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Preparing for a Job Search

Follow these tips to make sure you are thoroughly prepared prior to beginning a job search.

April 22, 2010
from Robert Half Finance & Accounting

With signs of improving economic conditions, you may be feeling inclined to explore the job market. Nearly half (45 percent) of workers polled for last year’s EDGE Report from Robert Half International and Career Builder® said they plan to change employers, careers or industries once the job market recovers. If you have decided to look for a new job, there is some preparatory work you’ll need to do so you’ll be ready to take advantage of attractive employment opportunities as they arise.

Update Your Résumé

A promising job opportunity could come up when you least expect it, so it’s a good idea to keep your résumé current. This seems like an obvious step, but in a survey commissioned by Robert Half Finance and Accounting, 44 percent of respondents had not updated their résumés in more than a year.

Start with your work history. If you’ve been at the same job for an extended period of time, chances are your résumé is missing your current position or most recent accomplishments. When revamping your work history, be sure to highlight key contributions as well as skills currently in demand. Delete references to old technologies, as these will make your expertise appear dated. Review your education section too, particularly if you’ve had specialized training or acquired an advanced degree or additional certification since your last résumé revision. When you apply for specific positions later on, you can customize your résumé for each job opening.

Expand Your Professional Network

The broader your network, the greater the chance you’ll hear of a job opening. If you haven’t been active in industry associations and business groups, now is the time to step up your involvement. Attend monthly meetings and mixers or volunteer for committees. Such activities are an excellent way to meet other professionals and learn more about the state of the job market in your area. But allow sufficient time for relationships to develop before you turn to someone for a referral. Offer assistance if others seek your guidance with professional issues and stay in regular contact with members of your network by passing along news about industry trends and developments. Recruiters can also expand your possibilities. And you’ll have greater success if you chose a firm that specializes in placing candidates in accounting and finance positions.

Re-evaluate Your Online Image

Before beginning a job hunt, it’s a good idea to type your name into several popular online search engines to see what sort of (mis)information may be circulating about you. Remove any photos or postings that could be seen as unprofessional or controversial. In addition, update your security settings on social networking sites to limit access to your personal data. This is also a good time to revisit your profiles on sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Hiring managers often use these sites to locate job candidates, so be sure your profiles include up-to-date details about your work history and achievements.

Refresh Your Reference List

If you haven’t done so recently, reach out to former managers and coworkers to ensure that you have their current contact information. Let them know you’re thinking of making a job change and ask if they would be willing to give prospective employers a positive reference about you. It may be appropriate to meet for coffee or establish a time to catch up on the phone. This will help you refresh their memories about your work and update them on your accomplishments and career goals.

Make Yourself More Marketable

The pace of change in the accounting and finance fields means that professionals cannot afford to stand still. Whether or not you ultimately decide to change jobs, it’s wise to work on enhancing your marketability. Start by assessing your educational background. Depending on your career goals, it may make sense to pursue an advanced degree, such as a MBA or additional professional certification. If enrolling in a degree-granting program isn’t feasible, consider attending short-term seminars on selected financial topics.

Updating your IT skills should be another priority. To increase your proficiency, talk to your colleagues in the IT division about the latest advances in accounting systems and software. There is a wealth of information online as well, which you can peruse at your convenience. In addition, you may be able to attend seminars or workshops sponsored by technology vendors.

In another survey commissioned by RHFA, nearly one-third (31%) of executives said they will most likely hire additional staff when the economy improves. This pent-up demand could create exciting new opportunities for you — if you’ve done your “advance work” and laid a solid foundation for your job search.

For more career tips, follow RobertHalf Finance & Accounting on Twitter at @RobertHalfFA.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.roberthalffinance.com.