales management, sales recruiting, and career coaching. Her website, Career Confidential ( is packed with job-landing tips and advice as well as the practical, powerful, innovative tools every job seeker needs to be successful.

Find out more about what interview coaching can do for you—job-search strategies, social media help, role-playing interview questions, resumes that get the interview, 30/60/90-day plans that get the job, and much more at Learn to be the candidate that everyone wants to hire.

O Magazine – The New Rules Of Networking

By Barbara Safani and Louise Fletcher
O, The Oprah Magazine  |  

1. Join LinkedIn, which will allow you to connect with current and former associates—and their networks, too. “At this point, if you’re not on LinkedIn, people wonder why,” says Safani. (Bonus: Recruiters often use it as a database.)

2. Request information, not a job. “When you ask for a job, there is a yes or no answer,” says Safani, “and it can feel like you’re begging.” Instead, explain exactly what you want and inquire about others who might be good for you to talk to. “Or pick their brain about the industry; that can be flattering.”

3. Be on-message all the time. Prepare a succinct, compelling pitch about what you’re looking for and why you’re qualified. Then keep this message consistent in your résumé, your online profiles, and your conversations. Never say, “I’ll take anything.” If you do, people won’t know how to help you.

4. Be helpful to others. “Networking isn’t just something you do when you’re looking for a job,” says Fletcher. “If you help people out whenever you can, those favors will come back to you when you need them.” 

Create your very own personalized job board for your job search

Considering the thousands and thousands of job boards active on the web, it may come as a surprise to discover that there are few job search management tools available.
Jobspeaker, a site that launched beta this month, is hoping to become the go-to resource for job seekers. After installing the Jobspeaker FireFox Add-on, job seekers can save, rate, track, and takes note on any job they apply for or come across on the web. This establishes a single point of access for all jobs, instead having to visit job boards one at a time. In addition, the Jobspeaker tools enable users to prioritize opportunities based on their relevance.
A sharing function lets job seekers email or tweet jobs to friends and colleagues with just a couple clicks. Besides job posting management, users can rank and track recruiters, employers, and job boards.
Employers and recruiters will have the opportunity to present their company to users and also to comment on remarks and ratings made by job seekers. The site says these services are not yet available, so it is unclear if this is monetizing aspect of Jobspeaker.
The point of all these tools, the Jobspeaker team says, is to ‘remove the information barriers from the recruiting business.”
Jobspeaker was developed by Jarlath O’Carroll, a graduate of the London Business School and the current Technology Product Innovator at Oisin in San Fransisco. According to the Jobspeaker blog, O’Carroll got the idea to start the site after becoming another lay-off casualty of the recession.

Tips for Cold Calling for a Job

With our economy headed into a double-dip recession, with all economic indicators heading downward, this is going to be a challenging period for job hunters.  Yet, we all know that some people are getting jobs.  Are they better than you?  No, they’re just better at finding the jobs.

When you have exhausted your personal contacts, worked Facebook and LinkedIn to death and attended every networking event you could find and still don’t have any viable job leads, it’s time to start cold calling and meeting new people to invigorate your job search.
One of the most challenging skills to master is the ability to effectively cold call.  Cold calling, by my definition, are calls made to people you have never met before where you are looking to establish a business relationship.  It is truly the most difficult process in business.

Cold calling can be made either by sending a letter, e-mail, or phone call.  I personally like calling a new contact.  People today get way too many e-mails which can be daunting for most of us.  I would never e-mail a person if you have never met them.  It’s not productive to send information to a potential contact via the e-mail and disrupt their personal space.  In fact, if they do not know who you are they’ll probably delete your e-mail without opening it or it will end up in their Spam folder.
Cold calling should be based on a marketing plan you have comprised.  It is essential to have some sort of a game plan before you pick up the phone and start calling a prospect.  This is what separates you from a whiney job seeker who doesn’t get return calls from someone who gets return phone calls.
Once you identify who you are contacting do research to see if they have been honored for anything recently or have written any articles lately.  This will give you some insight into how they think and may give you an advantage in your early communication with them.  Compliment them on their achievements: make it about them, not you.
Know that these people you are calling on are extremely busy.  They probably have piles of paper on their desk, fifty e-mails to be answered, and an almost full voice mail.  This is the kind of environment we work in today and will continue for the foreseeable future.  So remember whoever you are contacting cold is probably overworked, tired and bombarded by a number of other people who are trying to reach them.
When you are making a cold call by phone you may only reach a voice mail.  If you do reach a voice mail then leave a short message of who you are, why you’re calling and your telephone number.  You may get a return phone call depending on the business ethics of who you are calling.  Many successful executives will return calls out of courtesy but a number of business people will not.  In most cases, you will have to call back a few times.  Don’t call back at the same time each time you call.  Be creative and tenacious, but not annoying.
Companies are hiring people, just not at the pace people are losing jobs.  Firms are always looking for new talent.  The key is to be in the inner circle of hiring.  I recognize that personal referrals into a company are easier and sometimes better when looking for a job, but it also limits your chance of getting a job. Personal referrals are quickly exhausted and then what do you do besides applying online as everyone else does?
You have nothing to lose by cold calling.  Just make sure that you target the right people to call.  Do your homework by knowing something about the person you are calling. Compliment them on an article they published or a promotion, something they feel good about and feel compelled to respond to you to thank you for acknowledging.
Be enthusiastic, confident and informed. This confidence and enthusiasm will be infectious.  Whether you leave a voice mail or speak directly to the person you are attempting to reach by phone, make sure to make your proposition clear.  The mission of a cold call is not to sell your goods on the spot, but to open the door with this person for dialog.
Great sales people make great cold calls.  Take a cue from them.  Meet with one of your friends who have made a career in selling and ask them what they do.  This is not a time to sit back and wait for a phone call.  Get out there and keep talking, until you get the job you want.

Original Article

Ten Common Job Interview Questions and Answers

Whether you’re an entry-level candidate looking for your first job or an experienced professional looking to switch gears, the job interview process can be one of the most intimidating and frustrating steps in securing that perfect position. Oddly enough, many interviewers stick to a standard list of questions, regardless of the position being applied for. This standardization can be used to your advantage, as it allows you to prepare and even rehearse your answers to typical interview questions.
Here are ten of the most common job interview questions, and some tips for handling them.
Job Interview Questions and Answers #1: Tell me about yourself.
A lot of less-inspiring interviewers start off with this cookie-cutter icebreaker. It’s a pretty easy one to field: tell them about yourself. Just make sure to think before you speak. Don’t ramble; don’t say anything incriminating; don’t be offensive.
“I love to drink tequila and watch porn,” is probably not appropriate information, no matter how true it is.
If possible, try to tie in some elements that explain why you, an an individual, are a great fit for the company or the position. Interviewing to work with an all-terrain vehicle manufacturer? It might be worth mentioning that you’re an outdoors and motorsports enthusiast.
Job Interview Questions and Answers #2: Tell me about your last job.
This is another question that often comes at the beginning of interviews; it can be a bit tricky to answer. Your goal here is to explain why this new position is better suited to you than your last job without whining or bashing your former company. Potential employers are extremely wary of anybody who has an overabundance of negative stuff to say about their last job.
As an example, let’s say you used to work at an insurance company’s call center, and you’re trying to move into a quality-control role. “Those dumb bastards didn’t have a clue,” is probably not something you want to say about the insurance company.
Instead, try something like, “I enjoyed the customer service element of my previous position, but there simply wasn’t enough problem-solving to keep me engaged. That’s why I decided to look for a position with a little more responsibility that draws upon my technical skill set.”
Job Interview Questions and Answers #3: Tell me about a difficult situation you’ve had with a customer/client and how you handled it.
This can be a very tricky question for entry-level candidates who don’t have a whole lot of formal work experience. If you don’t have a good answer, admit it, and instead try drawing on an experience you had with a friend or family member. Basically, the interviewer is looking for proof of your people skills, so just tell a story about a time when you were able to make an unhappy person happy.

Questions 4 – 10

Tips for Polishing Your Resume

August 16, 2010
Just as April is a perfect time for some spring cleaning, the last few weeks of August — when things are slower and most of us start looking ahead to the busy fall — is a great time to dust off the cobwebs from your resume. Hiring experts say that even those not involved in an active job hunt should have an updated and polished resume — because sometimes when you’re not looking, that’s just when someone gets interested in you, right?
And for those on a job hunt, it’s important to continually update your resume. Use the hard-won knowledge you’re gaining about what works and doesn’t in a job search to ensure that you are using your resume to its best advantage — and that all parts of it are working for you rather than against you. Also, you want your resume to scream relevance — and the best way to do this is to highlight what you’ve been doing lately, such as freelance or consulting work.
Here are some tips for polishing your resume whether you’re actively job hunting or not:
*Keep it updated. Often, once someone lands a  job, they let their resume languish. And then when they need it again, they’re furiously seeking to include information about their most recent job and activities. It’s better to continually update your resume with details about your most professional experience, freelance work, awards, honors and references or recommendations. (And to make this information fit, make sure to cut long-ago or less relevant positions and honors.) That way, when you make a contact who wants to see your resume (who may be key to getting your next job) you can show how organized you are by immediately sending it to them. And don’t forget to keep an updated copy of your resume on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites you’re on — a good number of people have outdated resumes on these sites, and that means they aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunity right before them.
*Edit with care. A tendency among mid-career professionals, especially, is to pack a ton of information on their resume — after all, they’ve worked hard to gain this experience and want to show it off. Yet too-packed descriptions and paragraphs often have the opposite effect and can frustrate a recruiter — they want to know what you think are your most important qualities and qualifications. Prioritize. Then ruthlessly edit each section of your resume, especially the job descriptions, and take care in word choice. Less is usually more. Also, give your resume some room to breathe. Don’t include so much in any one each section so that it’s literally hard to read on the page. White space is also your friend — provide a little room between sections.
*Simple and elegant is usually best. A resume is your professional calling card — it isn’t an advertising flier or press release. So while it may not look exciting or sound exciting, you’re better off keeping it plain vanilla in terms of look and language.  It’s best to ease up on the bold key and to lightly use italics, dashes or underlining to make your point. Also, these can turn into gobbledygook in this world of scanners and email attachments — make sure you send your resume as an attachment to yourself and print it out before sending to others so that you can see what it will really look like once printed out (which it will be).  Also, when printing your resume at a copy shop (and you should always show up to interviews with your resume on a paper of decent stock) don’t use odd-sized or boldly colored paper; you will be making a statement by doing that and it’s usually not one you want to make. And don’t include your picture on your resume unless requested to do so. And remember, it’s best to leave off items that really aren’t any of a potential employer’s business — such as personal data like marital status or how many kids you have, and statements such as “in excellent health.” Keep it focused on your professional achievements — and polish away!
*Some good news and congratulations today — Max Frumes, a recent graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism (and a participant in its Washington program), has landed a full-time job with The Deal ( in New York as a private-equity reporter, and as he says, “it was partly serendipity.” (As it so often is in job hunting, by the way!) He wasn’t looking for a full-time position because he had an internship lined up with Bloomberg in New York for the fall. Because there was a lag between his graduation in June from Medill and the fall start date for the internship, he was freelancing in D.C. As he was looking for more freelance opportunities to tide him over, he contacted a MarketWatch reporter he had gotten to know through his work at Medill. Though MarketWatch didn’t have a freelance budget, he sent Max’s name to someone with his previous organization — The Deal — about temporary work, and a month later, they called him for interviews for a full-time job. So again, networking is the absolute key to getting a good job — even when you aren’t necessarily looking for one!
Congratulations and best of luck to Max! And please pass along your story — or spread the word to others who have landed well and ask them to get in touch — as they are so instructive about how people really get jobs in this competitive market.
*And now, for some fresh communications and journalism leads — remember, I include these mostly to give an indication of who is really hiring in the D.C. area and for what types of jobs (your best bet is still to try to find someone within an organization you’re targeting to get your resume to decision makers):
*Intelsat in D.C. has an opening for a director of corporate communications:
Director, Corporate Communications
Intelsat – Washington, DC
years of Satellite Communications experience as the Director, Corporate Communications within the Corporate and Marketing Communications team of Intelsat. The…
*The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in D.C. has several openings on its marketing and communications team, including for a director of strategic philanthropy:
Director of Strategic Philanthropy
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation- Washington, DC Office – Washington, DC
of Marketing and Communications, development support… fundraising plans. • Support preparation of communication/marketing materials related to Keystone and…
*This might be a good opportunity for a transitioning journalist, especially one with a background and interest in conservation issues — the National Parks Conservation Association in D.C. is looking for a program manager with a geographic focus on Virginia:
VA Program Manager
National Parks Conservation Association – Washington, DC
motivated, strategic, results-oriented, collaborative leader with excellent communication skills. BA/BS degree with three to five years of equivalent experience…
*The Center for Public Integrity in D.C. has an opening for a senior Web developer:
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism publisher, is seeking a Senior Web Developer to work at its headquarters in Washington DC.
The Web Developer will help lead development and redevelopment of websites on the Django and Drupal platforms. Maintenance of existing websites on other platforms, such as Expression Engine, will also be required. This position reports to the Web editor and the Chief Digital Officer.
Main Responsibilities:
• Lead development of the next generation of Web platforms, social networking tools and publishing tools to showcase the Center’s award-winning reporting.
• Coordinate with editors and Web producers to ensure that needed functionality meets usability and workflow requirements.
• Implement bug fixes and assist with routine maintenance of existing websites.
• Research emerging technologies to help identify potential revenue opportunities and/or enhancements to website user experience.
• Participate in all aspects of website development/redevelopment: analysis, planning, testing, development, maintenance.
Required Qualifications:
• Minimum 2 years experience developing in Django and Drupal.
• Strong Python knowledge.
• XML, CSS and Web Standards experience and knowledge
• Demonstrated ability to produce quality code and to lead other developers to produce quality code.
Preferred Skills:
• Experience in the news media industry.
• Experience working in other programming languages/frameworks.
• Experience in traditional software development.
• Prior leadership experience in Web development enterprise.
• Must be able to produce high-quality code under clear deadlines.
• Must be able to manage multiple projects and consistently meet project deadlines
• Must be able to lead a team of other developers to produce quality code.
• Excellent written and spoken communication skills
• Excellent interpersonal skills
• Innovative, self-motivated approach to work
The Center offers a compensation and benefits package, including medical, dental, and vision insurance. All applications should be emailed to Web Editor Andrew Green at
*Also, the Center for Public Integrity has several fall Web internships (paid!) still available through the end of 2010:
The Center for Public Integrity’s Web department is looking to hire two or three web-savvy interns beginning as soon as possible and working through the end of the year. Interns will be expected to work 10 – 15 hours per week at a rate of $10 per hour.
Basic responsibilities will include:
·         Loading content to the Center’s website;
·         Basic web-based advertising (Google Ads);
·         Assistance with photo research and editing;
·         Maintaining archives of multimedia content;
·         Assistance with compiling analytics;
·         Other duties as assigned.
Additional responsibilities may include:
·         Assisting with multimedia projects;
·         Assisting with project management of major investigations.
The Center is looking to hire interns with basic content management system and HTML skills. Additional multimedia, social media and graphic design skills are a plus.
Interested applicants should send a resume and brief cover letter to Andrew Green at
Note: This is a web-based position, and while it may offer opportunities to assist with web-based multimedia projects, it is a not a reporting and writing position.
*The Daily Record in Baltimore has an opening for a Web content producer:
The Daily Record, Maryland’s trusted source for business and legal news, is looking for someone skilled with databases and online media tools and a desire to put them to work in new and creative ways. This job is less reporting and writing and more data-driven, content-focused and technology-centric. We’re looking for someone familiar with the rhythms of a newsroom who can:

  • Create and import various forms of data from various sources and format for use online and in print products. Aggregate information that can be combined into one search function and “mashed” together for use by sophisticated business and legal news audiences.
  • Compile, format and help analyze data for computer-assisted reporting online and in print.
  • Perform all duties essential to our website operation, including but not limited to: operating our content management system; packaging stories online in creative and compelling ways; and utilizing hyperlinks, search engine optimization strategies, tags and any other tools that will generate traffic.
  • Build e-mail newsletters, breaking news e-blasts, text alerts and other products for distribution to our growing digital audience.

Please e-mail a resume and cover letter to
*The Detroit Free Press has an opening in its D.C. bureau for an auto writer:

The Detroit Free Press is seeking an auto writer who will be based in the newspaper’s Washington bureau. The reporter will cover regulatory and congressional issues related to the auto industry, including recall and safety matters, fuel economy debates, lobbying, and trade and labor policy developments.
The writer also will work closely with our Detroit-based autos team, helping to cover major news developments in the domestic and global auto industry. The writer also would occasionally collaborate on watchdog projects and breaking news with our political reporter based in Washington. We need an enterprising reporter who produces stories that range from watchdog to explanatory to analytical. Candidates must have clips showing experience with digging into public records and a track record for developing deep sourcing in the industry, agencies and congressional offices.
The Free Press is the nation’s ninth-largest Sunday newspaper. Its award-winning autos and business staff has been recognized by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers as producing one of the top business reports in the country.
Applicants should send a resume, cover letter and writing samples to Senior Managing Editor Jeff Taylor at Candidates should cite examples of how they have broken news and provided exclusive content in digital platforms.
*SNL Financial has an opening in its Arlington office for an energy reporter:
SNL Financial LC, a premier news and data company, is looking for a top-notch energy reporter to be based in its Arlington, Va., office. The position involves phone and face-to-face interviews, as well as some travel to attend conferences and other industry events. Energy industry reporting experience is a plus, specifically in the coal and power markets. SNL offers unique salary potential – competitive base salary and performance based bonuses – and a great working environment in our Arlington, VA office. Please submit a cover letter of interest, resume and writing samples to SNL Financial is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
*The Huffington Post is looking for a copy editor to be based in its D.C. office:
The Huffington Post is hiring a copy editor to be based at our downtown Washington, D.C. office.
Candidates should have strong editing skills and a working knowledge of national politics.
The position will involve editing a large volume of fast-moving content from HuffPost’s growing reporting team, and working closely with the DC bureau chief and the politics editor on reporting coverage. At least two years of editing experience required.
Send resume and references to

*And last but not least today, Groupon is looking for freelance writers:
Every day, Groupon emails over 8 million subscribers with a new thing to do, eat, or see in their city. Every business we feature gets a thoroughly researched and profoundly absurd descriptive write-up, and we are looking for a few freelance writers to add to our figurative stable of word wizards. Our freelancers are guaranteed a steady stream of work, and the creative style of our writing has won us recognition from such arbiters of taste as the NY Times. The succesful candidate will demonstrate an effortless knack for our unusual voice in his or her sample, and will also be able to point to hard evidence of the ability to self-direct and work under deadline.

For instructions and to apply, click

Original DC Works Posting