The Internet and the Job Seeker – Yesterday and Today

by Dan Schrotter, Staff I.T.

I think we all can remember scouring the want ads in our local newspaper to find interesting job advertisements, then calling the number provided and arranging to either fax a resume or come in for an interview. Depending on what you were looking for and the variety within that given newspaper you could expect to find four to five ads to reply to. If you bought three or four different area papers you might then expect to see fifteen to twenty ads to respond to. This is not a great deal of variety. However, this is what job seekers typically did.

Since the advent and rapid growth of the Internet, however, job seekers are exposed to more jobs – and industries – than ever before. Using well-known sites such as Careerbuilder, Jobs.com, SimplyHired, Yahoo and Monster, applicants can submit their prepared resume with a cover letter to hundreds of companies per day. These sites are databases of information, storing and listing thousands of companies and their respective jobs for applicants to submit their resume to. In addition, if an applicant cares to spend a little time to learn, these career matching sites will teach you ways to write a good resume, they will teach you tips to having a good interview and especially how to most efficiently use their career match site! Applicants have more advantages than ever, and this is more important than ever given the especially challenging job market of today (see our blog post, “Getting the Interview – Standing Out to Employers in a Darwinian Job Market”).

With the national unemployment rate hovering at ten percent (remember, that is approximately 31 million people based on the 2010 census) it is understandable why the job market is so tough. In a rare reversal of roles, companies now find themselves with a bounty of qualified applicants to choose from, and believe me they do indeed choose the very best. Qualifications that might have at least gotten you an interview 2 years ago now won’t even get you a return phone call. This is part of the reason why applicants should seriously consider using a staffing agency to help them to find a job (see our blog post, “Networking: Advantages of Using Staffing Agencies”). The agency has the resources and manpower to drive a targeted search among companies that have come to them for employees, not the other way around.

With Washington recently agreeing to generously extend unemployment benefits to a struggling, suffering populace and a President doing everything he can think of to jump-start the economy and create jobs for the jobless it is a godsend that we have the Internet in its current form. With more exposure to more careers than ever, the Internet has created and then opened so many doors for job seekers that did not exist before its inception.

There is one more benefit that the Internet has brought to the job seeker that never existed before its creation: Online education. Thought by some to be a ripoff, thought by some to be a waste of time and money, online education has seen a massive expansion in the past ten years. Many people now are switching careers or are building on an existing one and a very effective way to accomplish this is by gaining an education or building upon an existing degree.

 Many traditional, “brick and mortar” schools now offer an online option for some or all of the credits needed for the degree. Even more online-only schools have emerged, having no traditional campus – their main office typically is just that, an office. Run remotely, proctors and instructors engage the students in easy-to-use discussion forums, issue e-books that are provided in PDF form and some even offer live, real-time lectures viewed as webcasts so the students can see and hear the instructor.

You might scoff and say an online education doesn’t compare to actually going to college and if you were lucky enough to do that then kudos to you. However, if you are a single mother forced to work forty hours or more a week then take care of children or if you are an adult who went to college for something completely unrealistic and now wishes to upgrade their career but lacks time to go to school then the option of attending an online college might be something to consider. You attend “class” when you have time and are given a weekly due date in the syllabus to submit your work for grading. Go to class at 11 P.M., it really doesn’t matter when. That is something you cannot do in a traditional college forum.

As with anything else on the Internet, be careful. The Internet is not a risk-free tool and it can ruin your day as fast as it can help make it. Anything promising too much or anything that seems too good to be true generally is. Work-from-home jobs are such a trap. I have only seen ONE that was a legitimate ad and that was for a terrific company called Alpine Access. The company chose to drastically lessen their overhead and now allows their nationwide customer service reps to telecommute. Yes, the pay is lower by a dollar or so an hour but then again you can go to work in your bathrobe. (www.alpineaccess.com/en/apply) Unfortunately most career matching sites like Careerbuilder list bogus work from home jobs. A very good way to tell is if they tell you that you must pay them a fee for an “application packet.” If you are dumb enough to pay then you will find you have no job still and are about a hundred dollars lighter than before.

Bottom line: Use Google (another gift from the Internet to the job seeker). See if a company or a college has received complaints and, if so, how many complaints and for what. Typically, online colleges receive complaints from dropouts who failed and are upset. College is hard to begin with – having the discipline to do it online is even harder for some. Disregard these complaints. Complaints that the degree, once earned, is not accepted by employers is a concern. Complaints about companies generally come from estranged former employees who were either laid off or terminated. However, keep an eye open for customers who take the time to report a case of misuse, fraud or abuse by the company and look at their rating with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.com).  Last, if you have a very bad feeling that persists it is sometimes wisest to trust your instincts, and in that you are using Man’s earliest fraud detection tool to navigate one of His newest tools, the Internet.

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