#h#Classes for Career Changers#/h#

With today’s tight job market posing a challenge to those who are out of work, many adults are returning to the classroom. Those who want to train for a new career quickly can turn to Mercer County Community College’s Center for Continuing Studies. The Center offers short-term, noncredit courses year-round, designed for adult students. Most classes meet in the evening or on weekends, and the instructors are working professionals in their respective fields.

For the budding new entrepreneur, a series of courses will focus on small business management, beginning Thursday, January 29, with "Starting Your Own Business: The Business Plan," taught by veteran trainer Nunzio Cernero. In three evening sessions students will learn the key elements of a successful small business, including funding, marketing, financial management and legal issues. Tuition and fees are $153.

In February and March the small business series continues with evening and Saturday morning classes that cover borrowing relationships, legal formation, financial statements, marketing, accounting systems and technology.

Also for career changers, "Consulting Made Easy" will cover how to jump start a consulting business in a highly competitive market. The class meets Wednesday, April 28, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Another innovative course that can change a career, offered for the second time after proving very popular last fall, will be "E-bay Simplified: Easy Ways to Make Money," coming Monday, February 23 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday, March 31, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuition is $30 for the two-hour session, which promises to teach students how to use E-bay as a full- or part-time business venture, or just to turn unwanted attic and basement items into profit.

"Exploring the Small Farm Dream," taught by Pam Flory and Laura Sayre, helps people explore the vision of starting a small farm of their own. The course, which welcomes students of all levels of experience and capital, will meet April 20 to May 11. Tuition and fees are $150.

For more information about the hundreds of courses offered through the MCCC Center for Continuing Studies call 609-586-9446, E-mail ComEd@mccc.edu (www.mccc.edu).

Below is a small selection from the dozens of conferences/workshops beginning in January.

January 12 to February 11: How to Prepare a Federal and State Income Tax Return. Monday and Wednesday, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tuition and fees $240. Instructor: Alex Ermoloff, IRS Enrolled Agent.

January 12 to February 9: Construction Blueprint Reading. Monday and Wednesday, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuition and fees $200. 2 CEUs. Instructor: William Winterbottom, NJ Building Authority.

January 20 to February 24: Effective Business Writing. Tuesday, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuition and fees $165. 1.5 CEUs. Instructor: Ellen Benowitz, MCCC faculty member.

January 22 to February 19: Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-financial Managers. Thursdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuition and fees $270. 1.5 CEUs. Instructor: Kenneth Horowitz, CPA.

January 29 to February 12: Starting Your Own Business: The Business Plan. Thursdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuition and fees $153. 9 CEUs. Instructor: Nunzio Cernero, MCCC assistant dean.

#h#New Rules For Resume Writing#/h#

Resume rules change more quickly than the seasons, and with each evolution they become more rigid. Once upon a time, when a big issue was whether to play it safe and print on cream-colored stock or to be bold and go with pale blue, few misjudgments were fatal. Now an infraction against a resume rule could easily send the vital document straight to the trash. Well, not actually the trash, but rather a black hole in cyberspace.

Susan Guarneri, who headed up the Job Club networking group for years before moving to the Midwest last year, has crafted thousands of resumes for her clients. A Certified Professional Resume Writer, she operates in an electronic world and can be reached at wwww.resume-magic.com or www.careermagiccoach.com

"People tell me they sent out 100 resumes, and got no responses," she says of a common scenario. Of course, there’s no telling for sure what forces were at work, but, she says, the reason for the resounding silence could have been something as simple as leaving the subject line on the E-mail carrying the resume blank.

Employers and executive recruiters now overwhelmingly prefer an electronic resume to one printed on paper. Once the E-resume is received, it’s all about getting it into a database. Quickly. Some resumes will make it no farther. Those that make it to the next level — a trip to the printer — will have made the cut, in no small part, because they were written not with a human reader in mind, but rather with an eye toward wowing a piece of software.

So job seekers need to know how to create a resume that will impress a keyword-scanning piece of software, and they need to know how to transmit that resume to an employer in a manner that ensures that he will open the E-mail, be able to get the resume into his database quickly, and will see a clean, relatively short document when he prints it out.

"A seven-year-old resume is really old," says Guarneri. So old that it is useless. That is because optical character reading (OCR), introduced into personnel departments in or around 1993, has shifted the job of resume review from humans to machines.

Efficient, speedy, and non-discriminatory, the software is not as flexible as the human mind. "It can’t figure out where you would fit in the company, what job would be good for you," says Guarneri. They search for specific information, and categorize resumes based on what they "see," not what they intuit. There are no "Ah!" moments when the machine, pausing to study a resume, thinks "I never thought of it before, but this guy would be perfect for that recreational director/corporate outing position."

No, the resume must be oh-so-clear on exactly where its owner would fit in, and on what open position he is qualified to fill. Matching up in the age of evaluation-by-software means crafting a resume with just the right keywords, and then transmitting it so that it is easy to open, print, and read. Here is Guarneri’s advice on getting it right:

Figure out your focus. Some clients ask Guarneri for a generic resume they can use for the three of four types of jobs they would be happy landing. "It doesn’t work," she says. "It totally confuses the system." For each resume you must be clear on whether you want to land a position, for example, as a geriatric social worker or a teacher of social work at the graduate school level.

Get the keywords up high. Create a qualifications summary near the top of the resume, and pack it with keywords.

Use synonyms and abbreviations. Look at your keywords. If they are sometimes abbreviated or if acronyms are sometimes used in place of the full word, make sure that every possible variant appears somewhere in your resume. Some electronic resume readers will search for a key requirement several ways, but others will not.

Follow the rules. Name always goes on top of the resume. "Not the word `resume,’ but name. Always name," says Guarneri. Next comes the qualifications summary, and make sure to include all relevant degrees, certifications, and licenses in this section. She sees many clients who put education down at the bottom of the second page, but the software may not get that far, and will toss them out for not having the degree or degrees that it is programmed to see as required keywords. More details on degrees, certifications, and licenses can be added after work experience, which should be listed in reverse chronological order.

Paste the resume into an E-mail window . After all the work is done, and the keyword resume is complete, prepare it for the E-mail window. Do not just send it as an attachment. "I know recruiters who refuse to open any attachments at all," says Guarneri. Most employers are leery too. Viruses, including a virulent one named "resume" that circulated recently, have everyone scared.

To make sure your resume is not summarily deleted, send it in the body of an E-mail. Prepare it to be sent this way by saving it as an Ascii file. When you do so, a menu will appear. Choose the "text only with line breaks" option. Then rename the file, close the window, and look for the notepad icon on the desktop. Open the notepad, count 65 characters — including spaces — and insert a hard return. Then put in a hard return at the end of 65 characters in each line. This takes time. "There’s no way around it," says Guarneri. But omit this step and the resume will appear in the E-mail window as one long paragraph.

Prepare an attachment for printing. Sending an E-mail stating that a resume is attached is no good, but that said, there should be a resume attachment in addition to the resume in the body of the E-mail. This is so, says Guarneri, because an employer might want to print out the resume.

The Ascii version of the resume in the body of the E-mail is, of necessity, stripped of all its formatting, including bolding and bullets. An attachment will look a lot better. It will also be shorter. Because of the small number of characters per line in an E-mail window, an E-mail prints out about twice as long as an attachment. A two-page resume printed from an attachment will be four pages long if it is printed from the E-mail window. The shorter, better formatted document is more pleasing to the humans who take over when the keyword software has done its job.

The attachment can be sent as a Word or RTF document, but Guarneri says it is a good idea to consider sending it as a PDF file instead. Opened with Adobe Acrobat, a free program most employers use, the pdf file "really is a picture," says Guarneri. It will look exactly the same as a paper resume — bolding, color, stylish bullets and all.

Add a cover letter. Prepare a short cover letter, just two brief paragraphs, and use it as an introduction to the resume that follows in the E-mail.

Pack the subject line with information. Never send a resume by E-mail without filling in the subject line. That is how viruses often are sent. Employers and recruiters know this and often delete E-mails carrying no subject line without ever opening them.

Many job hunters just put the word "resume" into the subject file. That is no good, says Guarneri. It just forces the overworked recipient — an employer or recruiter, who may receive hundreds of resumes daily — to rename the file. When responding to a posting for a specific job, start the subject line with the job code. Follow it with a dash. An "n" dash, Guarneri states, convinced that nothing should be left to chance. "That’s the short dash," she explains. Leave a space on either side of the dash, type in last name, followed by a dash, and job title, followed by another dash, and then years of experience.

The subject line can be rounded off with anything that sets the candidate apart, perhaps an MBA or other advanced degree, knowledge of an highly-desirable computer language, or niche experience. This sounds like a lot, but Guarneri points out that subject line holds from 60 to 80 characters, and that it is perfectly all right to use standard abbreviations.

The focus of resume preparation has shifted from personality to technical knowledge and a firm grasp of what keyword software looks for, and Guarneri says this is not a bad thing. "I’ve seen too many people who don’t figure out what they want to do, and put it on others," she says. With the keyword resume, there is no waffling. The job candidate must be crystal clear about who he is and just exactly where he fits in.

#h#Ace a Job Interview#/h#

Acing a job interview involves getting comfortable — but not too comfortable. "It’s like acting," says Julia Poulos, an actress and management consultant who looks at the interviews from both sides of the desk. The principal in All the World’s a Stage (www.savvypresentations.com) at 20 Nassau Street, she advises corporate managers on how best to communicate in every situation, including interviews with job candidates, and she consults with individuals who need to excel at business communications — including job interviews.

Poulos, who holds a master’s degree in theater from Penn State, is finding that managers are looking for "soft skills," but often find it hard to figure out whether a particular candidate has them. Right now, managers are telling her, these qualities include a good work ethic, flexibility, a high tolerance for stress, and the ability to multi-task and to work well on a team with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds.

It may be up to the job candidate to bring a discussion of these qualities into the interview. This is part of the process of acing an interview. Some of the other pieces:

Preparing carefully. Just as an actor memorizes his lines before he steps onto a stage, a job candidate needs to go over the points he needs to make during an interview. Just reaching the interview stage may be the culmination of months of intense job hunting. It is vital to be fully ready to do well.

Being conversational. Interviewers look at your whole communication style, although they may not be conscious of doing so. Adopt a conversational style, but "don’t be too overwhelming," says Poulos. Make eye contact, but "without eye lock."

Pause before answering a question. "Take your time," says Poulos, explaining that this lets interviewers know that you are carefully considering your answer.

Asking for clarification. Interviewers frequently ask questions that are overly broad. Try to narrow the question. Does he want to know about an individual project or a team effort? Is he looking for insight into how you handled a personnel crisis or a crisis involving damage control with the media? Focus the question and there is a better chance you will deliver exactly the information the interviewer is seeking.

Telling stories. Everyone loves a story. Prepare several. For starters, Poulos emphasizes, these tales should be true. They should illustrate how well you achieved a goal at another job, in school, or perhaps in a community project. The stories — prepared in advance of the interview — should include mention of the key soft skills. Perhaps one story could mention long hours of juggling several projects — easily tolerated because of the rapport within your team.

Including lots of details. Whether answering a question or bringing up a success story, include specifics. "Details increase credibility," says Poulos. "They make it real for the listener."

Being assertive. Don’t be aggressive, but, says Poulos, "managers expect you to be assertive." Don’t sit back, waiting for the questions to come. There are points that need to be made, points that demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. It is up to you to make sure the interview doesn’t end before all the important points are made.

Remembering the interviewer’s concerns. Don’t pepper the interviewer with questions about benefits. Don’t regale him with tales of family obligations that will make it impossible for you to work late on Fridays or travel internationally. The interviewer is focused on what the company needs. It is your job to demonstrate how well you can fill these needs.

#h#Contrarian Advice#/h#

Dick Stone, an HR consultant and the founder of the Princeton Human Resources Network, an HR networking organization, reports that "there are still tremendous layoffs." But, he adds, "it doesn’t take any longer to find a job than it ever did."

While he spends much of his time giving job hunting advice to HR professionals, his unusual strategies work equally well in other fields.

Think small. A native of upstate New York, he recalls that at one time an outsize percentage of his neighbors and friends, and even his siblings all worked for just one company — GE in Schenectady. One of his brothers was in advertising, one in engineering, and one in recruiting. It was the same in New Jersey, he points out. "The biggest change in the nature of jobs," he says, "is that there is no more AT&T with 385,000 jobs." The mega-employer is gone, and is unlikely to return. "not even in pharma," he says.

Job hunters need to widen their scopes to locate employers whose names are anything but household words. This reality makes the job search more difficult, Stone admits. But that can’t be helped.

Hustle right along. One of the biggest mistakes job hunters make, says Stone, is wasting time in researching a company. Common wisdom mandates finding out all about a prospective employer’s products, markets, and missions before an interview. Forget it, says Stone. "The company knows what it does," he says. "It wants to know what you can do."

Scanning annual reports and digging deep into company websites just eats up precious time.

Contact at least 100 companies a month. "I ask people how many companies they have contacted," says Stone, "and they say 13." Contact 100 companies, he says, and you will get 10 interviews, and 1 job offer, "two if you’re really young."

#h#Job Seekers Groups#/h#

Career Networking Group, 100 Scotch Road, First Presbyterian Church, Ewing 08628. 609-433-6191. E-mail: espfletcher@msn.com

Networking and topic-based discussions, fourth Tuesdays, 7 to 9 p.m.

JobSeekers, 33 Mercer Street, c/o Trinity Church, Princeton 08540. Niels Nielsen, coordinator. 609-924-2277. E-mail: ungersar@trinityprinceton.org. Home page: www.trinityprinceton.org

Education, instruction, networking, and support group for people changing jobs or careers, free, Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Professional Service Group, 506 Jersey Avenue, NJDOL Department PSG, New Brunswick 08901. Virginia Daly, coordinator. 732-418-3304. Home page: www.dol.state.nj.us

Professional Service Group of Mercer County, 650 South Broad Street, Trenton 08650. Cheryl Manson, facilitator. 609-278-4834.

A self-help, volunteer non-profit outplacement organization. Sponsored by the labor department and Workforce Investment Board, it meets Mondays at 9:30 a.m.

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