career

7 ways to save cash on a job hunt

Highlights
  • Creativity can help jobseekers succeed even when budget is tight.
  • Bartering, use of library and government help among cost-cutting tips.
  • Tax breaks also available to people looking for employment.

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," says Markell Steele, owner of Futures In Motion, a career counseling service in Long Beach, Calif.

Marc Dorio, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Job Interview," says that if job seekers plan in advance, it is possible to find work without becoming panicky about money.

7 ways to slash job hunt costs
  1. Barter for job search assistance
  2. Visit the local library
  3. Visit low-cost community job centers
  4. Group-related job hunting tasks
  5. Use free Internet, phone services
  6. Pack your own lunch
  7. Save your receipts
"Start by making a budget," he says. "For income, include any severance you got from your last job, plus unemployment funds, plus any money you've already saved."

Next, he suggests looking for ways to save money while you're looking to be hired.

Here are seven savvy tips career experts suggest for stretching your dollars while job hunting.

1. Barter for job search assistance

If you need career coaching but don't have the cash to pay for it, Steele suggests asking if the coach would be willing to barter something of value in exchange for career advice.

"Figure out a way for you and a career coach to work with each other," she says. "If you're qualified, you could offer anything from bookkeeping assistance to secretarial help to marketing assistance."

Steele reports good success with job seekers who've bartered services with her.

"They've come to me and said, 'I can't pay your full rate right now, but could you give me an hour of consultation in exchange for an hour of administrative support?' And yes, I've taken them up on the offer," she says.

Another way to barter is to trade your volunteer time for admission into a networking event.

"Trade meetings are crucial for meeting people in your industry, but those luncheons and dinners can be pricey," says Steele.

"Approach the event handlers and see if there are opportunities for volunteers," she says. "You may be able to manage the attendee check-in desk, or handle some aspect of the planning, all in exchange for a free or reduced price."

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.

2. 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, Dorio says.

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.

"The more your reference librarian knows about you and your specific needs, the more he or she can help you find information directly related to your job search," Dorio says. "The best tool you can have in your repertoire is your library card."

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, Steele says. 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.

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3. 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, Dorio says. 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, says Janice Litvin, director of Micro Search SF, an executive search firm in Walnut Creek, Calif.

"Career counselors advise you to focus on jobs for which you are absolutely qualified," she says.

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