Because we just don't see ourselves in the same way others do, hearing an unbiased assessment of the image we project to prospective employers can be valuable. If you view yourself and your career as investments that generate returns over your lifetime, it's easy to justify the costs of procuring professional guidance. Kristen Bellstrom provides an overview of the services available to job seekers - and their going rates - in SmartMoney.

True, many job seekers lack the funds to invest in career coaching, dress-for-success seminars or even a resume makeover. Take heart: By availing yourself of the free or low-cost advice and resources on Dice, the Internet in general or in your local community, you can improve your image and the effectiveness of your job search - without a big cash outlay.

Here are some sources that offer free or low cost career advice and feedback:

  • Dice: We hate to toot our own horn, but: Dice does offer free sample resumes in the Resume Center, and you can get feedback on your efforts on our Discussion Boards.
  • Personal Feedback: The Internet is a great resource, but there's just no substitute for customized advice or the feedback you can get in small group sessions. Free counseling appointments and career seminars are available through most One-Stop Career Centers. If you interview with them, headhunters and recruiters may offer to critique your resume for free, and many recruiting and staffing firms offer seminars on interviewing and resume writing. If you were laid off, your company may have contracted with an outplacement firm. They usually assign candidates to a personal counselor and offer free access to resume writing software and training sessions for the certain skills. And don't forget about mentors. A friend, colleague or former boss might be willing to give you unbiased career advice and feedback-if you ask them.
  • Community Resources: Check out the Web sites of your local library, city and newspaper for a schedule of free career seminars. While you're at the library, don't forget to pick up one of the many books and DVDs on how to find a job and keep it. Support groups and pink slip clubs often feature a professional guest speaker at meetings. Local clothing retailers and department stores often offer free dress-for-success seminars. When you attend one of these sessions, you might also uncover a list of non-profit organizations that distribute gently-used business attire.

Taking your image and your job search to the next level doesn't have to be expensive. All it takes is time and a little resourcefulness.

-- Leslie Stevens-Huffman