Search a jobAs chief executive officer of Compass Career Management Solutions in Charlotte, Robyn Crigger often deals with people who have just lost their jobs or are starting to look for work after being displaced.

The human resources consulting firm began in 1994 as an outplacement company, but it changed over time to include management, career development and help with job searches.

Crigger spoke with the Observer recently about those searches and the importance of being organized throughout the process. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Question: What do you tell people to do after they have lost their job?

Answer: One of the first things we do is to try to get them into a routine or they will be going in circles. Set goals every week. People who are at home might want to fix a cabinet or see their son’s ballgame. But the way the job market is, you should be working on getting a job close to the 40 hours a week you used to be working.

Q: What about people who received some severance? Does that buy them some time?

A: If you have severance money and think there is no rush, that could hurt your (job search) because it may take months to find a job. Pretend the severance is not there, or put it in the bank. But set a schedule. Each week I want to make 25 phone calls. So that’s five calls a day. Write those goals down on paper.

Q: You talk about the importance of networking. What are some things people should keep in mind?

A: A lot of it is just getting out there and making conversation with people. Any social setting can be a good venue. Make a list of every person you know; you can go back years. Networking is the No. 1 way to find a job. The contacts can be former neighbors, past employers, people you haven’t talked to in a long time. Don’t discount anyone. Share your plans and enough information (about what you are looking for).

But if you are going to a networking event, your work begins before you go there. You need to know what the normal attire is, know the parking situation. And get there early. One of the best things you can do is work on meeting other people and tell them your story.

Q: What are some strategies for impressing potential employers?

A: The first thing is you’ve got to know what the employer wants. So many resumes are so generic, and people do not know what they want. So when you apply to a company, really research them. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, that will come across to an employer. And you need to come up with ways to distinguish yourself. So many resumes are so generic. Employers are looking for something that is easy to read, very clear about what you want and how you can help the company.

Q: How do you do that?

A: A lot of folks list tasks (in their resume) that are part of their normal responsibilities. But you need to quantify the value of what you do, and show how you impact the company in a positive way. I once worked with a woman who was in marketing. She came up with some new creative ideas that increased sales by 80 percent. When you can quantify like that, that helps make a difference.

Q: What else are companies looking for?

A: Someone who is creative and keeps their talents up to current standards. And it does make a difference to do your research on the company, to be able to talk about projects they are starting or the path they are taking. Ask some questions about the company, such as what they plan to do about environmental issues. And always be honest. If you ever try to stretch the truth, it really will backfire every time.

Q: What’s a common mistake you see?

A: A lot of people go online and try to find jobs, but they are one among thousands of qualified people. Few find jobs that way. There’s so much more to it than that. You have to stick to your schedule, get out and talk to different folks, target companies with the types of job you are looking for. It’s work, but people are still looking for the easy way out.

(c) 2009, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.