Career Makeover

Adopt creative mind-set in job hunt

Larry Mayer searched through job listings at Darwin’s coffee shop in Cambridge. He has been hunting for work since moving back to Boston from the West Coast. Larry Mayer searched through job listings at Darwin’s coffee shop in Cambridge. He has been hunting for work since moving back to Boston from the West Coast. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / May 1, 2011

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Larry Mayer loved his job teaching English and composition at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. But when his wife got a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at a Washington State University four years ago, Mayer gave up his job and followed her out West.

At the end of 2009, however, with his wife telecommuting as a journal editor and planning a sabbatical, and their children missing New England, the family headed back to Boston. Unable to get his old job back at Rindge and Latin, Mayer applied for positions teaching English at public, private, charter, urban, and suburban schools, as well as community colleges, universities, and writing centers. But after 18 months, he had gone through eight job interviews, without an offer.

When he met with Boston career coach Susanne Goldstein for a Boston Globe Career Makeover, he admitted he was discouraged and depressed. “You’re in a tough position,’’ said Goldstein. “You’re a dad and want to provide for your family, and this competitive job market is hard for people psychologically.’’

Goldstein, author of the self-published “Carry a Paintbrush: How to be the Artistic Director of Your Own Career,’’ said reading classifieds and applying for those jobs is an outdated approach. Instead, job hunters should continually seek out people who can help them. “This happens when you constantly try to make new connections, do your research, are prepared, and communicate like a pro,’’ Goldstein said.

To communicate like a pro, speak clearly, carefully, and with respect, she said. Reread every e-mail, note, or letter at least three times, looking for typos and incorrect grammar, without relying solely on spell checkers. In addition, she said, include your last name even in casual e-mails. “Stating your last name is a lost art form that deserves reviving,’’ said Goldstein. “It shows professionalism and helps people remember you.’’

Mayer asked how to distinguish himself from the pack of applicants. First, Goldstein said, remember that interviewing is a two-way street. “You’re not at the mercy of the hirer,’’ she said. “Think of it as a chance to get to know the job and talk about interesting things.’’

Next, she suggested creating a “memorable moment’’ at some point during the interview. Create a conscious, lasting impression by leaving behind a copy of a meaningful article, printouts from your blog, a marketing packet, or a CD of your work. “This takes a bit of preparation, creative thinking, and panache,’’ said Goldstein, “but helps separate you from the blur of names and faces.’’

Finally, in an age of social media, it is important for Mayer to stay connected. LinkedIn and the BranchOut app on Facebook have become the go-to tools for professionals. Twitter feeds can include relevant updates. Goldstein also suggested online tools such as TripIt to set up meetings with out-of-town contacts.

“Take advantage of all the Internet has to offer,’’ Goldstein said. “Your job hunt, like your career, is your lifeblood and requires care and feeding. Be resourceful and go after what you want.’’

To be considered for a Career Makeover, send an e-mail to


Goal: Midcareer teaching professional wants to get back into the field after moving back to Boston.

Problem: Interviews have gone nowhere, despite applying to range of public, independent, and charter schools

Recommendations from career adviser Susanne Goldstein

■ A creative mind-set can lead to job opportunities instead of just responding to job postings.

■ Networking and reaching out to new contacts can open new doors.

■ Avoid jargon, abbreviations, and incomplete sentences in e-mails or letters, which can show lack of professionalism.

■ Proofread for typos, grammar, and spelling before hitting send.

■ Use first and last name when introducing yourself at the beginning of an e-mail or signing off at the end.

■ Remember interviewing is a two-way street, an opportunity to learn about the company and position.

■ Create a memorable moment during interviews by making a personal connection or leaving behind a tangible item.

■ Use social media to stay connected, send updates, and make appointments.