From the time he got out of the Army in 1985, John Woods had steady work, mostly as a maintenance mechanic for large commercial printers. He moved to Minnesota 15 years ago and was working at Curtis 1000 printers when the first wave of the massive layoffs that hit the state and the country put Woods out of a job in June of 2008.
Finding himself “involuntarily unemployed” for the first time at age 49, Woods knew things had changed. The employment market is all about online job postings, email applications and web-based search tools. “When I was younger, we just knocked on doors… I’d had never written resume before,” he recounted.
But it was a combination of new technology and old-fashioned networking that landed Woods a new job and a new career after a nine-month hiatus.
After he lost his job, Woods also realized that the commercial print industry was likely going to continue to struggle so he needed to apply his skills and experience in a different arena. Woods threw himself into the process of finding, not just a new job, but a new career. Within a few weeks of losing his job, Woods was meeting with Mary Walker, a counselor at the Anoka County workforce center of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
“I was using everything,” Woods said, describing how he learned word processing and, with the help of Walker, used the center’s online tools to write that first resume. Woods also participated in a Veterans Networking group through the workforce center. “It was all a new experience for us, [the veterans group] gave us the opportunity to talk about our experience,” he said.
Using the center’s online job and career tools, some of which have set the standard nationally, he and Walker found a program in building maintenance at Anoka Technical College. He received funding to enroll in classes and earned a State Boiler License and other certifications necessary to qualify for building maintenance positions.
Walker helped Woods post four different versions of his resume on MinnesotaWorks.net, the state-sponsored job board. With advanced software technology, the site goes beyond simple key word searches for “building maintenance,” for example. Instead, it “reads” the resume in context with relevant experience and evaluates how close a fit a candidate might be for a particular job.
That sophisticated search tool is what brought Woods resume to the attention of a hiring manager at Wildwood, an elderly housing apartment in Mounds View, for an unposted position. The manager met Woods, but hired another candidate who better fit the job she had. However, she was now familiar with Woods’ history and experience and another building in the system might have an opening for him. She passed Woods’ resume on to a hiring manager at Osborne Apartments in Spring Lake where Woods recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at his new job.
Heather Isaacs is a job counselor at the Bloomington workforce center and conducts workshops for job seekers to help them use the online tools DEED has available. In her 14-year career, first as a college career counselor and now at DEED, Isaacs has seen technology change the job- and career-search process in many ways. But the person-to-person aspect remains a key element, she said.
While her clients are catching on to social networking sites like LinkedIn, she advises them not to think they’re done once they’ve established an online profile. Instead, she encourages them to use on-line networking to establish person-to-person connections.
“Let’s say you’re interested in getting job at 3M. Look at the company profile, look at the people list see if any are linked to you. Find a second- or third-level connection. That’s where you can begin to make a warm link to get into a company…to make connection…meet face-to-face,” she advises clients.
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