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Far too many of us have been in the situation...we find it a struggle to start the day, knowing we are headed to a work environment that does not motivate, does not offer substantial benefits, is not challenging, isn't competitive. But how many of us actually take the time to sit down and rethink our careers, conduct an in-depth job search, and make a life altering change? Not many. We don't bother because as unmotivated or unchallenged as we are, we have found a comfort zone and we think to ourselves any number of excuses. "At least I have a job." "It doesn't really matter if I don't get that raise this year." "So what if he/she got that promotion over me. I might get one next year." But next week, next month, and next year is not soon enough - we need to get out of those dead end jobs NOW!

It might seem a little overwhelming at first, but I'm here to tell you that in the end, the little bit of worry and the little bit of wondering is well worth the effort. You can and will find a job that suits your talents and makes you happy. But where to start?

For those of you that found this article - congratulations. You probably have access to a computer, and that tool is a major link to the job searching world. Check out the numerous job links online - monster.com, careerpath, careermosiac, just to name a few. Conduct an overall search and you will be amazed at what you find. For those of you without access to the World Wide Web, don't fret. Jobs are plain to see in black and white print as well - pick up a copy of any newspaper and browse those classifieds. Chances are, most companies that advertise online still venture into the daily papers as well. Once you've found some jobs that seem appealing to you, sit down and make a list of all the job qualities that you hope to attain. Are you looking for a management position? Do you want to work at a large or small company? What are the most important aspects to you - job title, advancement opportunity, salary, vacation time? Make a list and be as detailed as possible. This list will help you weed through your potential jobs and will serve as your "goals" list.

Now you know what you want and you have a list of prospects. Do you have a resume? Is it up to date? How about a cover letter? These 2 components are the key to landing you an interview. Keep your resume straightforward. Avoid full paragraphs of information. If you've been out of high school or college for 10 years, don't include high school or college activities. Keep it brief, and put the most important information first. Include contact information at the top. When writing a cover letter, remember that this is the first thing potential employers will see and it is the key to getting your resume read. Again, keep it brief, but offer enough information to intrigue. Explain the position you are applying for in the first paragraph, then state your qualifications. Discuss the benefits you can offer a company, not the benefits that you'd like in a job. Thank the reader for his/her time, and most importantly, direct the letter to a specific person, never ever to "whom it may concern" or "human resource department." Make it personal.

So, your cover letter and resume have been sent out. A week goes by and you hear nothing. Do you forget that job and move on to the next? NO! You should send out several résumé’s at once, rather than one job at a time. This will allow you to negotiate various offers and find a job sooner. Between 3 and 5 days after your resume has been received, offer a follow-up phone call to your contact, asking if they have had the chance to review your resume and if they would appreciate any additional materials or have questions for you. With any luck, you'll land that interview...

Do not go into your interview unprepared. You will want to anticipate a few likely questions and have a sense of your responses. Don't try to memorize answers - you'll end up sounding less personable, but do try to prepare some information that you would like to offer in support of your skills. On the day of the interview, dress smart. Do not be too trendy. Go for a suit - blue is best, however black and blue is a good combination. Never wear the power color, red - it is too intimidating for a day where you want to be looking up to your interviewer, not demanding respect (that comes after you get the position!)

During your interview, make eye contact. Sit up straight. If you need to take time to think about a question before answering, pause and go ahead and think about it. Chances are, you will appear smarter taking the time to think of an appropriate answer than trying to answer too quickly. After you have been interviewed, the interviewer will most likely ask if you have questions. This is your chance to find out about the benefits - 401k, vacation time, insurance - offered by the company. Do not be afraid to ask about these items! You will also be given the opportunity to negotiate your salary. Always give a range, not a specific amount, and remember the organization will negotiate down from your bottom number so don't go too low!

After the interview, it is appropriate to send a thank-you note to the interviewer. It doesn't have to be long. Simply touch on the key elements that you discussed during your interview and why you will serve as an asset to the company. Thank the interviewer for his/her time. Offer contact information.

You got the job! Although tempting, do not accept immediately...this will be your only chance to negotiate for better benefits, higher salary, etc. You may want to entertain a counteroffer from your company, BUT it is not recommended. Most companies, although not all, will remember that you put them into a position to counteroffer and you may not receive the preferential treatment in later years, no matter how good the counter salary seems. If and when you do accept the new position, write a resignation letter to your current employer and an acceptance letter to your new employer. Putting information in writing is more formal than a phone conversation and shows a high level of respect for both organizations.

Most importantly, take your time with the process. If something about a job offer seems too good to be true, take the time to contact your interviewer and gather more information. If your current organization makes a counteroffer that you feel cannot be refused, make a list of the pros/cons about each position and company and let that guide you. Remember that you are in charge of your career and that your career is a large part of your life. You need to be happy at work.