March: Newsletter #29

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March 25 · Issue #29
Table of Contents
  • Navigating an International Job Search
  • Understanding the ATS System
  • Anticipating a Layoff
  • Preparing your References
  • Ageism in a job search
  • Navigating a Resume Gap
  • …..and so much more!
In This Issue
This issue is JAM PACKED with job search gold including: resume trends, navigating an international job search, anticipating a layoff, preparing references, ageism in a job search and so much more!
Dear Reader

Don’t you just love March Madness?  Just to be transparent, I am a casual fan of basketball. I only watch it during the postseason. Somehow though, I lucked into an NCAA bracket challenge with some of the greatest minds in sports.

Long story short, my first job out of college was with a guy who loved the tournament & started a bracket pool (before it became super mainstream). Fast forward, he now works in analytics for a major professional sports team & the group is full of other professional sports data guys. I’ve remained in this group after all of these years for one sheer reason….curiosity. Every year, I pick my teams based on superficial reasons. And every year, I beat out half of the guys who study player & team analytics for a living. The one thing in sports that you have to remember is that sometimes it boils down to pure luck & passion.

Speaking of….. how did a 6-foot tall 22-year-old father become one of the top NCAA defensive players?


Jose Alvarado, a Brooklyn born basketball player had all of the odds stacked against him.

If you watched the amazing nail-biter ACC Championship game between Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida State University, you saw his passion and determination on full display.

In the ACC-championship post-game interview, he said, “a lot of people doubted me. I wasn’t supposed to be in the ACC, and (head coach Josh Pastner) took a chance on me”

This is a guy who played 40 minutes of a 40-minute championship game.

…who practiced shooting in his backyard with a cheap basketball goal from Walmart so he could be home in the evenings to tuck in his daughter to sleep.

It’s all about heart.

Job seekers, remember: 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐫𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐞𝐬. They want to stack their teams with the best “players” who want to win.  In the interview, you have to demonstrate that you have heart

Apply the brilliant Southwest Airlines corporate motto, “Heart sets us apart” to your leadership and work ethic.

How does heart set you apart from your competition?

I’d love to hear from you this week.

Rooting for you,


CONTESTWe know you know good people. Want to win a digital copy of Kristin Sherry’s bestselling book “YouMap?” All you have to do is send an email out to 5 of your career-minded friends suggesting that they sign up for the newsletter. To be entered into the raffle, you have to BCC to your email so that we can verify that you invited five people. The first 10 people to complete this will be sent an e-book (value: $16). We follow the Can-Spam Act rules for commercial email and will not add any of your friends without their consent.

Career “Trending” This Month

Navigating an International Job Search

With more than 50% of the global workforce working remotely during the pandemic, we’ve discovered that we can essentially work from anywhere! As a travel enthusiast, I’ve drooled over marketing emails inviting me to work in paradise as countries like Iceland and the Grand Caymans have created remote worker visa programs.

As more people get vaccinated and it becomes safe to travel internationally, I predict that you will see a rise in the number of people who not only want to get out of town for the weekend (we’ve all been cramped in our houses!) but who want a temporary or permanent change of scenery.

In this article, I asked top international job search experts for their best advice on how job searching is different outside of the US.

Future-Proof Your Career By Growing In Place

This excellent article by Gina Riley outlines how you can up-level your skills while staying in place. This article provides twelve ideas to kick-start a plan today so that you can position yourself for future growth.

Hiring Has Restarted. Here’s What You Need to Know to Land a New Job, Now.

Excellent WSJ article with tips from expert careerists. 

BONUS: The video interview with Lindsey Pollak highlights the value of using a spreadsheet to track your job search. The Job Search Secret Weapon team created an excellent template to track applications and informational interviews. With this link only, you can get the spreadsheet for just $4.00. 

Understanding the ATS System

Understanding How The ATS Reads And Interacts With YOUR Resume

There is always a lot of confusion around applicant tracking systems.  Kristen Fife, a recruiter with Redfin, spills the beans on what happens when you upload a resume in an applicant tracking system, knock-out questions, bots and automation. While it’s a great read, I always recommend getting a warm introduction to a hiring manager over cold applying to a job online. 

Curated Career Conversations with ATS Expert Dr. Cheryl Minnick

Sarah’s Curated Career Conversations

Question and answer-style article that highlights some of the most asked questions around applicant tracking systems including:

  • When it comes to uploading resumes in online applicant tracking systems, what format do you recommend—.DOC, .PDF or Plain Text?
  • What does keyword moderation look like?   
  • Do ATS mostly function as database or do they actually play a role in ranking and selecting candidates? 
Anticipating a Lay Off

10 Questions To Ask When You’re Laid Off

If you are sending out a lot of emails in your job search and not getting a response, my guess is that you are not being ghosted. This is a great read and will help you send better emails!

Laid Off…. Don’t Sign Anything Yet!

This is an oldie but a goodie that needs to be resurfaced. Paul Levy, Senior Advisor at Lax Sebenius LLC, a negotiation strategy and capability-building firm, gives his best advice on how to look out for YOUR best interests when given a pink slip. It’s a must read in this uncertain economy.

Have you prepared your references?

It’s likely that an employer— before they extend an offer— will ask you for 3-5 references. These are people who know you in a professional sense and who have ideally been past supervisors.

Here’s an example message:

Dear X:

Thank you for agreeing to be a reference for me. I am attaching my current resume, LinkedIn profile and a link to an article that highlights some of my prior work. I’ve also included a copy of the job description and a link to the LinkedIn profile of the hiring manager.

During the interview process, they discussed how important it is to find someone who has been a change agent. Please consider emphasizing my work doing X.

I’d really appreciate it if you would let me know if they reach out to you.

Thank you again.


Also— be sure to notify references if you accept or decline an offer. They are invested in you and deserve an update.


How to Avoid Agism in Your Job Search

Worried about Ageism? Where You Live Matters

The Wall Street Journal

A recent study found that implicit bias—a subconscious negative attitude—against older people was most prevalent in the Northeast and Southeast. And age bias might affect how older people are treated in the pandemic.


How to get a job in 2021 if you’re over 50

Nancy Collamer, founder of Next Avenue, asked 5 career experts to share how their over-50 clients are landing jobs.

Navigating a Resume Gap

One of the best ways to mitigate a long employment gap—either by choice as a caregiver or by circumstance through layoffs— is doing consulting work under your own LLC.

A lot of people assume it’s expensive to file for an LLC and would require the help of a lawyer. In some cases, it makes sense to hire a lawyer, but I’ve personally found the application process to be quite simple. In my state of North Carolina, it’s only $125 to form and the expense is tax-deductible.

When listing consulting work on a resume, focus on results and impact vs. how many man-hours you worked. I’ve known stay-at-home parents who take on project work now and then under their LLC. Even though the total annual hours worked may be minimal, the impact of their work is great and aligns with their future target jobs

Consider creating a company page on LinkedIn to showcase this experience and rank for select keywords.

Make it official by using a logo. There are some easy and affordable websites for creating a new logo. I recently used 99Designs to create a new logo concept for a startup I am apart of. What I liked about 99Designs is that for $299, I could initiate a contest and get up to 30 different logo choices. The entire process helped us refine our brand. We got some great options! Note: LinkedIn supports JPGs, JPEGs, and PNGs, and 300×300 pixels is recommended.

Using Social Media In Your Job Search

Looking for a job? Why Not Use Facebook?

Things Career Related

Career Expert Bob McIntosh explores how and if you should use Facebook in your job search. 

I Studied The Early Posts of 12 Successful Profiles On LinkedIn & Chances Are They Started Out A Lot Like You…

Sam Swirsky: LinkedIn Article

Sam Swirsky looked at the posts of 12 individuals with over 10K followers to see how many posts they had to create on LinkedIn before getting their first comment. It’s a quirky but thought-provoking article that shows the power of having a “long game” strategy when it comes to content creation and building an audience.

Can you do me a favor?
I’m on a mission to help job seekers land amazing jobs. Would you consider doing one of the following:
  • Forward this newsletter to your job searching friends
  • Recommend me as a paid speaker for your company events on networking, job searching or leveraging LinkedIn
  • Recommend my services to high performers wanting to work one-on-one with an executive resume writer / or experienced interview coach
Copyright © 2021, Briefcase Coach, LLC, All rights reserved.

March Issue 2021

Want to contact Sarah?  Email 


  • Sarah Johnston

    I’m a former corporate recruiter and industry “insider” who got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents or know how to position themselves in interviews. I have relocated multiple times across the country as a “trailing spouse” and have had to execute job searches in completely cold markets (where I literally knew no one!) I have been named a LinkedIn Top Voice in the career space in 2019, HR Weekly’s Top 100 Most Influential People in HR, named the owner of the “best resume writing firm for experienced executives” by Balance Careers and a “top follow” by JobScan in 2019 and 2020.

Sarah Johnston

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