Dear Pat: I am so sorry to hear of your recent downsizing, I know that must have come as a shock and I hope I can help you enter a job search with confidence and clarity.
The most important thing to do, as difficult as that may be, is to try to remain positive and attack your job search proactively. So, to get started I suggest the following steps:
Define your target. If you don’t know where your career is headed next, start researching to find out what types of positions you are interested in now. To do this you could look at the online job boards to find out what opportunities exist in your geographic area that require the skill set you offer. You can also start talking to those in your personal and professional network to glean ideas from those who know you well; this can often be very helpful, especially if you are in the market for a career change. Be sure to pay attention to the job description part of job postings as this will be the language you must speak on your resume in order to be seen as a competitive candidate.
Craft a great resume. Armed with your “target” in mind, start documenting your career on paper. You will probably want to include information on the last 15 or so years, unless you are seeking a senior executive position when it would be appropriate to include more, so spend time writing down what you did on a daily basis in addition to the contributions you made during your tenure. Next, prioritize this information using the rule “present the big, save the small” to guide your decisions as to what makes the cut for your resume. Be sure you are focusing on accomplishments as these predict your ability to add value—over and above performing your job well—to your next employer. Seek guidance on writing an effective resume from recently published books, respected websites, or even a professional.
Develop a distribution strategy. Create a proactive distribution plan including posting your resume on first- and second-tier job boards, applying to job postings found online and in classified ads, possibly contacting a recruiter for additional support (depending on your field), cold contacting employers of interest to source unadvertised positions, and using your network to get the word out you are in the job market.
Start your mock interviews. Use a friend or family member to facilitate a mock interview. As you have not interviewed in years, doing this will help you gain a certain comfort level answering questions on your experience and skills. There are lots of online forums to learn more about today’s interviewing techniques, top questions, and general tips, or you could even enlist the support of a professional coach if you felt you needed that extra help.
One of the most important things I can’t stress enough is to remain positive and to enlist the support of your network. You will likely know many others who are in the same situation, so start a support group if you don’t know of one already in existence. These are great ways to stay motivated and on track during the often laborious job search process. Best of luck to you.