In the past few months, Eastern Airlines and several other companies have discharged thousands of employees, perhaps including you or someone close to you.
For those who haven't had to look for a job before, the next few weeks will be traumatic. But you must make sure that you get your search into high gear, and fast. Here's an overview of the main steps you should take:
* Your safety net. Make sure you have as much of a safety net as possible. From your former employer, insist on any vacation and severance pay you are entitled to, clarify your profit-sharing and pension rights, sign up for the extended medical and hospital benefits to which you are probably entitled under the federal COBRA law, and apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Also, speak to your former supervisor about getting a written reference and about how your potential employers can contact him. And do not take a vacation: Get right to work on your job search.
* Office details. You will need an organized place to work on your search. If your former employer will give you office space for a while, fine. If not, set up a room or corner in your house as your job-search office. Get stationery printed and get an answering machine to take calls while you're out. (Make sure not to record one of those goofy greetings.) Set up a file so you can keep track of people contacted, ads responded to, answers received and things yet to do.
* Narrow your focus. Do not write your resume yet. Instead, compile a short list of the jobs you want to apply for, along with the sort of companies you'd like to work for. If you simply want the same kind of job you had at your last employer, that's fine. But you might also want to increase your options by identifying transferable skills you learned on your last job.
* Summarize accomplishments. You're going to want to put together a resume that emphasizes accomplishments. For example, did you boost sales? Save your company money? Set up a new program? Write a training program?
* Write your resume. To go after the same job you had before or a closely related one, the standard chronological resume should do. Include (in order): name, address and phone number; work experience, including two- to three-line job summaries with two or three accomplishments for each job; education; a personal statement ("I am a dependable. . . ."); and a section where you can itemize such things as computer skills and technical training.
To go after a new type of job, you might start off with a job objective that clarifies the job you want and what qualifies you for it (two sentences maximum). You can follow that with a general summary or skills list.
* List contacts. Make a master list of everyone you know who could help in your job search. That includes friends, relatives, former bosses, colleagues, subordinates, former vendors, customers, lawyers, bankers, accountants and professors -- to mention a few.
* List companies to apply to. Look through the Yellow Pages, trade magazines and sources such as Standard & Poor's to compile a list. Call, visit in person or write a letter summarizing your experience.
* Start answering ads. For each ad, write a cover letter and include your resume.