Dear Sam: I have proven I can step into any role and excel. With my job search lasting for 9 months now, I really need a job and am willing to do anything. How do I make my résumé reflect that I can do almost anything? - Mike

Dear Mike: While creating a general résumé may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite. I cringe when candidates tell me they can do anything and don't have an idea of what type of jobs they will be applying for. While I certainly understand the need to not limit options in today's job market, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely effective. Instead, one should really try to identify a primary objective, even if this means you have a second or third objective requiring modified résumés. If you try to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades you suddenly become a master-of-none; clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy. Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective résumé, a step that facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and what keywords to incorporate into your résumé. While you may have thought broadening your scope on your résumé would yield more responses, it is likely it is doing the opposite.

Dear Sam: I was just laid off after spending 29 years with the same company. I was recruited from college in 1980 so I have never had to write a résumé or really go through the interview process. I have no idea where to start. Can you tell me where to begin? - Steve

Dear Steve: I'm sorry to hear of your recent layoff. The most important thing to do, as difficult as that may be, is to try to remain positive and attack your job search proactively. So, to get started I suggest the following steps:

1) Figure out what you want to do. If you don't know where your career is headed next, start researching to find out what types of positions you are interested in now. To do this you could look at the online job boards to find out what opportunities exist in your geographic area that require the skill set you offer. You can also start talking to those in your personal and professional network to glean ideas from those who know you well; this can often be very helpful, especially if you are in the market for a career change.

2) Craft a great résumé. Armed with your target in mind, start documenting your career on paper. You will probably want to include information on the last 15 or so years, unless you are seeking a senior executive position when it would be appropriate to include more, so spend time writing down what you did on a daily basis in addition to the contributions you made during your tenure. Next, prioritize this information using the rule present the big, save the small to guide your decisions as to what makes the cut for your résumé. Be sure you are focusing on accomplishments as these predict your ability to add value-over and above performing your job well-to your next employer. Seek guidance on writing an effective résumé from recently published books, respected websites, or even a professional.

3) Develop a distribution strategy. Create a proactive distribution plan including posting your résumé on first- and second-tier job boards, applying to job postings found online and in classified ads, possibly contacting a recruiter for additional support (depending on your field), cold contacting employers of interest to source unadvertised positions, and using your network to get the word out you are in the job market.

4) Start your mock interviews. Use a friend or family member to facilitate a mock interview. As you have not interviewed in years, doing this will help you gain a certain comfort level answering questions on your experience and skills. There are lots of online forums to learn more about today's interviewing techniques, top questions, and general tips, or you could even enlist the support of a professional coach if you felt you needed that extra help.

One of the most important things I can't stress enough is to remain positive and to enlist the support of your network. You will likely know many others who are in the same situation, so start a support group if you don't know of one already in existence. These are great ways to stay motivated and on track during the often laborious job search process. Best of luck to you.