The Jobseekers

You see them popping up everywhere: pink slip parties, job fairs, resume writing groups and for lack of a better term support groups for the unemployed. I made my way to such a group that a church member stepped up to form at my local house of worship. This was the group’s third session. The organizer sent emails letting us know the owner of a recruiting company would be attending to offer pearls of wisdom and answer questions. The turnout was the largest since the group formed; even the head pastor attended to offer support.
I was never much of a group-sharing kind of person; I was never comfortable sharing my feelings. That changed several years ago when I totally “got” the Weight Watchers philosophy and lost 32 pounds becoming a lifetime member (and have still kept off the weight). While I was hesitant to go to this group, I figured, misery loves company. At least I’d have a place to listen, learn and get a few things off my own chest.
The group members varied from an employed educator who believes she’ll be losing her job soon to a CPA who is probably on the brink of getting a new job as well as a recent college graduate looking for a break in the web and Internet design field. The evening got interesting when the church member who owns an executive search firm arrived. He was very candid in telling us what firms look for, what companies want and how to approach meeting with human resources personnel once you get that far.
He advised us not to be discouraged. It is his belief there are many jobs available, you just have to be creative in finding them. The online searches probably don’t offer the best opportunities and are generally NOT a good way into a job. The human connection is best: find someone you know or someone who knows someone and make that human contact. You may still have to go through the online application which gets screened by an applicant tracking system, but you may be positioned on an insider’s radar screen. He told us the applicant tracking system is the best thing to happen to search firms and human resources and the WORST thing to happen to job candidates. A computer program or in some cases, a person, looks through your carefully compiled resume for key words that relate to the position available. If you do not have those key words or experience or education needed, you are OUT. If you do get through that screening, you are one of many applicants; you still have a long way to go.
What I got out of that job seekers meeting was a camaraderie among people I barely knew or never knew. I connected with a business executive who I’ll be meeting with next week. We’ll talk about the possibility of consulting together. I also had a good day in meeting with a good friend of mine. She has a growing retail business and she may be using me for some public relations and promotions as well as some web/Internet fine-tuning.
Networking is huge. Try to say “yes” to any opportunity to meet in person with people, no matter how casual the situation. Many people I continue to talk to say the BEST way to connect with a new position is to get your face in front of a person who is in the know or perhaps the person who will be hiring. Beats those online applications any day.

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