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Jill on Money: Get ready to nab a great job

Summer is over, the kids are back to school and now it's time to focus on your most valuable asset — you! For those who are considering a change or are coming back to the labor force after an extended break, you will need to invest time and energy in the process. Here are the activities to get you prepared.

Step 1: Conduct research on the opportunities within your desired or current field. While the labor market remains fairly strong, there are some industries and specific roles that are faring far better than others.

Step 2: Dust off the resume and cover letter and be sure that it reflects who you are today. There are tons of online resources that can help with the resume prep process. My No. 1 pet peeve when it comes to a resume, cover letter or any early communication with an employer is typos. Proofread carefully.

Step 3: Update your online presence, including cleaning up your social profiles so they are professional and networking-worthy. This may include changing your settings so they are private. Then get busy and talk to people you know and those with whom you share a connection.

Step 4: Practice your verbal communication skills. In the text/digital world, many have never really mastered how to communicate verbally. If you are rusty, practice with friends or family members and try to be clear and concise.

If you are thinking about leaving your current position, it is important to figure out why you are jumping ship. Sure, a bump in pay can be great, but will it require longer hours/days or a loss of benefits? Is there a pension involved? Would you lose precious vacation time that you love? Would a move require a longer commute?

After doing so, you might come to the conclusion that you are better off staying where you are and asking your boss for a raise.

If you haven't looked for a job in a while, know that the rules and expectations have changed. You should prepare for even the most casual conversation or interview by conducting research on the organization and practicing how you will answer obvious questions, like "Tell me about yourself" and "Why do you think you are a good fit for this job?"

Try to create a narrative of your career — why one job led to another and what you learned along the way.

Be sure not to bad-mouth any previous employer and when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, have a few smart ones in your back pocket.

In many states and municipalities, it is illegal for companies to ask what your previous or current salary is — and many large firms have stopped the practice. If you are asked, you can pivot and inquire what the range of salary is for the position you are considering in order to avoid naming a number that is less than the company is willing to pay you.

Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. She welcomes comments and questions at

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