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Tough Times: Your survival guide to a harsh economy

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Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009 10:00 pm

Have you heard? They've got this recession thing going on. People are losing their jobs. Good, hard working people.

"Honestly, I believe that … star employees are still going to get laid off," said Carolyn Denero, the branch manager for Blue Ribbon Personnel Services, an employee staffing service in Lodi. "There really isn't a whole lot that companies can do."

In January, 187,550 people got the ax.

Lodi's unemployment rate fares slightly better than the rest of San Joaquin County at 9.9 percent, but that's still pretty bleak.

What do you do if you're among the many who have lost their jobs? What steps do you take?

Knowing where to start can prove to be a challenge, so the News-Sentinel has asked area experts to help compile a list of helpful tips covering many unemployment topics:

• Resume writing

• Interview skills

• Where to look for work

• Educational resources

• How to keep the job you already have

Is my resume worthy?

It's a common tendency when writing a resume to want to tell your complete life story.

"And don't attach your picture," said Chérie Sintes, the human resources specialist with Delta Radiology in Lodi. People should allow their skills and merits speak for them, she said, not their hobbies or personalities. That kind of thing can be discovered in an interview.

Many agencies such as the EDD and WorkNet offer workshops on how to put together your resume, and counselors at the various agencies can offer their feedback to help you hone it.

Sintes offered many other dos and don'ts when putting together your resume:

Thoroughly read job listings: Make sure you actually qualify for the job and meet all of the educational, experience, availability and skill requirements. If you don't think you meet the minimum qualifications, don't apply.

Customize: Edit your resume so that it is customized for the exact job you are applying for. Never use a generic resume and submit it time and again. Identify the skills you have experience with and focus on those. Your resume should be built around these. Applicants who have spent time writing a resume worth reading will get noticed.

Be objective about your objective: List the specific job title in your objective line. For example, "Objective: To work as an Office Assistant II, where my ability to handle multi-line phones, multi-task and remain professional in stressful situations will be used."

A bad example would be, "Objective: To work in the clerical field in an office environment."

Pay attention: Read the job listing and note instructions on how to apply. If you are missing needed documentation or if you don't submit your resume properly, chances are you'll be rejected immediately.

Be relevant: Make sure to list only the work and educational experience that will apply to the position you're seeking. It's OK to leave jobs and skills off if they don't have anything to do with what you're applying for.

Use brevity and clarity: In your work history, be clear and brief, using proper tense. Know the technical lingo for the trade. List your position, the company name and the city and state where the job was located. Make sure to proofread and check for spelling.

Referential treatment: Do not list your references. Note that they can be made available on request. When and if you are asked to provide them, make sure they are professional listings, not friends and family.

Lengthy process: You need to make sure your resume lists all your qualifications and work history, but try not to go longer than two pages. One page is ideal.

Nothing personal: Do not include personal information. This includes photographs, references to ages, affiliations, hobbies or interests. Stick to professional information only.

First contact: Pay attention to how a potential employer wants to receive your resume and application. If a phone number is not listed, do not call. If you submit your paperwork via e-mail, write your last name and the position title in the subject line. Make sure to include a cover letter explaining why you are applying.

Landing the interview

You submitted your resume. Many different places, in fact. You finally receive the call asking you to come in for the all-important interview. This is your chance. Now what?

"Dress the part! Always dress up," said Sintes. The image you project is crucial.

Kathy Harris, of Harris Leadership Development in Lodi, a firm specializing in training businesses and employees to make the most out of the workplace, said appropriate dress is one of the most requested training classes they receive.

Harris and Sintes offered the following list of additional interview considerations:

• Dress professionally

• Have clean hair, nails, clothing.

• Don't show your midriff or cleavage.

• Knowing you may be asked to describe yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and how you would benefit the company, be prepared by practicing the answers to these questions.

• Be confident.

• Don't be self-centered.

• Listen carefully to questions being asked. Answer the question with a work-related example.

• Answer truthfully. If you don't know an answer, don't make it up.

• Do not agree to an interview if you are sick. Schedule the appointment for another time if possible.

• Focus on job skills and experience. Don't talk about personal matters.

• If you are not called back after the interview, don't try to find out why you weren't hired.

Steps to getting back to work

It can be a bit daunting to get back into the job-search arena. Many people aren't sure where to start or what's available.

"It's frustrating because (many job seekers) haven't been out of work for a long time, and they don't know where to look," said Carolyn Denero, of Blue Ribbon Personnel Services, a staffing company in Lodi.

Staffing companies like Denero's are sometimes a good place to start because they offer clerical testing and training in certain software applications.

Even if there isn't temporary work at one agency, Denero suggests applying with other staffing services since they all have different company clients with different employee needs.

"Sending a resume at an employment or temporary agency is like filling out an application with 30-plus companies at once," said Kevin Barth, the owner of Express Personnel Services in Lodi.

But don't stop there. Barth suggested the following steps to getting back to work:

Think about goals: What type of position or job are you both interested in and qualified for? Put together a game plan. Start your search for something that interests you and/or that you have a passion for.

Create a resume: One page, concise but complete. Include dates. Highlight three to four core job responsibilities. Your resume can help you to complete any job application you fill out. No matter what level of employee you see yourself as, no matter what industry you work in, have a resume.

Post the resume: Get your resume into as many employment Web sites as possible. Job boards like Hot Jobs or Yahoo! will add exposure to your search. Networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn have job sections and provide networking possibilities. Also consider posting your resume with staffing agencies like Blue Ribbon, Express Personnel and Hedy Holmes.

Consider employment agencies: As stated above, putting your application in with staffing services is like applying with 30-plus companies at once. Many of the companies are looking to fill long-term positions. Even if the position starts as temporary, it can work into long-term.

Network: Beyond the Web sites and staffing agencies, tell everyone you know that you are looking for work. Talk to past co-workers, family and friends about your search. There is no shame in being unemployed.

Make it a routine: Like going to a gym, if you only go once in awhile, you won't see results. If you go regularly, you'll start to see a difference. Set up a routine of sending out a resume, filling out applications and doing job searches. Like working out, take one or two days off to recuperate. This will help eliminate burn-out and frustration.

Barth also suggests not equating a severance package or unemployment insurance to being on vacation.

"Don't wait until it runs out to start looking," Barth said. "Besides the poor economic planning around this, employers want to see as much consistent work history as possible. Try to minimize gaps in employment when you can."

Making yourself more valuable in your current job

You may not have lost your job, but you may be in fear of losing it. Making yourself more valuable to your employer may be one of the ways to avoid the grasp of layoffs.

"The American worker used to be able to hide in the workforce. That just doesn't happen anymore," said Pat Patrick, the CEO and president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. "In order to progress in a career, you have to involve yourself in education."

Patrick, like many others, said that learning more skills will only help your situation.

Here are more tips to making yourself a more needed commodity to employers:

• Keep a positive attitude.

• Avoid gossip.

• Don't take things personally.

• Leave personal issues at home.

• Be punctual.

• If you owned the company, how would you want employees to act? Act that way.

• Keep personal calls and issues to a minimum.

• Go above and beyond. Do more than just what's expected.

• Remain professional.• If you are laid off, keep your self respect and don't burn bridges.

Employment and training resources

Most people know that when they lose their job they can sign up for unemployment insurance benefits - if eligible - through the Employment Development Department by calling or applying online. It's not necessary to go to the main office in Stockton.

However, a majority of the people may not know that the EDD and other agencies provide training and job-search assistance as well. Here are some agencies available to job seekers and what they offer:

Employment Development Department
(800) 300-5616

What's offered:

Job training services in partnership with state and local agencies, listings of job fairs and employment events, job listings.

WorkNet (CHDC Center)
631 E. Oak St., Lodi

Applications: Filling in the blanks - Learn what employers are looking for in an application and how to deliver it.

Determining your destiny: Exploring career options - Let WorkNet staff help you discover your potential.

Presenting the package: Are you presenting yourself to employers in your best light? Find out.

Interactive interviewing: Find out the underlying reasons employers ask the questions they do.

Is your resume working for you?: Discover what your resume is saying about you and how to make it say the right things.

Secrets of a successful job search: Uncovering the secret job market and how to tap into it.

Additional Job Seeker Services:

Finding the right job: Place your resume online and "surf the Web" for job openings in San Joaquin County, the State or around the nation.

Labor market information: Research the type of jobs that interest you. Explore information including wage levels, skill requirements, educational background and more in San Joaquin County.

Basic skill testing and skills improvement: Take advantage of our 50-minute assessment that will measure your reading and math skills. If you need to improve your math and reading skills or even get your GED, we can help.

Available training opportunities: If you qualify, you may receive vocational skills, work experience or on-the-job training. We can also assist you in locating schools which offer low and no-cost training.

Other services offered by WorkNet Partners:

Specialized services for veterans, migrant and seasonal farm workers and other individuals with special needs.

Apply for Medi-Cal, no-cost health coverage for children up to the age of 18 and pregnant women.

Assistance with applying for TANF/CalWORKS food stamps.

Apply for Healthy Families, low-cost health coverage for children up to the age of 18.

Unemployment insurance information.

Assistance in locating child care, transportation, legal, housing, domestic violence or other services you may need to help you get and keep a job or begin and complete your education or training.

Delta College Career Center
5151 Pacific Ave., Stockton

What's offered:

Resume programs, job announcements, EDD sign up help (Tuesdays and Thursdays), job search assistance, job counselors.

Source: News-Sentinel staff.

When times go beyond tough

Agencies exist in San Joaquin County to help those who are starting to feel the pressure of joblessness and other problems. But navigating the mazes can be difficult.

"Many times families won't know what services are out there and what's available to them," said Kimberly Cox of Community Partnership for Families. The nonprofit organization acts as a case worker to help struggling families find the resources they need.

Cox said that CPF works with so many agencies, that they are able to help just about anybody, whether they need food, tax preparation assistance, mental health help or others.

"Their best bet is going to be to sit down with one of our case workers and do a personal assessment. It's our goal to stabilize the family and their situation," Cox said.

More information can be obtained by visiting or by calling Community Partnership at 339-1183. Those in need can also visit the Lodi CHDC WorkNet Center at 631 E. Oak Street.



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