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Looking for a new career in the new year?

Will 2006 be a good year to switch jobs? Vera Gibbons from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine offers tips on raises and resumes.
/ Source: Weekend Today

The new year often brings reflection on the year gone by and contemplation on the upcoming year, including job changes. Vera Gibbons from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine visited “Weekend Today” to share advice for pursuing your career goals in the new year.

You want a raise. What do you do?Ask at time when you know you'll have your boss's full attention (not on a busy Monday morning). Preferably after you've been praised for a project or assignment, but don't ask without being prepared. You're not worthy of a raise just because you haven't had one in a few years or because you have bills to pay. Prepare documentation that shows exactly what you've done to deserve more pay. Show what new responsibilities you've taken on beyond the original job description. Show how you've exceeded goals. Quantify how much your efforts add to the company's bottom line.

How much should you be asking for? And is anyone going to get raises in 2006?
Employer surveys show that most workers can expect pay raises of about 4% this year (same as last year), but if you're the top performer and think you deserve more than that, aim high. if you want a 5% raise, ask for 10%. You always want to ask for more than you expect to get.

What if they flat out say no?If they say no, ask for clarification. Does this mean a future raise is out of question? What skills or additional accomplishments does your boss think you need in order to qualify for a better salary? Get to the bottom of it. Ask if you can discuss the subject in the future and when — because “no” may not mean “never.” If you don't like the line they're giving you, you may need to think about getting a new job.

What are some resume tips?
Employers go into resume databases and search for key words: job titles, skills or areas of expertise related to the position. If your resume doesn't have the “right” language, you could be overlooked even though you might very well be the perfect candidate. You could also be overlooked if all you're doing is describing each job you've had. You have to focus on your accomplishments — your measurable accomplishments (numbers, figures and facts) for each job you've had. Let your past promote you because a resume is basically a marketing piece. Also, certain skills may need to be highlighted for one job; other skills for another. You need several different versions ready to go.

For those who haven't had to dust off the resume in a while, what's the best advice?One of biggest mistakes people make — particularly those who haven't updated their resume in a number of years — is using the wrong format. For example, chronological (most commonly used style) lists jobs in order that they were held; functional style organizes the resume by skills rather than a specific job. If you're looking for a position in a new industry, go with functional; otherwise, chronological.

Is this a good time to be looking for a job — at the start of the new year? And what is the job outlook for 2006?
The heaviest time for hiring is the beginning of the year. The job outlook for 2006 — 2 million jobs will be created, up from 1.8 million in 2005. Information technology continues to be hot along with education and health care. And there's a big demand for accountants.

How do you turn a true calling into the career of your dreams?There's no secret to landing your dream job. If you're fortunate to know exactly what you want to do, then the trick is to figure out a way to make money doing it. It could take several years to map out a plan and come up with an exit strategy from your “day job,” but if you're focused, building your network, immersing yourself in your chosen field, you're good to go. Fear of the unknown could very well be the only thing holding you back!