If layoffs needed, avoid surprises

Some organizations may be too quick to cut employees, others too slow. The consequences of either mistake can be disastrous for a business. Sometimes downsizing the work force is the best, if not only, business decision, said John Sullivan, human resources consultant and author of "Rethinking Strategic HR: HR's Role in Building a Performance Culture." Sullivan said the most important thing to remember when considering layoffs is that no one should be surprised by a pink slip. "A layoff is an admission you've failed," Sullivan said. Sullivan suggested running employees through the organization's worst-case economic scenario. "Explain to [employees], 'If the economy keeps turning for the worse, here's where we'd have to make cuts.' Tell them, 'These are the skills you need to protect yourself.'" Then, he said, provide interested employees with training for those skills.


Savings desired vary widely

How much saving does a happy retirement require? That's one of the fundamental questions underlying all the "golden years" planning for millions of Americans, and A magazine's survey suggests the answer is elusive for many of us. About 37 percent of those queried said they believe they'll need $500,000 saved, while 24 percent said $1 million. About the same proportion, 23 percent, said they don't know. Sixty-three percent said they feel "on track" for their retirement finances, and 62 percent said they're pretty certain they won't need to work then. The survey for "Kiplinger's Personal Finance" magazine involved telephone calls to 1,017 people.


Begin the search with your resume

It's a workplace maxim and common sense for most people: The job market is brutal. Nearly any position will have takers, (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says 25,000 people applied for 350 jobs at a new Chicago-area store) and your goal is all about wooing a prospective employer. In most cases, the search begins with the resume, and practically every company is eager to see how a candidate fits with the specific skills and experience that company needs. Customizing your resume is key. A resume specialty firm, Vermont-based ResumeDoctor.com offers some tips:

Research the target. Forget about "team players" and "problem solvers." If you know how to do what employers need for the new hire, tell them all about that skill set or experience.

Create a powerful statement. Go with a headline summary that conveys your title, expertise, background. What kind of concise statement would make a recruiter read further?

Summarize your skills. Get it down succinctly. No need for flowery sentences.

Parse the job description. To their discredit, many companies write vague or incomplete job descriptions when advertising a position. Often, you'll need to call or do some other research to learn about the company, industry, basic skills or responsibilities for the post that piqued your interest. "Sending out a generic resume is like a steakhouse that advertises its vegetarian menu. If you know your customers are asking for steak, then don't waste your time pushing the big salad," said Brad Fredericks, a co-founder of the Vermont company.

Knight Ridder/Tribune and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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