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Financial Tip

From Aptitude Test to Air Force Colonel
At Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., Debra Rose wasn't happy with the classes she was taking, and wasn't sure what career to pursue. When her grandmother suggested an aptitude test, she went to the counselor's office and took the Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment tool designed for college students. She answered questions about her interests which were compared to others who were happy and successful in their jobs.

"My general skills showed I had an aptitude for a career in forestry, police work or the military," she says. After further research she went to the Air Force recruitment center in St. Louis, enlisted and earned her commission. Today, 31 years later, she is a colonel serving in cyberspace operations at Fort Meade in Maryland. She and her husband Jerry have two grown children and a 6-year-old grandson.

Would she have considered the military without that aptitude test? "Probably not," she says. "I'm glad I did!"

Getting a Job Requires Follow-up

Technology is making many tasks faster and easier. But it can also create some new unexpected challenges, especially for job hunters.

Let's start with the basics 
Before you start your job search make certain you have a typo-free resume that highlights your strengths and experience (see front page story), along with a cover letter emphasizing why you're a good candidate. Be sure to include your availability for an interview. Don't trust your first draft. Share it with someone who has strong language skills and who can make recommendations on how to improve your resume and cover letter for maximum impact.

After the interview 
At a time when companies receive hundreds of resumes, you must do more to show employers that you're qualified and interested in the job. That's why it's important to be alert and diligently follow-up on the application, interview requests and job offers.

Those who have grown up with technology may not use it the same way potential employers might. "The concept of leaving (and checking) voice mail is, to millennials, as obsolete as swing-dancing," reported Teddy Wayne in the June 13th New York Times.

"That's a problem because it's standard practice for recruiters over 30 to call to see if an applicant is still interested," says Kathy Bernard, a St. Louis-based career coach with Getajobtips.com.

Knowing your audience is essential, she advises "an ad agency will probably accept texting, but a Fortune 500 company will use voice mail and email."

She offers these tips to applicants to help increase the likelihood of being successful in their job search:

  • Include instructions to "Text me at _____ or call me at _____." Be sure to answer the phone or respond to the text. Since, the person trying to get a hold of you may not be in your contact list, you should plan to answer the phone - even if you don't know who's calling.
  • Use professional terminology and be respectful of the person calling. Learn to pronounce their name correctly. Avoid overuse of words such as "ummm" and "like."
  • Respond to voice mail messages within 24 hours.
  • Record a professional-sounding greeting on your cellphone.
  • Use an email address that readily identifies who you are. This is not the time to use a "drinkingbuddy@" or "slackerdude@" email.
  • Be polite and stick to the basics of saying "please" and "thank you".
  • Avoid cyber shortcuts (LOL, BFF) and emoticons like ;-).

Kathy recommends sending a quick email note after the interview, followed within 48 hours by a handwritten thank-you note using different wording. "Many recruiters assume that applicants aren't interested if they don't follow-up after an interview. And they won't make a job offer to someone they think isn't interested," Kathy warned.

Keep these tips in mind and the next time opportunity knocks you can be sure you're prepared to answer the door - or the phone call, voice mail or email.

Teachable Moments

Writing thank-you notes isn't just for birthdays and holidays. It's an important part of successfully following-up on job interviews.

Help your job seeker create a thank you note template that can be used after they go on an interview. Having a prepared template, that can be adapted based on circumstances, makes it easier to respond in a timely manner after an interview and reduces the chances of typos or other errors.