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Tips on improving the job you're in or finding one you love

All week long, KGW Sunrise is sharing some ways to help you explore your career options. From interview tips and resume help, to how to ask for a raise.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The week of April 2 marks National Explore your Career Week. All week long, KGW Sunrise is sharing some ways to do just that. From interview tips and resume help, to the right and wrong ways to request a raise.

First in the series, KGW Sunrise dives into what to do if you find yourself getting laid off by your employer.

How to deal with being laid off

1. Grieve your job loss

According to Austin Belcak, founder of Cultivated Culture, one of the first things you should do following a layoff is to grieve the loss and take time to process what happened. Focus on yourself and don't start updating your resume and applying for jobs just yet.

Instead, take a day or two for you and do nothing related to finding that next job. Think of your mental health. One rule of thumb to think about is that getting laid off is a reflection of your previous employer and its situation, not you.    

2. Reassess your situation

Belcak said you should take this time to reassess your situation. Ask yourself if your previous career was a means to an end or the right fit. Make a list of the good and bad about your last job, and weigh the pros and cons. Maybe it's time to think of exploring a different field that would use your skills?

When looking over job postings and the requirements that are listed, you may find that you have skills some of the skills, but not all.

RELATED STORY: How to prepare for a layoff

3. Build your skills

Read through job descriptions and scan the requirements to see if you can find a course that would help build those skills. Then put them to use and create a portfolio that you can use to show future employers what you are capable of doing.

Belcak said to set a schedule and only search for jobs a couple of hours a day Spend the remainder of the day working on improving your skills.

It's important to not get burned out when applying for a job. Belcak said don't apply to every job out there. Instead, target certain companies you want to work for. Be focused and put your best application forward. You've likely heard the phrase, "quality over quantity."

4. Use your connections

Ask those in your network if they know of any job openings or anyone hiring in your desired field. You may find that your connections can open a door for you.

5. Housekeeping items

Make sure you have health insurance. Some companies will include that in a severance package, but smaller ones may not. 

Apply for unemployment benefits and understand what to do with your 401(k) or retirement plan from your previous employer. Talk with a financial advisor about what would be the best move.

Stop applying online

In today's job market, competition is fierce and simply submitting an online application may not be enough to land your dream job — especially when it gets lumped in with a stack of other resumes all competing for the same position.

Austin Belcak found himself wanting a career that was different than his science based degree. His resume didn't meet the requirements listed for a job in the technology sector, so he found another way into that field.

"Basically, for me that was a focus on building relationships with people and finding more tangible ways to illustrate my value outside of a resume, outside of a cover letter." Belcak said.

His strategy worked and after five years working at Microsoft, he started his website and business CultivatedCulture.com to help people land the job they love.

Below are some ways to rethink the application process.

Don't apply online

Belcak said don't just apply online because a typical job posting can generate around 250 resumes. That number will be higher or lower depending on the size of the company.

He says of those resumes, only about four to six people get called for an interview and then one gets hired. In other words, there's about a 2% chance of just getting an interview if you go that route.

"What I basically found was that I needed a new way to get in the door and there were two ways I went about that," Belcak said.

Find a referral

Belcak said, by finding someone within your target company, your chances can jump from 2% to closer to 40%.

"So if we take a step back and analyze that, we have 75% of the market using online apps competing for that 2% chance of getting in the door, whereas if we're focused on referrals we're only competing with 10% of the pool for that basically 40 to 80% chance of landing the job," Belcak said.

So how do you get someone to refer you for a job, you know nobody at?

Send targeted e-mails to those in the hiring process. This will take time and effort, but Belcak said the payoff is shorter than the online application process.

First, start by sending out about a dozen e-mails to introduce yourself to around 10-15 companies that you'd like to work for.

You may get a response from some and not from others and those that do respond may not refer you, but you may find others will. Belcak said that's OK. Make sure you tailor the e-mails to the person you're writing to, not just asking them if they would refer you.

"What we found is if you start with a minimum of 150, you put yourself in a really good place all the way down that funnel and end up with a job offer," he said.

Remember, this is all part of the long game to get a job. Belcak said, by building those relationships first, getting hired can happen quicker than if you just applied online. He said it's closer to three months compared to the typical six. 

"Yes, you have to be able to walk the walk, but you don't already have to have walked the walk. You just have to know that you can and be able to sell the company on that," Belcak said

What if you don't meet the requirements listed?

Belcak said, create your own experience, "Whether it's freelancing or whether it's through content creation. Whether it's through taking courses and certifications. Now all of a sudden, you're much more competitive than you would be otherwise. Then you can tell employees, look I really want to be in this field."

Do your homework on the company

Show you're committed to the company and you want the position listed, identify solutions or come up with ideas to make yourself stand out above the others.

"You do research on the company, you identify a challenge or opportunity, something interesting to them, but relevant to the job you're applying for,
 Belcak said. "Brainstorm a solution and then bring it to the table and present it to the company... here are some ideas that will help you solve or achieve these goals."

Improving your resume

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci is widely credited with writing the first resume? More than 500 years ago, he sent it to the Duke of Milan listing all his capabilities.

Today, that resume is still the document used to list our own capabilities.

So what should be in or out of yours?

"This is not your autobiography," Jenny Foss said. "It doesn't need to be a list of every thing you've ever done professionally."

Foss is the founder and creator of JobJenny.com, a Lake Oswego-based professional resume building service. She said there are definite do's and don'ts when it comes to what to put in there.

Cover Letter

Foss said, "If you think you can create one that is attention grabbing and compelling, absolutely yes. Go for it."


Foss advices to keep the style of the resume simple. 

"I would always have a very straightforward version if you are applying for jobs online, but if you're in a creative field save that for when you're going to e-mail a PDF directly to someone," she said.

Foss said the reason behind that thinking is that some online resume scanners have difficulty recognizing logos or abstract fonts.

Objective Line

Foss said to lose the 'objective line' of your resume.

"You don't want to use an objective. We know your objective. That your objective is to land the job that you're applying for, so in that top part of your resume is really valuable real estate," she said.


Think of the summary as a bullet-pointed highlight reel. Weave in the role your applying for and add in concrete data points such as how much revenue you brought in, or how fast you closed a deal, or how much lower you negotiated something for.

Foss said the summary is "essentially your opportunity to introduce yourself in a way that really resonates with that job your applying for."

Resume Length

There's this long-held  belief that resumes need to be kept to one page and anything longer is a bad look.

But Foss said that's not true.

"This is the myth that will not die and it makes me crazy, but I will also say make the words earn their spot on the page. Say what you need to say to make a compelling pitch about yourself, that's what your resume is. It's a marketing pitch, but make those words earn their spot," she said.

The Job Interview

Have you ever been asked a question you didn't know the answer to? What if you consider yourself more of the shy type and have trouble doing interviews? KGW talked with J.T. O'Donnell, CEO of Work It Daily, a website offering free advice and subscriber paid access to help people find the job they love and improve the one they're in.

Now that you've created the resume and applied for a job. It's time to get ready for that interview. So before you walk into that meeting, here are some helpful tips to better prepare you.

"This isn't a group of strangers and you shouldn't walk in feeling like this is going to be an interrogation," O'Donnell said.

Interview Prep

Before you show up, the first thing people should do is interview preparation. 

"I think the more prepared you are when you walk into that company, the more you know about them," O'Donnell said. "Again, they don't feel like a stranger. you're also going to be stronger in your interview answers."

Interview prep can also be a big help if you're more of the shy type. First, write down the answers to common interview questions. Work It Daily lists those as:

  1. "Tell me about yourself."
  2. "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
  3. "What's your greatest weakness?"
  4. "What motivates you to perform?"
  5. "Tell me about a time that you failed."
  6. "Why do you want to work here?"
  7. "How many couches are there in America?"

That last one may seem a little random, but it's asking you a question that forces you to think on your feet and under pressure.

"The key here is something called the experience plus learn equals grow model," O'Donnell said.

Figure out your greatest success, that's the experience part. Then for learn talk about what it taught you and then how you grew from the experience. 

Rehearse the answers to those common questions.

"No one's asking you to memorize your answers, but we are expecting you to come and be able to talk logically, because it'll be in (your head) if you reviewed it a bunch of times," O'Donnell said.

What if I don't have an answer?

What if you get asked a question you don't have or don't know the answer to?

O'Donnell said that's okay and there's a response you can give.

"Any time you get asked a tough question, believe it or not you should look at them and say, I'm really glad you asked that or, that's a good question. The response you're giving is positive," she said.

O'Donnell said it is also acceptable to ask if you can come back to that question later in the interview.

"If for some reason you get to the end of the interview and you still don't have that answer, you can say 'Honestly, I'm stumped. I'm probably going to think of something after I leave and I'm probably going to write you a thank you note that includes it. It might be my nerves, I don't know why I can't think of anything right now,'" she said.

Helpful tips

Watch your eye contact. If your interview is being conducted virtually, stare into the camera and not the screen because your camera will make it look as if you're looking down and not at them.

Be sure to stay objective and positive. Don't criticize or be negative about your previous or current employer.

When it comes to talking, control your 'umms' and 'ahhs'.

"The moment someone picks up that you umm a lot. That's all they think about and they'll start counting them," O'Donnell said.

Ask questions

Don't be the only one answering questions. When the interview ends, have a couple questions of your own

"The question should be about that person. Make a connection," O'Donnell said.  "Something as simple as how did you end up here? What's your favorite part of the job? What do you like most about the company?"

Never leave without asking what the next steps in the process are. Ask the interviewee if you can call them if you don't hear back from them in a couple of days. Find out what that timeline is and then stick to it.

Get contact information from everyone in the interview process and send them a thank you note when the interview is over. A good rule of thumb is to send out a thank you note after a morning interview by that afternoon, and by the next morning for an afternoon interview.


Finally, don't ask about salary at that first interview unless they bring it up first.

How to ask for a raise

According to a Gartner HR survey released in November 2022, only 32% of respondents believe they are fairly getting paid. 

The news release states, "The Gartner survey of 3,523 employees in 2Q22 also found that that employees who perceive their pay as unequitable have a 15% lower intent to stay with their employer and are 13% less engaged at work than employees who perceive their pay as equitable."

When should you ask?

So if you feel like it's time to ask for a raise, when is the perfect time? Fotini Iconomopoulos, a negotiations expert who advises executives to get the best deal, says the time is now.

"The great answer is always. If you have done something fantastic. If you're just coming off of some really positive momentum, that is a great time to ask for a raise."

She says one mistake people make is waiting too late in the year to ask for a raise when budgets have already been allocated.

What should you say?

"My two favorite words when it comes to salary negotiations of all kinds are "based on". I say that instead of 'I think' because 'I think' is subjective. It shows you my opinion and if I'm going to show you my opinion, guess what, they're going to show you their opinion and now we're just arguing." Iconomopoulos says.

She says when you say 'based on", it'll be followed by an objective piece of information, for instance a piece of research or your knowledge of the industry, which she says will be harder for your manager to deny.

What if you get told no?

Iconomopoulos says that's ok. Getting told 'no' is just the start of the negotiation. She says your next question should be, "If not now, when? If they say something like we need more experience. What does that experience look like? Get some qualitative information that you can use in the future or some kind of data that you can use, because knowledge is power."

Finally, if the answer is still no, use that as a way to start the long-term conversation.

"At the very least, you're going to get some information out of this to help you change course and get to a place where you will get more money. If they say you haven't done this, we can't give you this much, but we can give you this much that's still an improvement. If you don't ask, you don't get. So why not give it a shot." Iconomopoulos said.

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