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Q. I have worked for a Big Three auto maker since I graduated from college over 11 years ago. I have an electrical engineering degree, with emphasis on computer engineering, and an engineering management degree. I've enjoyed a rewarding and prosperous career and received several important promotions. My last assignment involves new product launches, project management, process development, quality control, and training. Also, I was the information technology (IT) manager until recently. Unfortunately, politics and a limited number of positions at my current location (my wife and I do not want to relocate to Michigan) have caused me to become unhappy with my current position. My attitude is affecting how I am perceived. I am looking for new employment but have two questions: First, should I emphasize my managerial skills (project management and team skills) on my resumes and minimize my IT role? Second, how long should the job search take?

A. Create at least two versions of your resume: one emphasizing the managerial role, and the other tilted towards information technology. Each requires a specific emphasis, and trying to homogenize your resumes isn't the best route. Most job seekers are faced with the dilemma of "putting my best foot forward with my resumes." This writing exercise will help you to focus on specific strengths in each area, which, in turn, may help you create a powerful resume that speaks to the reader (and potential hiring manager). Remember that a
resume is an instrument to attract attention -- the "door-opener -- and should clearly reflect your skills.

Having more than one resume anyway allows you to closely align your background and skills to what is called for in the position description or posting/advertisement. This should increase your chances of being called for an interview or phone screen. Remember, if your
resume stands out above the competition's, you will at least get a shot. If not, you need to tweak or rewrite your resume or have a professional create one for you.

As a note, longevity within a particular industry, such as the automotive industry, has advantages. You may want to explore other companies, such as tier-1 suppliers, or get into management consulting. At your age, I would strongly advise that you look for opportunities where the confluence of manufacturing processes, supply chain, ERP, and e-business converge.

How long will the search take? The old rule of thumb was one month for every $15,000 to $20,000 of annual income. However, since
salaries have increased, and we now use "Internet-time" as the unit of measure, two weeks per $15,000 to $20,000 income is a better guideline. Of course, we've all heard about friends and colleagues being hired in days in this booming economy. But, in general, the more time you put into a job search, the less time it will take to find the right position.

Answering the Hard Questions

Q. I was recently fired from a position that I held for one month. I initially left on good terms, but that relationship has soured greatly due to the company’s financial problems. As a result, I have not listed the company on my resume. Should I mention this when interviewing? Also, I'm seeking an administrative position and have been faxing dozens of resumes for over one month and haven't had any interviews. Is it possible that employers/recruiters are moving slowly with hiring because it is still early in the year? I'm both working with employment agencies and searching on my own. Is there anything I can do to make myself more attractive as a candidate?

A. No one likes the experience of getting terminated, especially after just one month. What happened? Did you alienate yourself from your manager or colleagues? Was the job too difficult or over your head? How you answer those questions will indicate your course of action. Perhaps you have already tried getting your previous supervisor to write at least a general reference letter, since most companies prefer not being on record as firing people. If you can find someone to vouch for you from your old employer, that will help. If you're not getting interviews, you need to try other avenues to get your resume into the hands of more interested parties or perhaps try another line of work. I'm assuming that this wasn't your first job as an administrator, but if it is, you will not have much luck with recruiting agencies.

I can't recommend that you fail to mention your former firm on
your resume, and you shouldn't lie about being let go, but don't make this the first sentence out of your mouth. Talk about the positive aspects of this job and your previous work experience if possible. Tell potential employers that your most recent employment assignment was on a trial basis and didn't work out. If you can provide a company reference, this is where you use it. If you choose not to mention this employer, you run the risk of being found out later on.

You can make yourself more attractive as a viable candidate by using the Internet and e-mail to send your resume rather than faxing it. Check the local Internet postings, attend
job fairs, and knock on doors in person. Let your neighbors know you are looking for a position, network with your business and social contacts, and review the Sunday paper. The market for most types of workers is booming; you just have to be in the right place, so keep your chin up and treat your job search as a 40-hour per week job.

Explaining Dismissal

Q. I was dismissed from a position with a major bank. When asked why I left, I have told interviewers that there was a reorganization. Although this really was a factor surrounding the department in general, the company said it had to release me because some information was leaked from the department. When I challenged them, they couldn't produce the evidence. Anyway, I was the last one dismissed from the department within seven months. I have been out of work for five months and would appreciate advice on my search. I have sent out hundreds of resumes nationwide and am currently having second interviews with five reputable companies.

A. For a potential employer to check references from your previous employer, informally and off the record, would be relatively easy since it is a large bank -- perhaps this is why you've not received any offers to date. I believe you can be honest with a potential employer about your situation without cutting your own throat. You can at least explain in general what happened and why it happened, but to gloss over the situation with the oft-used "I was caught in a reorganization" apparently isn't working. You can point to office politics, a power struggle, and the fact you were the final employee to be released.

I would consider taking another position sooner than later, even if it were a notch below what you feel you are worth, just to get back into the market and to start rebuilding your self-esteem. Five months out of work must have hurt your finances, unless you received a severance package as part of your termination. Putting on rust waiting for the perfect offer is a mistake too many
job seekers make.

Leaving a New Job

Q. My position was recently relocated out of my geographic preference, so I took a similar position with a smaller company. Although the job pays the bills, I am interested in pursuing more enticing opportunities from other companies to which I had applied prior to accepting this position. How should I handle this situation? I've been in my new position for only a few weeks, so it is difficult for me to take time off to interview.

A. Keep interviewing until you find the right position. Gingerly make a case with potential employers to meet with you before or after work, during lunch, or on the weekend. A new trend is for companies to conduct Saturday interviews, since candidates and hiring managers are so busy during their normal work schedules. You should try to be as fair to your current employer as possible, so if you're missing time, be sure to make it up somehow.

If you line up new work, give your current employer as much notice as possible. Offer to make the transition with a new
hire as seamless as possible, even if it means you give back some time on the weekends with new hire. You'll feel better about yourself.

Unfair Raise

Q. My yearly raise is in January. A
co-worker left last August, and I was asked to take on her responsibilities. I accepted and was given an increase in pay. When it was time for my yearly raise, I was told that I had already received one in August. The only increase I received in August was the increase for taking on more responsibilities. It's not fair to me at all. What should I do?

A. You must enjoy your work and current employer since you did agree to take on more responsibility as well as a raise in August. Next time, be sure to ask about the raise you were expecting six months from that point. You shouldn't expect semi-annual salary reviews unless your offer letter explicitly states that fact.

You do have a couple of options, though. The most obvious is to find another employer, especially if you feel slighted and hurt by the inaction of your manager. If your employer or manager gets the feeling you are looking to leave, and they don't want to lose you, they may be prompted to discuss this touchy situation. Since the economy is booming, recruiting new employees to replace those who ar