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Spend your money wisely while looking for employment

| Monday, May 10, 2010

When you're out of work, the last thing you need to do is waste money.

"Nothing sets someone up for being played for a patsy like being lazy, being scared and being in a hurry. When you're out of work and desperate for a new job, you're at least two out of those three," said Martha Finney, author of "Unlock the Hidden Job Market."

But some job-hunting expenses could be worth paying. Here's what Finney finds worthwhile and what's not.

Resume writing: Hiring a resume-writing service can be dicey. Anyone can call herself a resume writer, and one writer can't be knowledgeable about every industry. Resume-writing costs vary widely, from $50 to more than $1,000. If a resume writer is just feeding your words into a resume-writing program to make it look pretty, you can do that yourself.

But Robyn Feldberg, president of the National Resume Writers' Association, contends that many do-it-yourselfers don't tie their job responsibilities to results, while others have trouble explaining gaps in their work history. She claims 90 percent of job hunters have room for significant improvement in their resumes, which can land them a job with better pay and benefits.

If you hire a writer, ask for samples, references and whether the writer will interview you.

Networking meals: Job-hunt experts often say networking can be far more important than sending hundreds of resumes, but all those lunches and dinners can get expensive.

"When you're networking for work, you don't have to feed your connections," Finney said. "What they do want you to do is make the networking event easy for them. So meet them at their office, and let them offer you coffee."

Or counter an offer for a dinner meeting with a less-expensive coffee meeting.

Image consulting: Women can go to a high-end department store for a free makeover at the cosmetics counter and get a personal shopper to help with clothes, Finney said. Or trust a candid friend.

Industry conferences: Conferences can be a great networking opportunity that could lead to a job. Trouble is, they're often expensive.

"There are so many ways you can get into conferences for free if you're willing to volunteer, which is also a great way to get acquainted with people casually, which can lead you to surprising networking connections," Finney said.

Use , and other sites for cheap airfare, car rentals and hotels.

Job websites for a fee : You can post your resume on some job boards for free, and you might as well. But paying for the privilege becomes riskier.

"Job boards are really dreary opportunities to feel like a loser sitting by an unringing telephone," Finney said. "Only this time, you're paying for the privilege."

Clothes : You need to dress appropriately for the job for which you're interviewing, so reasonable spending on duds makes sense. Check out high-end consignment shops, which offer used suits and other professional wear for far less than new.

Mock interviews: One service Finney would pay for• Job-interview practice. You might hire a human-resources person you know to help refine your techniques.

"That would be money very well spent," she said.

Of course, take advantage of free job-hunt resources provided by your community, local government or previous employer. And remember, money you spend on your job hunt might be tax deductible if you itemize.

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