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Extension > Family > Live healthy, live well > Healthy minds > Getting through tough times > Looking For a Job

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Getting through tough times

Now Hiring sign on bank building

Looking For a Job

Sharon M. Danes, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science

Revised January 2016 by author.

It takes work to get work. The more effort and time you put into exploring the job market, the more likely you will be able to get a job.

Newspapers and Other Media

Check newspapers for "help wanted" ads or place a "work wanted" ad. Know when the newspaper comes out. Check out classified ads daily and have a phone handy if you placed an ad. Use the internet for searching. Many business websites include information on current job openings and provide application forms online. When there is a job, action to hire can happen quickly.

Avoid Work-At-Home or Job Scams

Some newspapers, magazines, and websites carry ads for jobs, work-at-home, or distributorship opportunities that sound too good to be true. Usually, they are not good choices. Unfortunately, people most in need of money often end up losing time and cash when they respond to advertisements such as these:

$1500 – $2000
Per Month
In Your Own Home
Choose Your Own Hours

While some work-at-home plans are legitimate, many are not. Common deceptive promotions are for envelope stuffing, medical bill processors, assembly or craft work, and online searches. Promoters usually ask for a small fee to tell you how to earn money stuffing envelopes at home. They may also suggest you run the same type of ad and have people send you money. You may receive a list of companies who use envelope-stuffing services, but you will need to write or call companies on the list to get their business.

Some companies require a sizable investment and then sell you assembly or craft kits with promises to buy the finished products. All too often, these companies refuse to buy the product because the work was "inferior" or did not meet "quality standards."

Franchise or distributor promoters who promise unrealistic profits and must have your decision immediately should raise a red flag for you to slow down. A legitimate promoter would encourage you to visit other distributors.

Be cautious if a job offer has a too-good-to-be-true salary, claims no experience or skills are needed, and/or expects a fee for job placement.

Protect yourself — answer these questions first:

  • What tasks will I be required to perform?
  • Will I be on salary or paid a commission?
  • Who will pay me?
  • When do I get my first paycheck?
  • What costs do I need to pay for?

Get the name, address, and telephone number and call the promoter back at their office.

Go one step further. Check with the Better Business Bureau in the area where the employer is located. Because the U.S. Postal Service investigates fraudulent mail practices, talk with the postmaster.

For more information or to file a complaint, contact the office of the State of Minnesota Attorney General at 1-800-657-3787 if you are outside the metro area and 651-296-3353 if you are calling from the Twin Cities metro area. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Division of Marketing Practices, Washington, DC 20580. While they cannot resolve individual disputes, they can take action if there is evidence of a pattern of deceptive or unfair practices. They also provide a wide range of consumer protection information in downloadable files.

Disclosure laws require businesses to fully disclose what is involved in the transaction before a decision is made. Contracts should be in writing, clearly and completely addressing provisions, guarantees, separation of costs involved, description of work, rate of pay, unusual working hours, and any territory allocations. Know the law.

Employment Services

A. Government — US Department of Labor

A comprehensive website at the U.S. Department of Labor describes the role of this federal agency and services available. Links to national job bank databases are included. Jobs can be searched by job title and by zip code. You will also find helpful information on the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website. For information about workforce development in Minnesota, visit Minnesota WorkForce Centers. From this home page, you can access resources to help you find jobs as well as education and training programs to upgrade your skills in order to qualify for higher paying jobs.

B. Private Employment Agencies

Private employment agencies are listed in the phone book's yellow pages or through an online web search. They offer three types of services:

  • Matching applicants with employers. Placement fee is usually paid by the hiring company. But, when the fee is a shared responsibility of employer and employee, it is usually paid after a job is secured.
  • Executive Search. Companies seek the help of employment agencies to find the right person for a position.
  • Counseling Services. Services include skill identification and self-evaluation as well as resume preparation. Payment is made by the job seeker before service is rendered.

When selecting a private employment agency, consider your needs and their type of assistance. Ask questions about services, payments, and the experience they have had in placing people with your skills.


Networking means talking to people. Take every opportunity to tell people you are looking for employment. Talk to owners and managers of small and large businesses in your community. Make contacts with organizations, churches, union groups and others. Many job openings are filled before they are posted. This happens when supervisors ask employees, "Do you know anyone who's ‘right’ for the job?" Get the word out that you are looking for a job and what your skills are. Use social networking online to enhance your contact range.


Apprenticeship is one way that individuals learn to be skilled craft workers. It is a formal arrangement involving employers, unions, state government, vocational/technical schools, and individuals who want to learn a skilled craft such as plumbing, carpentry, tool and die making, or cosmetology. An apprentice is paid while learning. The employer pays required schooling costs and pays the apprentice for both hours worked and hours in school. The pay averages about 60 percent of the salary of a skilled worker in that occupation.

Apprenticeships usually last three to five years. In some occupations, such as cosmetology and meat cutting, apprenticeships can be as short as two years. Contact a workforce center office, labor union office, or your local university or community college for additional information.

Cashless Jobs

Jobs without cash income include volunteering to work free and bartering. Volunteering may sound unusual, but it has helped a number of people obtain a job once the employer has an appropriate opening. Volunteering, whether for a few hours or full days, can make jobless people feel good about themselves. Some people believe it is important not to have a lapse in their employment record or on their resume. Volunteering can fill that gap.

Bartering is a way of exchanging your skills and services in return for skills and services that you need. See Bartering, another fact sheet in the Getting through tough times series, for more information.

Career Counseling

Self-assessment is a critical part of finding a job. The first goal of assessment is to obtain an accurate picture of one's skills, interests, values and accomplishments.

New technologies are redefining the basic skills required for today's jobs. Many employers say that the most important skills for any employee are the basics — reading, writing and computation. But employers also say they want employees who have "learned how to learn." Here is a list of essential skills for non-managerial workers:

  • Knowing How to Learn — Rapidly changing business conditions demand employees who can acquire and use new information easily.
  • Reading, Writing, and Computation — New technology requires better reading ability to understand it, higher mathematical skills to use it and better writing skills to communicate about it.
  • Listening and Speaking — Success on the job has been directly linked to these communication skills.
  • Creative Thinking; Problem Solving — Today's organizations give workers unprecedented responsibilities for decision-making. Workers must have creative thinking and problem solving skills to be able to make those decisions.
  • Self-Esteem; Goal Setting/Motivation; — Individual worker's effectiveness can be linked directly to successful personal management.
  • Interpersonal Skills; Negotiation; Teamwork — Dramatic changes in the work place, including the tremendous increase in the use of teamwork, have made these skills critical.
  • Employability/Career Development — Developing personal skills to keep up-to-date in today's work force is critical. Computer knowledge is a good example.
  • Organizational Effectiveness; Leadership — To be effective in an organization, employees need a sense of the workings of the organization and of how their actions affect organizational and strategic objectives. Leadership skills enable workers to understand and influence others.

Some job seekers benefit from occupational outlook information. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data you can access online: Occupational Outlook Handbook. Occupational outlook information will vary by region, county, or local community and must be explored carefully. Universities and community colleges as well as other agencies offer career counseling and other job placement information.

Libraries are an excellent source for materials on job-hunting, interviewing, and writing resumes. In many communities, there are private and nonprofit agencies that can help you in your job search. Look under "Professional Associations, Unions and Employment Agencies" in the phone book's yellow pages or search online.


Boelter, L. (2006). Managing Between Jobs: Deciding which bills to pay first. Madison, WI: Division of Cooperative Extension of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Related resources

Adjusting to Suddenly Reduced Income (PDF) — Take into account the financial, emotional, and social aspects of sudden income loss.

Financial Capability — Online resources and workshops to make wise decisions about money and other financial resources.

Rural Minnesota Life — Provides information for Minnesotan rural families, including the other 16 Getting through tough times fact sheets.

State Job BanksCareer One Stop — Provides information on more than one million available jobs. You can search by job title and zip code.

Better Business Bureau — Offers business and consumer guidance and has an online forum to file complaints.

Federal Trade Commission — Offers current news and publications, business guidance, and information on the economy and antitrust competition.

Minnesota Attorney General Office — Offers links to information on protecting and strengthening the family, and improving community life and public institutions. Also has links to current press releases.

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry — Provides state-specific information on everything from codes and policies to compensation and research in this area.

Minnesota Jobs — Search for jobs or internships, research companies, seek expert advise, or network with others.

Minnesota WorkForce Center — Provides tools, resources, and services needed for job search, career planning, and training needs.

MinnesotaWorks — Connect job seekers and employers on this free internet-based self-service system.

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