Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 18, 2009

Your Career Center Orientation

Instructor, Caroline Bender

One step in your employment transition will be registering at your local job center, and like much of our exploration of the contemporary Unemployment Experience, yours will vary by location.  We will be giving you a tour of a typical center in the 2nd largest city in New England.  To find out more about the centers in your state or region, consult your state unemployment office or enter "career center unemploment (name of your state)" in your favorite search engine.  Your weekly insurance check or extension application may be dependent on your registration.  End of disclaimers.

Our sample career center is set up with one major idea in mind:  Job Searching takes time and can cost money.  Unemployed people should not have to spend money looking for work, says the DoL, so the career center is the best place to go for
  • computers and internet access
  • fax
  • jobs listings on and offline, including newspapers, trade magazines, and state postings
  • Company research sources
  • Union information
  • basic-level training on office skills like computers, typing, MS Office suite, etc
  • Apprenticeship and financial aid applications
  • bond paper, envelopes, and postage
  • assistance information on food stamps/WIC, fuel assistance, VA,etc
You do not have to be "on unemployment" to use the resources, but you do have to be a registered user. 

The office doubles as an info center for benefits questions, though the staff were clear to point out they are not the unemployment office.  The center is set up like many municipal offices: a line, a counter, a waiting area, and some private cubicles.  Most of the walk-up questions I overheard had to do with reviving a claims record after forgetting to file once.  (This is easy to forget - try setting a recurring reminder for yourself.) 

Opposite this room is the resource center limited to registered users only.

The orientation covered the services of the center, and some of the basic "what to do now" information.  The presentation was meant to be general purpose for any audience ( trades, professionals, clerks, and artists) and therefore spoke directly to no one.  It tried to explain the importance of networking, with a fairly schlocky video demonstrating how it is done, and the very basics of online job boards without demonstrating any.

After the group presentation, and the completion of self-assessment forms, job counselors were to circulate and meet individually with each participant.  There were not enough to go around, so they quickly dismissed anyone who understood how to complete the form, and did not have any "special case" needs.  If you do, assert them.  Remember that whatever you think your unusual circumstance is, they are prepared to address it, right down to that risky background check you are worried about.

What we want you to understand throughout this journey through the Unemployment Experience is that you can expect people to be helpful, and resources to be available.  It is in everyone's best interests to get you back to work.  We also want to remind you that we are nationally at 10% unemployment, and these staffs are overwhelmed.  Treat this office as you would City Hall and the Registry:
  • Don't go if you are in a hurry.   Expect a line.
  • Come prepared.  Your clerks explain state services through a help desk lens - describe your situation with facts and documentation, and be sure you know what your question is.  When you start with "a guy said they didn't have it," they will become frustrated.  They are not frustrated with your inability to ask the question, but with their inability to answer it.  But that is not what it will feel like to you.
  • Sjellë një përkthyes nëse keni nevojë për një të tillë (Bring an interpretor if you need one)  Your center may not speak Albanian.
  • Leave the children at home. 
  • Be a partner in your situation.  The state does not own you, but they don't work for you either.  Please do not resent the DoL staff because they have work.
When you sign up for a class or a networking session, attend it.  These opportunities are free to you, but they do cost the system, and you are taking a seat someone else might have liked.  If you need to cancel, cancel.

Observe the center rules.  If you just want free Internet, the library is a few blocks away.

Help other people if you can.  We are all waiting together.

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Downsized but not Defeated (book review)
Preparing for the Worst
When Work is Your Life

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