Business Sense

Career advice from the pros

    Photo: Illustration by Tavis Coburn

1. LOG OFF MONSTER.COM
Same goes for CareerBuilder, Craigslist, and whatever other sites you might be obsessively trolling when you're not updating your résumé for the fourth time this week. For a smarter allocation of job hunting time, we consulted Nancy Franz, a Denver-based career and life coach with clients at Fortune 500 companies.

Case Your Field: 25%
Get informed on the status and trajectory of your chosen profession through news and magazine stories, books, and blogs.
Talk to People: 20%
Meaning people doing what you want to do. Use connections (family, friends, alumni networks), and be professional: Request 15 minutes, ask pointed questions, and offer to send them in advance. Take notes.
Act the Part: 20%
Join the trade associations in your target= field (frequently just a fee will get you in) and hit up meetings, trade shows, and conferences. Network. Buy people drinks. Schmooze.
Search Job Listings: 10%
But don't become an addict. Print out favorites and keep a running file so you can look for patterns and trends in required qualifications, duties, and compensation.
Blow Off Steam: 10%
Bike, run, surf, ski, etc. This is when you'll really figure out what to do with your life.
Research Qualifications: 15%
Do you really need a degree? Or can volunteering or an internship suffice? If school is a must, find the best programs—and maybe ones that allow for part-time work—and see where their grads are ending up.

2. TAKE ELECTIVES
Using the downturn to get a high-value graduate degree: good choice. Picking a top school that caters to your extracurricular habits: better choice.
Surfing
Law Degree:USC
M.B.A.:UCLA
Environmental Engineering: Cal Tech

Cycling
Law Degree: UVA
M.B.A.: Stanford
Environmental Engineering: UT Austin

Skiing
Law Degree: UC Boulder
M.B.A.: Dartmouth
Environmental Engineering: CSU Fort Collins

Paddling
Law Degree: UW Seattle
M.B.A.: Georgetown
Environmental Engineering: UNC Chapel Hill

3. LICENSE TO CHILL
Given the state of the job market, it's entirely reasonable to think that getting laid off is a great excuse to take off. In fact, done right, your unexpected sabbatical might be as good for your résumé as your mental health. Just be able to check these boxes.

Concept
Think, How could I position this experience to an employer in the future? "Sabbaticals are a way to brand yourself," says Elizabeth Pagano, founder and editor of YourSabbatical.com. "They help distinguish you in a competitive job market." You didn't climb Aconcagua for kicks—you were developing leadership and communication skills.
Commitment
A true sabbatical is measured in months, not weeks. A quick surf trip to Costa Rica isn't you rethinking your career; it's you vacationing.
Cash
You want enough money to cover the time away and the time to job-hunt when you get back. Two strategies for fattening the travel wallet: Sublet or swap your home or spend at least part of your sojourn volunteering for a program that can subsidize living expenses.

--Kate Siber and Ryan Krogh

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