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Job tips for Katrina survivors

Practical suggestions for finding work after disaster strikes

By Brad Karsh
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Brad Karsh is founder and president of JobBound, a Chicago-based business that prepares people for the job search process. He appears as a guest expert on the "My New Life" series on "Paula Zahn Now," which profiles individuals who lost their jobs due to Hurricane Katrina.

Brad Karsh
Career consultant Brad Karsh offers job search advice to Katrina survivors.



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(CNN) -- Losing your job is never an easy proposition. But if you were one of the thousands of people who lost a job because of Hurricane Katrina, getting back into the job market probably seems overwhelming.

The right perspective and a good plan of attack, however, can make the job search much easier. Below are some tips to help you land a great new job.

Discern career direction

For those along the Gulf Coast, your first reaction to losing your job may be to find a new one as quickly as possible.

While this might address some immediate financial concerns, you should try to take a little time to think about what you really want to do with your life.

Think about if you truly enjoyed:

  • What you were doing
  • The field that you were in
  • The city or part of the country where you worked
  • For those displaced by Katrina, this could be your chance to move to another part of the country where you've always wanted to live. This could be an opportunity to try a new career or to go back to school.

    I've worked with many unemployed candidates who are of course devastated about losing their job. But when I hear from them in three or six months, a majority of them say they are glad they were able to take stock of their lives before setting out on a new course.

    Be eager, not desperate

    The message you want to convey to a potential new employer is that of enthusiasm and interest, not desperation.

    This can be difficult. Katrina destroyed many lives and left many others desperate. Maybe you've been without a job for weeks.

    In the midst of this, it's important to remember that potential employers probably won't find desperation appealing.

    It's OK to say things like, "It's important for me to land a job to support myself and my family. I'm very interested in this position."

    It's probably not OK to say, "I'll do anything you want me to do -- sweep the floors, wash your car, clean the bathrooms -- I just absolutely have to have a job!"

    Think about it this way, would you want to date someone who says, "I just need to go out with someone, anyone. I'm totally desperate."

    Target your resume

    When you write your resume, you are not writing it for yourself. Instead, you're writing it for the recruiting director who is deciding whether to hire you.

    Read the company's job description. This will tell you exactly what the company is looking for. You need to then match your skills to those of the job and reflect this on your resume.

    For instance, let's say you ran a business, and now you want to get into sales. When you ran the business, you did all sorts of things -- finance, logistics, purchasing, hiring, marketing, and, of course, sales.

    Even if you were a great business owner, lead your resume with your sales work, and make sure most of your bullet points are focused on sales.

    Targeting your resume like this will make you that much more attractive to a potential employer.

    Network like crazy

    It's tough to get out there and press the flesh, especially when you've just lost your job and maybe even your home. Fortunately, there has been an outpouring of support for Katrina survivors from businesses and employers.

    Many companies are streamlining the hiring process for people affected by the hurricane. Your status as a Katrina survivor will not guarantee you a new job. But it may help you get an interview.

    Most people find jobs through connections, so make sure you spread the word that you are back in the job market. Talk to friends, family, social groups, professional organizations, and even your old college.

    And don't feel like you should talk only to people in the industries you're pursuing. You never know when someone may know someone who can help.

    In my work, I've come across a few people who said they got their job lead from their hairstylist. They mentioned to the stylist that they were looking for new work and the stylist said something like, "How funny, another one of my customers just mentioned he is looking to hire someone with your background!"

    I hope these tips help. It's never easy to start a new job search, but with a smart approach, it can be much more successful.

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