Back to School, Back to Work

The end of summer often signals a return to a more structured schedule. Even if you don’t have anyone in your family who is in school, the marketing messages about preparing for academic endeavors can’t be ignored. In translating this to your job search, it might be time for you to consider additional training in your field or a related area that can make you a stronger candidate in the continually tight job market.
Review the websites of your professional organizations to determine what offerings may be available online or if there are any live seminars scheduled close to home. Even if you are paying out-of-pocket, professional development experiences can be tax deductible. Regardless, the investment will pay off in the long run. In addition to strengthening your skill set, you will be shoring up your network, which may lead to an interview!
When researching professional development opportunities, compare the listings with qualifications posted for one of your target positions. Identify any gaps between your experience and the specific job requirements to help you determine the best bang for your buck when it comes to selecting a training experience that will pay off for your job search. Technology is one of the most often identified areas of need and one where skills may quickly become outmoded. Stay away from the “fluff” or soft-skill seminars to get the most out of your training budget.
Another common back-to-school expense that has a parallel in the work world is your wardrobe. You must have at least one interview suit, so look through your closet and pull out your most professional attire. If it is outdated, see what you can do to update the outfit. Will a new tie, blouse, or shirt be enough to modernize the look? Perhaps a tailor can help update the jacket, slacks, or skirt. If not, check the back-to-school sales to see if you can add a piece or two to your professional wardrobe and prepare yourself to look the part of the perfect candidate.
Finally, review your expectations regarding the life changes you want for yourself at this point. Updating your skills and your clothes can help you to visualize yourself in the new role, but what about updating your beliefs? Being able to see yourself in the new position is an important aspect of being successful. A practical component of visualization is preparing your professional summary or elevator pitch. What are the most important skills or experiences you want the hiring manager to know about you? Again, refer to the job posting and qualifications to guide you in your decision about what to highlight. Work in a few key points about your recent training experiences and examples of solutions you have created that speak to the needs of the open position. See yourself as an action hero who can solve problems for the company. What special powers do you bring to the table from your work history? 
Use your energy wisely at the end of summer to focus on your target position. Gather your resources and implement a plan to improve your skills and marketability by closing any gaps in your experience through additional training. Your initiative and continued focus on expanding your skills will make you valuable to potential employers.