When searching for a new job, it’s essential to make a good impression. But for those who are unemployed or just starting their careers, finding the money for a first-class job search can be difficult.
Fortunately, smart candidates can still put their best foot forward without blowing a bundle. When you’re on a shoestring budget, you have to be creative to get the help you need.
Here are seven savvy tips career experts suggest for stretching your dollars while job hunting.
- Barter for job search assistance
If you need career coaching but don’t have the cash to pay for it ask if the coach would be willing to barter something of value in exchange for career advice.
Another way to barter is to trade your volunteer time for admission into a networking event.An additional benefit to volunteering time at industry events is that you may rub shoulders with decision makers, an opportunity that might not be available otherwise for any amount of money.
- Visit the local library
People generally know there’s a lot of research information at the local library, but few job candidates have a grasp of the wealth of resources available for them. Libraries have subscriptions to paid online databases, and you can use this information for free. You can also access the Internet at no cost when doing company research. And don’t forget the free books on everything from resume writing to successful interview techniques.
Along with visiting your county or city library, stop by local college libraries. People don’t necessarily have to be students to access an institution’s media services. You don’t need to live near a major research university to take advantage of school libraries, either. Community and junior colleges can be good local resources.
- Visit low-cost community job centers
To save money on skill-building, get in touch with the job training and one-stop career centers funded by your local government. These centers offer computer and Internet access, as well as photocopy services.
They may also offer training in specific office skills at a low or reduced rate. That’s important because if you don’t have the specific skill sets mentioned in a job description, you’re probably wasting time and money applying for that position.
Contact your state’s department of labor to locate centers in your area.
Another good source for help is your alma mater. Try visiting your school’s career center, even if you graduated many years ago.
Look for informal job search groups, too. With these organizations, people come together about once a week to share ideas, resources and experiences without requiring you to spend a lot of money.
The group can keep you accountable in your search, offer encouragement and provide an informal critique, such as double-checking your resume for typos.
- Group-related job hunting tasks
Cutting employment-related transportation costs can net major savings. Proper planning can minimize the amount of time and money you spend traveling. Try to schedule interviews during slower periods of the work day, if possible. Interviewing during nonrush-hour times helps you save on gas by dealing with less traffic.
- Use free and low-cost Internet and phone services
It’s crucial to have online access when looking for work. The Internet allows you to research companies and get access to job-hunting Web sites. But if you don’t have the budget for costly Internet service, consider dropping it in favor of using the Internet for free at places such as the library or a local job center. You can also sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Hotmail or Google Gmail..
Regardless of which e-mail account you use, remember to keep your user name professional. Stay with using something simple, such as your first and last name or something similar–don’t use a cutesy nickname.
Along with Internet service, evaluate your telephone plan to make sure you’re getting the most value possible for the money.
Most candidates also need cell phone access and voice mail, so they’re always available if an employer calls for an interview. Even so, shop around for the best deal, and consider dropping extra services you don’t need.
- Pack your own lunch
Save a few dollars by packing your own lunch. Or at least bring along some snack bars. If you have several interviews scheduled, you could spend a lot of money stopping by restaurants to get something to eat after each meeting.
- Save your receipts
Whenever you spend money on your job search, save all receipts — you may need them at tax time.
Many of the fees related to your job search could be tax-deductible. Such fees include the cost of preparing and mailing resumes and expenses related to employee outplacement services and travel. Be sure to record your mileage for each trip, including starting and ending odometer readings.
There are a few caveats to the tax deductions. You have to be looking for work in your current occupation, and you shouldn’t have been out of work for a substantially long period of time. Become acquainted with IRS Publication 529 because it explains in detail which job search expenses can be deducted from your taxes, and what the requirements are.