Expert job search advice.

Sarah Johnston’s The “Briefs” Newsletter | | Job search smarter

In this issue: Job search strategy, personal branding, navigating layoffs and outplacement, a case against retirement, salary trends, Inc.’s fastest-growing companies, and more…

Dear Reader:

I hope you had a nice and relaxing July 4th weekend. I enjoyed time with my husband and girls dodging rain showers around the pool. I was in charge of planning “minute-to-win-it” games during the neighborhood pool party – it was a great way to foster connection and joy while celebrating.

July marks the midway point in the year and the heart of summertime. It is a great time to slow down, unwind and give yourself permission to indulge in a guilty pleasure book or a road trip to nowhere.


Rest up

Yes you’ve got deadlines

And doubts

And today’s unfinished work

But don’t forget yourself

We need you, safe and whole, more than any of the things you need to do

Those’ll keep, they really will.

We need you.”

– Lin-Manuel Miranda

Reading for pleasure, playing sports, and cooking are all examples of unstructured time. A key driver of inspiration is unstructured time.

“The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, ‘Hamilton’ walked into it” – Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Unstructured time is kind of like a brain sabbatical, turning your brain off from it’s normal problem-solving, task-focused mode just enough that it can relax and allow subconscious ideas to emerge.” – Gabrielle Joyce

If you’ve been waiting for it, here’s your permission slip to stroll the magazine section at the grocery store and splurge on an escape.

Rooting for you,


Job Search Advice

Sample Follow-Up Emails After Job Application | Career Sidekick
Sample Follow-Up Emails After Job Application | Career

Career Sidekick, Byron Clark gives guidance for follow-up emails after a job application. How long after submitting your resume to follow up. Key mistakes to avoid (including one that will cost you the job opportunity).

Build a Target Company List

It’s pretty common job search advice to “build out a target company list” –but a lot of job seekers don’t understand what this means and how to do it.

In my latest video, I break down how to practically build out a target company list using a hypothetical job seeker. This video walks you through how to organize your target company list, how to identify companies to include on your target list, how to use websites like Crunchbase and LinkedIn and how to make targeted outreach. Websites mentioned include Crunchbase, Hunter, Mailtrack, and LinkedIn.

The Inc. Regionals 2022: The Fastest-Growing Companies Coast to Coast
The Inc. Regionals 2022: The Fastest-Growing Companies Coast to

Their off-the-charts growth rates are delivering an outsize impact on their regional economies. Inc. looks at companies coast to coast including a coffee company started by a chiropractor, a mom-founded multi-million dollar toy company started with a PVC pipe, and an uber-successful virtual golf lessons business started after seeking purpose. Lists like these can be useful when creating a target company list (see video above).

Layoffs and Outplacement

Laid Off: Can I negotiate my severance agreement? - Briefcase Coach
Laid Off: Can I negotiate my severance agreement? – Briefcase
If you find yourself laid off, it’s important to know that you have rights– & in some cases, you can even negotiate your severance agreement.


Tech Layoffs: US Startups And Tech Companies With Job Cuts In 2022
Tech Layoffs: US Startups And Tech Companies With Job Cuts In

Tech layoffs in 2022 have included cuts at Netflix, Better, Fast, and other U.S. tech companies. Crunchbase has tracked all the notable tech and startup layoffs of 2022.

Meta cuts hiring plans as it prepares for 'serious times'
Meta cuts hiring plans as it prepares for ‘serious times’

In a weekly employee Q&A session presented by MSN, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said the company is experiencing “one of the worst downturns [it has seen] in recent history.”

Some Hot Job Markets Persist. But Where?
Some Hot Job Markets Persist. But Where?

To be sure, the hiring market is relaxing. “Employers are calling the shots again,” says Jacob Zabkowicz, general manager of global RPO at Korn Ferry. “They’re gaining back control.” But recruiters are still seeing heavy demand for roles typically hired in high volumes, such as hourly employees in retail and food service.

Pay and Benefits

How to Get a Promotion
How to Get a

Landing a promotion takes effort – they are not just handed out freely. I was honored to share knowledge in Brandi Fowler‘s article that outlines the importance of a strategic game plan for getting your next promotion.

Salary Transparent Street
Salary Transparent

What do you do? How much do you make? Gen Z Hannah Williams is on a mission to promote pay transparency across the United States using social media to close the gender pay gap. I like her short TikTok-style videos and really see potential in this idea. Her interviews range from candle makers to software engineers.

How Unpredictable Schedules Widen the Gender Pay Gap
How Unpredictable Schedules Widen the Gender Pay

The authors, Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel analyzed seven years of pay data for bus and train operators employed by the MBTA at union-negotiated rates. What they found is fascinating. Bottomline: Much of the earnings gap arose because women are more likely than men to have responsibilities outside of work that necessitates predictable schedules, such as bringing elderly parents to doctors’ appointments or picking children up from school.

Work-Life Balance

Don’t Retire – Even if you can … A baby boomer’s manifesto

Marc Miller, the founder of Career Pivot, explores retirement – what it meant when it was established and how it is different now. He presents a well-rounded argument that retirement is not as rewarding as it may seem.

Americans are embracing flexible work–and they want more of it

McKinsey’s recent American Opportunity Survey illuminates how many people are offered remote work, if it’s effective, and how people feel about it.

Hot Topics

Here's Why Consistency Is Key When It Comes To Your Brand
Here’s Why Consistency Is Key When It Comes To Your

Building and maintaining a strong brand identity is important. Marketing company, Zen Media shares why consistency is key when it comes to building your brand. The audience for this article is B2B, but I think the message is true for personal brands.

Even your boss wants to quit
Even your boss wants to

Axios journalist, Jennifer Kingson reports on recent survey results by Deloitte looking at the role of an organization’s top executives in employee satisfaction. In the poll, 70% of top executives say they’re burned out.

Resume Branding

If you’ve driven down a U.S. road, chances are you’ve probably seen a sign in Highway Gothic font, a set of sans-serif typefaces developed by the United States Federal Highway Administration and used for road signage in the U.S.

This wayfinding font was created in the 1940s to be read at high speeds and from a distance of over 80 feet.

(Fun fact: apparently, signage fonts are a super juicy government debate. Read WIRED’s article titled, “America’s Highway Fonts Got More Drama Than The Bachelor“)

Recently I was driving in a shopping plaza and noticed this stop sign. As you can see, it’s not in Highway Gothic font.

Subtle difference, but noticeably different.

The font that you choose for your resume can have the same effect. Subtle, but noticeably different.

Typography can reinforce your personal brand.

The majority of job seekers write their resumes in Times New Roman or Arial.

Consider “mixing things up a bit” (you crazy kid…) and use Helvetica or Calibri.

Some of my favorite new fonts are Rosario and Sora. What about yours?

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 or post about it on social media. This small act really helps!
  • Consider sharing my company name with your HR leadership. We are a great “white-glove” boutique option for executive outplacement
  • 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

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