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Bruzzese: What parents should look for in a new job

It’s always tough when you lose a job, but if you’re a parent, there’s an extra level of concern: How can you take care of your children if you don’t have a paycheck coming in?

Kimberly Bishop, vice chairman of Slayton Search Partners in New York, says that is why it’s critical that parents who face layoffs focus on one thing: speed.

“There’s a real sense of urgency to find a job, and the faster you create your list of what you need to do, the better,” she says. “Begin with the non-negotiables.”

These job non-negotiables, Bishop says, are what a parent believes he or she must have as part of any new job. She says examples might include: child care, specific hours or health insurance. Once parents have that list together, she says, then they won’t waste time considering jobs that don’t fit.

“For single parents, sometimes it’s even more critical that they have jobs that are near where they’re living, or with certain hours. If they see a job that doesn’t fit their important criteria, then they should just move on,” she says. “Again, they’re going for speed, which means quickly moving to put their efforts where they count.”

Bishop says those parents who have lost work can’t afford to take time to pursue job leads that don’t fit their list of non-negotiables. Unless they are clear about what they must have, then they can waste valuable time applying and interviewing for jobs that won’t help them meet their needs as parents.

“They’ll just end up having problems down the line,” she says. “They’ll go through the same thing of looking for another job six months from now. It’s much better to be clear about your (parental) needs before you ever apply.”

Bishop also advises parents looking for work to forget about their last job title, but instead focus on their skills. For example, she says a job seeker should think about talents used day in and day out such as communication, customer service or sales. These skills can be used in a wide variety of industries, she says.

“Working parents should also consider temporary or part-time work,” she says. “It’s not uncommon these days to take those kinds of positions to tide you over while you’re looking for work. Anyone interviewing you will completely understand that. And, if it’s providing even more working experience, that’s good.”

In fact, Bishop says, don’t think it will look odd on your resume if you take a job far beneath a former title or salary. “Recruiters and employers understand that it’s a challenge for everyone now, especially parents. It just shows that you did what you needed to do in order to provide for your children.”

Bishop says parents searching to find work as quickly as possible should also:

- Know what motivates you. “You still have to find the job that is right for you, even though you feel this enormous responsibility to bring in a paycheck,” Bishop says. “When you’re putting together what jobs you’re going to apply for, make sure you are motivated by the position, and that it’s right for you. Otherwise, you’re just going to make a mistake and repeating the process in the future.”

- Reassess your non-negotiables. Children have different needs at different ages, and the demands on a parent can change. Re-evaluate what you’ve always believed you need and why. Are adjustments needed?

- Look within. If your job is being eliminated, always check out other opportunities within your company. Maybe you could not have worked certain hours within another department a few years ago, but now that your children are older, it may be an option.

- Be open to untraditional benefits. Many companies have become creative in attracting and retaining employees, offering everything from telecommuting to free meals. These can be wonderful options for parents, and may help them see they can alter or eliminate one of their non-negotiables.

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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