Steve Albrecht had a sinking feeling when his special education contract with Twin Falls School District expired in June.
"I started looking for a job a month before, to see what was out there," he said. "I was a little discouraged."
The 47-year-old teacher and his wife, Sherri, didn't want to leave the area. Their four children were enrolled in school here and Sherri had a good job with Magic Valley Rehabilitation Services.
He began networking and ran into Charles Bell, who had recently organized the Magic Valley Employment Search Networking Group. With a suggestion from Bell, Albrecht found a lead and followed it up.
A month ago he was hired as assistant ombudsman for the Agency on Aging, located on the College of Southern Idaho campus. Albrecht helps seniors with housing and other problems, often making site visits to investigate conditions and interview clients.
"I'm loving it," he said with a grin.
His advice for other job seekers?
"Networking is the big answer. The more you do it, the higher probability there will be a job."
Bell's group holds weekly sessions where members trade tips on jobs. He started a similar one two years ago in Treasure Valley and it quickly grew to 200 members. Bell moved to Twin Falls to take a job with an architectural design firm, but was laid off in May, giving him special impetus to organize another networking circle.
"I have a pool of people who are looking," he said, estimating there are 30 regulars. "We're building a larger net."
Six people already have found work through the group, Bell said.
He said job seekers who are lucky enough to land an interview must be prepared with a "me in 30 seconds" speech. It's a shorthand look at who they are and what they've accomplished.
Bell said knowing others in your desired profession is critical because 80 percent of jobs are filled without being posted. He acknowledges that finding employment is a different game these days.
"There was a time I could send out 20 resumes and have a job in a week," said Bell, who has 30 years of experience in architecture, mostly in California.
Participation in his networking group is free, but he enjoys the process so much that he is considering making career counseling a new job direction for himself.
Some of his tips: when you're asked at the end of an interview whether you have any questions for the prospective employer, you'd better come up with some. Research on the company before the interview is vital.
Also, he suggests not tooting your own horn too much. Instead, describe successful projects you participated in as part of a team. And be sure to write a letter of thanks after the interview -- not an email.
Part of landing a job involves being comfortable during the interview, Bell said. "People are never taught how to talk to people."
He feels devoted to those in his group, saying, "Every time somebody gets a job, I win."
Clint Parks of the LDS Employment Resource Center in the Deseret Industries building in Twin Falls also emphasizes the value of networking. Those at the agency, which helps church members and non-members, encourage clients to create a profile and post it on an online jobs bulletin board.
"When people walk through the door we go through a whole packet of things with them," Parks said.
It includes help with resume-writing and other basics.
Parks adheres to the old adage, "dress for success."
"You want to look the part," he said. "The other thing we encourage is having a mentor or coach. That can be someone in your family or a friend or someone in the field you want to get into. They can coach you about what you need to get that job."
Like Bell and Albrecht, Parks is sold on the value of networking.
He said the resource center, which has been open about five months, has 45 to 70 jobs posed each day.
Kate Woods is Career and Counseling Services coordinator at CSI. She points out the office is there for students and non-students, teaching such things as how to create a resume and write a cover letter. Resumes are still important as a hook, but Woods said they're now placed on Internet sites rather than being mailed.
"Whenever we get a chance we encourage people to come in so we can coach them for the interview," Woods said.
She suggests those who are looking for permanent work also consider part-time, temporary jobs through an agency. Those positions might not be "the destination job," Woods said, but they help keep people afloat with quick cash, and there's no guilt about leaving if a better job pops up.
These days, most employers are looking for experience.
"Even some of the labor jobs are not something that are entry level," she said.
Employers who complain they can't get good employees usually cite a lack of what Woods calls "soft skills" -- showing up on time, being able to take a phone message.
Those looking to make a good impression with perspective bosses should keep negative images and information off their Facebook page, she added. "Whether you like it or not, Facebook is on the Internet" and open to inspection.
That brings Woods to the issue of different attitudes about work held by different generations. Baby boomers accepted rules and authority, but felt the job would be there for them permanently, she said, adding, "That's not the case now."
In contrast, younger members of Gen Y -- also known as Millennials -- are more idealistic and less accepting of authority, Woods said.
Generational differences include acceptance or rejection of technology. As Woods puts it, "Affinity for technology is an age thing," although it's here to stay in most jobs.
"You watch how easily young people can troubleshoot a technology problem and it's impressive," she said.
Woods says she meets a lot of people who've been looking for work for a year. They might consider taking a step down the job ladder to get something, then working their way back up, she suggests.
She believes there's a generation in the work world today that believes it's wrong to ever feel bored by their job.
"We do people a disservice if we tell them they should feel fulfilled," Woods said. "Sometimes work is just something you do to eat. These days, a dream job is a job with a paycheck."
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