How to Deal

Learn How to Adapt to a Changing Job Market

By Lily Garcia
Special to
Thursday, April 17, 2008; 12:00 AM

I have been looking for a job for over one month. When I was younger, I could land a job after the first interview. However, at 57-years-old, I am now hardly able to even get one.

I am a certified dental assistant and have been in the field for over 30 years. I truly enjoy the work, but it has limited me as far as doing any other type of job. I have a bottom line in the salary amount that I will accept and can't afford to start over at a lower one.

What can I do to promote myself? I am a good worker and am much more dedicated than many of my younger counterparts. What should I do?

Just as you have changed over the past 30 years, the job market for your position has probably done the same. The "buzz" about dental assistant careers suggests that they are plentiful and pay relatively well. And as you might expect, this has led to an influx of job seekers and intensified the competition. If your bottom line is higher than the going rate, however, you do run the risk of being eliminated for that reason alone.

Before you proceed any further, determine how low you are able to go. If you have any flexibility in your bottom line number, that will help you tremendously. You should also work on the presentation of your application materials and your interview style. The cover letter should express your personal qualities that aren't necessarily obvious from a chronological review of your work history. Discuss your passion for the field, experience, dedication and work ethic. It's important to relay to potential employers that, although hiring you may cost them more, they will be getting a far better value than with a less seasoned employee.

At interview time, formulate answers and questions that showcase these qualities. Think of several key points, in advance, that you want to convey about your potential value to the practice. Rehearse what you are going to say, either with a friend or in front of a mirror. Then, make sure that you subtly work these statements into your responses. Also, don't forget to come to the interview prepared with a list of professional references who will sing your praise.

Remember, you have only been looking for a job for one month. That may seem like an eternity when you are enduring rejection, but finding a job -- especially the right job -- can take much longer. And once you've secured employment and made yourself indispensable to the new employer, you will then be in a better position to negotiate for higher pay.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, April 29 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. The information contained in this column is not intended to be legal advice.

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