Job searches today mean breaking from traditional methods

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If you're of working age and unemployed today, this is not your father's -- or mother's -- job market. Maybe not even that of your grandparents' day.

With Washington state's unemployent rate bouncing around 8.5 percent and the nation's in the same ballpark, everyone looking for work needs an edge to get that all-important job interview, not to mention getting through it.

For employers, businesses have the cream of the crop of applicants to choose from. For the applicants -- well, you'd better have your "A" game on, making sure your résumé is updated and focused on your skills so that you look your best.

The state's WorkSource office in Walla Walla matches job seekers with employers so it sees both sides, but it's a little more obvious it's an employer's market. Companies -- those in the market -- are cautiously and carefully hiring, said Jennie Weber WorkSource area director.

"The employment situation is sitting idle, we're not seeing the seasonal ups and downs," she said.

Because of the sheer numbers in the applicant pool, Weber said, her office is focusing on preparing job seekers.

"The job search is very competitive," she said, and if seekers think what worked for them in the past will work again they need to reconsider their job-hunting tactics.

"If you've worked steadily for 10-15 years you're way out of touch with looking for work today."

That being the case, WorkSource offers training and information to get up-to-date.

"We strongly encourage attending our workshops," Weber said. The recently laid-off, previously long-term employed may think of a job search as printing out some résumés and knocking on doors. The world has changed.

The workshops and training at Worksource focus on the use of the Internet, what to do and what not to do.

"We were talking to our employer group in the job search class we teach," Weber said. "The employers cautioned the use of social media."

It's simple: Don't post certain things. Be sensible, and know that what you post on the Internet about yourself stays on the Internet.

On the other hand, the Internet has made it easier to apply for many more jobs more quickly, and without having to lug résumé packages to the post office or the costs of sending them.

But at the same time, a lot of other job seekers are doing the same thing. That's where having a snappy résumé comes into play. And the old format of stating your job goal, making a personal statement and listing where and what you did at previous jobs aren't as important as starting off with specific skills you can bring to a new job and your record of accomplishments.

"It's quite competitive, applying online. You have to present your knowledge, skills and abilities," Weber said.

Nor does working for a long time at one necessarily mean you are hireable in a new position. WorkSource offers assessments to help you find your strengths and workshops to help you pull yourself together and present well to a prospective employer.

"You have to have demonstrable skills for certain occupations. We have a series of tests to assess skills and abilities."

The average class is three hours. The outcome is something WorkSource tracks: "Using those services causes a person to go to work faster. We have proven results," Weber said.

Smaller towns where it seems everyone knows each other present specific challenges.

"In rural areas you have to be cautious, make sure you're not burning up the labor market," she said. "Always put your best foot forward."

And no matter your age, stay current.

"Older workers have experience and skills from actual long-term employment, from actually being on the job. The younger population is lacking there," Weber said. "The challenge for the older workforce with the experience and skills is to keep up with new technology," skills younger workers generally have but without the work experience.

Last year Walla Walla had about 5,500 active job seekers registered with WorkSource. A continuing problem in the Valley is the long-term unemployed, who may have specific challenges they have to address.

"They haven't got what employers are looking for or have not seen the reality of the ever-changing business market," Weber said. "They have to learn to sell themselves. We will do everything we can to help them to re-enter the workforce."

As challenging as today's job markets is, she's seeing some expansion in health care and educational services.

WorkSource constantly updates its job listings, classes and workshops throughout each month with information on everything from filling out an application, writing a résumé to preparing for an interview.

"We are planning more job fairs and hiring events for employers to see what's in the applicant pool," Weber said.

And for job seekers, she said, "What's handy is to check those daily listings. Job listings are updated daily."

For online local and statewide job listings, as well as for tips and guidance on résumés, interview and conducting a job search, visit go2worksource.com. For a schedule of learning labs and classes, call 509-527-4393 or visit the WorkSource office in Walla Walla at 1530 Stevens St., Walla Walla.

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