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Program Provides Unemployed With Today’s Job-Seeking Skills

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Job seekers wait in line for a job fair June 4, 2009 in Chicago. (Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

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SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (CBS) — The ongoing economic slowdown has forced people into the job market who last wrote up a resume on a typewriter.

The jobless are looking for any potential advantage as they compete with others for scarce jobs, and a program at the Harper College Schaumburg campus is working to provide them with today’s job-seeking skills.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

The dean of Harper’s Workforce and Economic Development program, Nancy Wajler, said the growth of the program since it was founded 2-1/2 years ago has been explosive.

“We’re working with a vide variety of people, from those in their early 20s, just out of college, to those with years and years and years of experience,” she said. “We’re working with people who have from high school educations to Ph.Ds.”

People such as Rachel Thompson, of Deer Park, who has spent 30 years in finance and worked most recently as a company comptroller. She would like a similar job.

“It is difficult and scary,” she said. “(But) you can’t be down in the dumps.”

Thompson said the way people seek and secure jobs has changed “dramatically” from the last time she sought a job, in 2005.

“Most of it now is networking and who you know — not what you know,” she said.

Bob Kaplow found that out first hand.
Kaplow was out of work for 3-1/2 years until he was hired recently — by a man who was his boss 10 years ago and saw Kaplow’s profile on the business network LinkedIn.

“He was the best boss I ever had,” a smiling Kaplow said, moments after arriving at the Workforce office to share his good news.

Bruce Bixler is one of those who teaches social networking skills and said he’s seeing time and again in the current job market that those who optimize social media presence and put solid resumes and profiles online can find jobs more effectively. He tells students to post complete profiles, not ones that are only partially completed, and to get more prominent play by putting an additional profile on Google Plus.

Any advantage, Bixler said, is important because he sees a general mood in the job market that is not improving, although he said he sees those who successfully complete Workforce classes with more optimism going forward.

There are differences of opinion about how to approach the search.

Robert Rosell, of Schaumburg, is both Harper Workforce student and a volunteer who teaches what he learns for Illinois WorkNet, in Arlington Heights. By trade, he is a quality manager whose job is to “turn chaos into structure.” But he can do that for job seekers as well, some of whom come in “devastated.”

He said the ability to utilize social networking fully in the job search is important, but urges job seekers not to change profiles too often, because some HR managers see that as a “lack of focus.”

He also advises against “blindly trying to connect with everyone.”

But Kaplow disagrees.

“Keep in touch with everyone you’ve ever known,” he advises.

Thompson’s search continues.

“You can’t be down in the dumps,” she repeated, although she acknowledges that there are many days when that can be difficult. “You can’t let it get you. You just have to pick yourself up and you have to do it again — day in and day out.”