Monday, November 1, 2010

Career Q&A: Need a job? Join a job support group

A job support group can not only provide you with networking opportunities, but it can also give you the tools you need to successfully find a job. We recently caught up with Metro State Senior Career Counselor Judy White to discuss how alumni benefit from the job support group she facilitates.

Metro State: What are some of the key skills people learn in the Alumni Job Support group?
Judy White: I think the most important thing that I hear from them is that they are getting the info they desperately need to begin to put together a job search process that ultimately will work. They haven’t had the info they need to do that, whether it’s about the skills they need to have, the job search process, companies they need to research, etc. We have been focusing on information sharing.

MS: What are some examples of this information sharing?
JW: One of the most important elements that I find missing in all job searchers is the lack of information gathering skills and therefore the inability to make decisions about what they want to do and where they can make a contribution. So, we teach them how to build a good resume based on what the company is looking for. We also teach them how to identify the growth industries in the marketplace and how to match their information about their skills and strengths with job openings they find.

MS: I also remember you mentioned in a previous Alumni & Friends interview that most companies use key word scanning software when reviewing resumes. This means that your resume must have key words from the actual job announcement in it. The most important Key Word is the job title that the company is using on its web site. This is a ‘weighted’ key word and it carries more importance that the other key words. (Click here to read the article.)
JW: Right. And these days not only do you have to tailor your resume to a job opening with specific key words, but you also need to tailor your entire resume to that specific job announcement. You need to convince your potential employer that you have transferable skills that can be utilized to solve that employer’s problems. Your job search is not about you getting a job, but rather about you helping your employer solve problems. And, more often than not, you can find those problems embedded in job announcements on their website.

MS: What are other ways you can find out about the specific needs of a company?
JW: Research industries, companies, economies, and trends in professions that you’ll find through professional associations and journals. Trends in industries can be found in industrial newsletters and by reading the business sections of the local paper. You should read these every day so you become familiar with the key players, and then read the weekly papers. The Denver Business Journal covers our small business marketplace in greater breadth and depth than the Denver Post.

MS: What are some other things you really stress in the group?
JW: Alumni need to know how to work with the current marketplace. Networking has become very important during this economic downturn. A lot of businesses are not posting their jobs on their website, but they are looking for people.

MS: Why aren’t they posting jobs?
JW: Because they don’t have to anymore. One piece of information alumni find interesting and overwhelming is that the Colorado marketplace is 99% small business (companies with fewer than 100 employees). During economic downturns they let go of their Human Resources Departments because those are non-income producing divisions. So small business owners may not be advertising positions (because that takes time and money), but they continue to do their own networking to find valuable people.

MS: What are some of the biggest concerns members of your group have?
JW: The older members are worried about age discrimination, which is a reality. To counteract that, I tell them to focus on their strengths, skills and how they can help the potential employer solve problems. I tell them to say they have more experience than some of the younger applications. I would say that directly in an interview. I recommend people are really direct, but soft. The older members also struggle with how to market themselves; that’s what it’s all about really.

And for everyone in the group, the job search process is daunting. A job search is a long process, particularly in this economy.

MS: What are some solutions to how overwhelming the process might be for people?
JW: Job support groups really help. A number of churches have weekly job search groups that are ongoing. I don’t know if they have trained leaders, but that kind of long term ongoing job search group is really about networking and supporting one another.

Also, if you’re going to be doing your job search from home, you need a quiet secluded place. Set up an office for yourself where you have telephone, computer and fax machine. And check with your tax person because some of the costs for doing that, including a percentage of your household expenses, may be deductible.

MS: Our interview time is coming to a close. What is one last tip you have for alumni?
JW: When you compile your resume, write down the results of your accomplishments under each job you have had. You want to show the hiring manager your skills. You may not have specific experience in a specific academic area or industry, but you have transferable skills. You have lived long enough and solved enough problems. The hiring manager wants to see results. The results give her a specific example of what you can do for her.

White will be facilitating another job support group, Wednesdays at 10a.m., from February 2 through February 23. Check out next month’s Career Q&A, a video with Judy White including tips for divorcees entering the job market.

Looking for more Career Services articles?

Networking Advice for Alumni. Click here..

From College to Career: Rachel Abernethy talks about the change. Click here.

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