Library seminar helps job-seekers
By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Apr. 28, 2011
Most libraries are expanding their services beyond the traditional role of lending books. At Manchester’s public libraries, residents can also find resources to help with job searches. “We have people come in all the time needing help with résumés and applications,” explained Barbara Pennijohn, head of reference and adult services at Mary Cheney Library. Based on this need, Pennijohn decided to host a presentation to further help people with their job search.
On April 25, Marcia LaReau, president of the employment consulting firm Forward Motion, held an evening seminar on breaking through employment barriers. More than 25 people attended the presentation, most of whom had been laid off and looking for work for some time. Some in attendance were young people seeking their first professional position.
LaReau suggested that everyone take advantage of LinkedIn.com, a social network site for business professionals, for viewing job profiles and other résumés. LaReau also noted that interviewers will search LinkedIn.com for information about potential employees. For this reason, it is important that one’s profile is kept up-to-date and professional.
When searching for a new job, LaReau stressed the importance of finding a job that fits one’s abilities. “Stretch, don’t settle,” she advised, explaining that a job searcher should seek to align one’s employment goals with the type of work that is appropriate for one’s experience, but not necessarily the same type of work that was done in the past. She said prospective employers can sense the applicant’s excitement about the potential job, or realize that the applicant is simply applying for any job. Applicants should also be prepared to verify that they have the necessary skill sets to perform the potential job.
In order to apply for a job, the applicant needs be able to verify that his skill sets match 80 percent of what the employer is looking for, but not necessarily 100 percent. Successful applicants will also be able to show a pattern of success in the critical elements of the job requirements. “You have to take apart where you’ve been,” said LaReau.
“It’s not about whether you’ve been paid for your work,” explained LaReau, “it’s what you’ve done.” While people should obviously include their professional skills on their résumé, LaReau was also very clear that skills from volunteer work and even life experiences should be included. For example, being a volunteer coach shows an ability to work with multiple people, or obtaining a Master Gardener certification shows dedication to life-long learning, as well as an ability to juggle time requirements.
LaReau recommended resetting the job search every two weeks. “If you’re not getting interviews,” she said, “it’s your paperwork.” One way to improve the job search success rate is to search out key words to highlight one’s skill sets. LaReau suggested reviewing job descriptions for similar positions across the country to learn how employers are defining the qualifications being sought. Then, LaReau said to use those key words for online searches of jobs in the local area. These same key words should be incorporated into one’s résumé.
“You want to promote what’s unique about you,” said LaReau about the key focus of one’s résumé. It is not simply what work one has done, but how the employee operates. LaReau called this a person's “Unique Value Statement,” which explains how one will do the job better or differently than the next applicant. She suggested asking five or six people who know you well to identify what a prospective employer should know about your work style and successes. This information must come across in your paperwork. “If your résumé isn’t working,” said LaReau, “change it.”
According to LaReau, it is also important to be prepared to handle potential obstacles or objections an employer might consider based on your résumé. Applicants need to be honest about any shortfalls, while at the same time focusing on their positive attributes. “Never say anything negative about any place you’ve worked during an interview,” said LaReau. “Show that you are positive and ready for work.”
LaReau explained that a young adult without much professional experience might acknowledge that fact, but also highlight that she has been involved in several organizations where she learned time management skills, as well as express her enthusiasm for working with this particular company and how she will be an asset to the company. “Do your homework,” said LaReau.
According to LaReau, searching for a job should be considered full-time work. “You should spend eight hours a day, five days a week on your job search,” she said. If still employed, the goal should be three hours a week and one job application each week. Much of this time should be networking in person, going to employment groups, taking classes to enhance your skills and retooling yourself. The time spent in front of a computer should be limited, with the exception of online training. Job searchers have many training opportunities available, and employers will appreciate an applicant who is taking advantage of the time to become a better worker. LaReau suggested seeking out resources at libraries as well as through Capital Workforce and CT Works.
On the Manchester library’s website, there is a link to JobNow, an interactive job reference website. In addition, residents can schedule appointments with reference librarian Tom McCormack for help with their résumés. To contact the library, call 860-645-0821. For more information, visit the library website at library.ci.manchester.ct.us.