When one is faced with the prospect of unemployment, whether through separation or by choice, the conventional wisdom is that you economize everywhere possible in case your "dry spell" lasts longer than you planned. Cut out all expenses apart from basic housing, food and transportation, the experts say.
These days, you might want to add "Internet connection" to the list of can't-cut necessities.
The Internet is a vast interconnected research library. As such, it is ideally suited for the kind of searching job-seekers dream of: being able to quickly and efficiently match your abilities with employers' needs, whether they are down the street or eight time-zones away from here.
It's also a fantastic tool for employers to make contact with people who are able to adapt to new technologies. On the Net, distance is a nonissue. The nature of computer communications removes barriers like race, sex or age discrimination and forces both parties to focus on what really matters: qualifications, experience and knowledge.
Of course, Internet job-searching is not yet a utopia for the displaced worker. There is the cost of a regular connection, not to mention the cost of upgrading and maintaining a home-computer. Also, there is a learning curve preceding effective researching of the Net, as well as time investments required to negotiate busy websites and convert your resume for online display. Even then, searchers can find themselves stymied by choked Net traffic and a landslide of e-mail. Finally, there is the challenge of making your qualifications stand out when any advantages you might display in person (like a silver tongue or breathtakingly good looks) become moot.
Still, there is an infinite number of resources available to job-seekers on the World Wide Web and other parts of the Internet. For some fields, particularly high-tech or computer-related fields like publishing or programming, the Net can be more vital to your job-search than a resume.
Rather than assuming that you're comfortable with the all the technobabble, let's assume that you are not. There are several area schools, including Winter Park Tech and Valencia Community College, that offer low-cost courses to get you up to speed with the concepts behind computers, the most popular programs and linking with the Internet. Aside from learning computer skills, you may wind up sitting next to potential employers -- so considerable networking goes on in these classes. And after class, students often form support groups that can be invaluable in job searches or career changes.
With these basic skills mastered, the home-computer becomes a diligent tool for locating hot leads and a watchdog for employers looking for workers -- all within a few clicks of the mouse.
Before beginning exploration of the web, don't forget about the personal space most Internet suppliers provide as part of monthly connection services for building your own web page. Many people utilize this space to post their resumes online. Basic text files can be readied for web display with a variety of software programs, although Claris' Home Page 3.0 is generally considered to be the easiest to learn.
To ensure the maximum effect of going online, web-ready job-searchers should update their business cards and printed resumes to reflect e-mail and web addresses. Even for those without home-computers (many access the web from work, a friend's house or the library), an e-mail address is becoming more important than a telephone number in today's computer-oriented business world. And Internet access can be established for $20 a month or less. One final investment: Fax modems turn computers into fax machines, enabling job-seekers to send prospective employers "hard copies" of their resumes through the same phone lines supporting the Internet.
Ironically, it is important to keep a pen and paper handy when browsing job listings. Basic information on contacts and companies can be scribbled down, rather than wasting time to download the documents. Also, keep a record of important web destinations (plus the other more conventional methods of contact) to prevent any duplication of effort.
To begin an employment search on a local note, first go to the sprawling site established by The Orlando Sentinel (http://www.orlandosentinel.com). The job section posts electronic versions of employment classifieds, some several days before they appear in print. The Sentinel site also offers the services of a national job board, CareerPath (http://www.careerpath.com), a fantastic resource for job-seekers looking for oportunities either locally or nationally. The site gathers the classified sections of 50 or more of the nation's newspapers, published in large and medium-sized towns, and collects them in an easily searchable database.
For example, a person might be hoping to land a job in Orlando while also harboring an interest in working in Atlanta or Sacramento. Simply indicate preferences in the easy-to-fill-out form and pick one or more of the job categories. The search will find job options locally and in the other selected cities. Like many job-search websites, CareerPath asks visitors to fill out a questionnaire so as to narrow the focus of the search. While time-consuming, few of these sites charge for their services, and in many cases they allow visitors to access basic job-listings without filling out the forms. Unfortunately, CareerPath doesn't provide direct links to web pages or the e-mail addresses of any prospective employers.
Job-seekers not in panic-mode might enjoy the more casual style of The Monster Board (http://www.monster.com), a friendlier, less-earnest site that offers postings directly from employers rather than newspaper ads. Obviously, computer-savvy companies tend to post more, and this affects the number of postings from companies still lacking Internet capabilities. Still, for those looking for jobs in computer-related businesses, this site is easy to navigate and offers a wide range of possibilities. The Monster Board also features tips on finding a job and profiles of potential employers, as well as articles on going into business for yourself (including a must-read on franchising). At no charge, the site enables visitors to post text versions of their resume online, which then can be sent to employers who post jobs on the site. Finally, the Monster Board offers a funny but clever feature called "Jobba-the-Hunt," an e-mail service that will contact users whenever a job matching their skills is posted.
But national job-board sites should not be the sole source of Internet job-hunting; there are a multitude of other less-obvious routes to a new career or a moon-lighting gig to help pay the bills. Luckily for job-hunters, the concept of "web presence" has forced growing numbers of companies, organizations, institutions and trade groups to develop their own web pages. So, for starters, simply identify a list of dream employers, then add the "www." to the beginning of the name and ".com" to the end it and type this code into your browser. A quick survey revealed a handful of local employers with online job postings, Wet 'N Wild (http://www.wetnwild.com), Harcourt Brace & Company publishing (http://www.harcourtbrace.com) and the American Automobile Association (http://www.aaa.com). On a typical day, four of 10 sites surveyed, including local Internet-service providers, travel agents and banks, had links indicating that they or the parent company was hiring, often for positions that involved the Internet itself. These companies appeared to be desperate for top-quality, highly educated, web-ready employees.
The federal government, too, is taking full advantage of the Internet in reaching the labor market. America's Job Bank (http://www.ajb.dni.us), a service of the Department of Labor, features a staggering variety of jobs in practically every conceivable category, particularly midlevel salaried positions. Equipped with a powerful search engine that lets you search by a plethora of criteria and access official government statistics, this site should be near the top of every job hunter's list.
Some websites offer information and job-listings in specialized fields. For example, area trade organizations, including unions and professional organizations, also post listings or links to employers prowling for workers. Take, for instance, The Resumail Network (http://www.orlando.resumail.com/assoc/), which had numerous links to professional organizations and leading area companies in Central Florida, nearly all featuring "We're hiring!" buttons on their websites. In addition, free-lance editors, designers, writers and broadcast professionals should check out Freelance Online (http://www.freelance.com), which provides a database of job listings, tips, links to other resources and a networking bulletin board.
Unfortunately, not every web search leads to a promising lead. Sites such as the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce (http://www.orlando.org) seemed too busy promoting its events to provide links for job hunters. Other local sites seemed geared more toward visitors, rather than job hunters.
On the other hand, temporary agencies, such as Adia, Adecco, Remedy and Kelly, have websites that are tailored for local branches. Searchers can review job-postings and upon finding a job that sounds like a match, they can follow-up by phone or fax. In fact, Net-Temps (http://www.net-temps.com) is a specialized agency that lists short-term work opportunities, as well as links to recruiters.
Many people tend to confuse the smaller and more tame World Wide Web with the entirety of the Internet, where e-mail-based options, particularly mail services and newsgroups -- usually called "Usenet" groups -- offer more valuable information. To tap into Usenet groups, you'll need a newsgroup reader -- which can mean buying an independent software program or more commonly now, the readers are built into Internet browsers or e-mail packages. These Usenet groups are focused not on flashy pages but on offline discussion, debate and information exchange. There are a number of employment-oriented Usenet groups. Try misc.jobs.offered or us.jobs.offered, and for those thinking of relocating abroad, there's jobs.offered.uk.
Many specialized fields have their own Usenet groups, where workers can make contact with employers or just swap advice and pointers. The Yahoo search engine (http://www.yahoo.com) features a good search of Usenet job-postings. Professionals in a variety of employment fields participate in the e-mail discussion groups, many of which feature job leads. These services also enable people to network electronically with colleagues living across the globe. And there are mailing lists that will e-mail news and bulletins about employers and job opportunities in your field (http://www.listz.com).
For every job-searching problem, the Internet offers a variety of paths. Those wanting to appeal to a broad array of potential employers can point-and-click their way to resume-hosting services like CareerMosaic (http://www.careermosaic.com). For those looking for general help in getting started there are advice sites such as http://www.jobtrak.com. At the same time, a professional with specific skills or training can target a search on specialized career listings such as the Insurance Career Center (http://ins.Jobs.com).
Increasingly companies are shifting some of their employment-recruiting focus to the digital world. Hungry for qualified workers, employers are realizing what a powerful tool an online job-listing can be, with its potential to reach so many possible takers.
The Sunday classifieds aren't dead yet, but as more companies and services venture online, job-hunters who are able to put their Internet browsers to work for them will be more likely to link with prospective employers than those seekers relying solely on paper resumes and good looks.