Creating a Budget for Your Job Search

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Posted November 14, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

A job search is many things. It can be long, frustrating, exciting, and among all these things, expensive. Often, potential job seekers move into the process without thinking through what a job search might really cost. Recently, our friends over at Interviewing.com suggested “6 Tips for Creating a Job Search Budget.” They recommended considering the things you might need to buy in order to succeed in a job search – new clothes, professional resume help, travel expenses especially if you’re looking out of state, networking events, etc.

We absolutely love Interviewing.com’s notion here, and we’re taking it a step further. How much money can you realistically expect to spend on these key areas? Here’s what we’d include in a budget for a full job search, and some monthly expenses you should consider as well.

  • New Clothes. If you currently work in a professional environment and plan to transition to an environment with a similar dress code, this won’t be a huge line item for you. But for those working in casual environments who may need to purchase dressier clothes for interviews, consider the cost of:
    • A New Suit. We recommend Macy’s, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls to get a great suit for a good deal. You’ll often be able to find great brands like Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, or Tahari for $79.99 for a two-piece suit. You may want to buy two, knowing you’ll likely have more than one interview.
    • A Great Pair of Comfortable Pumps. You might not think shoes are important to your job search, but tell that to the woman I recently spoke to who wore uncomfortable four-inch pumps on an interview where she didn’t realize she’d be traversing three different buildings in a four block radius of a large corporate campus. Ouch, right? Invest in a pair of sturdy, chic, and comfortable black pumps to go with your suit if you can.
    • A Professional Bag and Portfolio. You don’t want to look cheap pulling out your regular old legal pad from a beat up old purse. Invest in a great interview bag. If you need some ideas, check out this flashback from CGN on great bags for interviews.
  • Professional Services. Especially if you’ve been off the market a long time, you may want to invest in some professional services. Here’s what you might expect to pay for:

    • Resume Review/Writing and Cover Letter Prep. Consider using someone like JobJenny. Her prices start in the $300 and range depending on package size to $500+. But a professional like JobJenny is 100% worth the price of admission. Over and over, I’ve heard professionals talk openly about how they would have never landed a job without a true professional resume review.
    • Coaching. Career or life coaching can be incredibly valuable to anyone, but especially those seeking a career transition. But you might wonder, how much does coaching cost? It varies, but you can generally expect a monthly fee of $300 to $500 per month or a session fee of $75-$150.
  • Networking Costs.

    • Networking Events. The average networking event runs anywhere from $20 to about $70. These might include breakfasts or luncheons with great speakers, an evening cocktail event, etc. They’re worth the cost if they have the right people in attendance. Look for someone in your circle who has attended one of the events you’re looking at and ask for their recommendation. Consider budgeting $100-200 per month if you can, or per quarter at minimum.
    • Conferences and Industry Events. These types of events can be more expensive, and could even include travel costs, but when they are industry or job-search specific, they can be worth the money. For instance, the “M2W” Conference on Marketing to Women is nearly $2,000, but it includes every marketer with expertise in women from companies like Coca Cola, Gates Foundation, Kraft, and more. If you want to get into this industry, this kind of investment could mean the perfect job connections. If you can swing it, consider budgeting $500-$2,000 during the life of your job search to attend these kinds of large conferences.

Job searches certainly don’t have to cost thousands of dollars. But if you ask someone who paid for a resume review, went to industry conferences, and hired a coach, I’d be willing to bet they found a higher-paying job faster than someone who stuck with a made-at-home resume, hand-me-down interview clothes, and no outside help. Do what you can without breaking your bank. But whatever you do, create a budget and stick to it. Invest in your development and you’ll find a company ready to invest in you.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is the author of "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works" and a career expert who believes in order to be empowered in your career, you must be surrounded with resources and a network that both supports and challenges you. Marcy began her own networking journey as a professional fundraiser in the nonprofit industry, honed those skills as a fundraising consultant, and in 2012 networked her way to nearly 1 million readers as the CEO of the professional development website Career Girl Network.

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