COLUMBIA—Bridget Ward spent many years working for a telecommunications company, and Pam Baxley invested 17 years in the medical field.
Both Irmo women now have to start all over and look for new employment in one of the most difficult job markets in recent memory.
On Jan. 13, they joined 10 other people at Our Lady of the Hills Church for a program designed to help them find work during the economic downturn.
Parishioner Iverly Bartley, a member of the Society of Human Resources Professionals and director of a local employment agency, led the session.
She said many job seekers today have not had to look for work in years, and consequently don’t know how to prepare a functional resume.
“A functional resume summarizes your work experience and captures your work experience,” she said. “You want to pinpoint what you did at each previous job and how you were an asset for the business.”
Recruiters, she said, often use keywords to search through resumes. Many recruiters are inundated with dozens of resumes for each open position, and Bartley said they almost always discard those with spelling or punctuation errors.
Keywords can be anything from a specific field such as manufacturing, management, or insurance, to words that describe specific professional credentials.
Job searches can be especially challenging for people who are forced to change careers in mid-life, or have a gap in employment.
People changing careers need to prepare a resume that highlights skills learned at their former jobs that can be useful in other fields.
Bartley said people who lose a job they’ve held for many years need to give themselves time to mourn.
“The first few weeks after a layoff is not a good time to look for a job,” she said. “I tell people to take three weeks to readjust and start focusing on the skill sets they do have to bring to future jobs.”
Bartley said the Internet is a vital tool and it’s important for job seekers to learn how to post resumes online. The days of walking into a business and filling out a paper application are all but gone, she said.
She encourages people to consider signing up with a good temporary agency, because more companies are using the “temp-to-hire” process.
“While you’re working as a temporary contractor for them, they get a chance to look at you and consider you for full-time jobs they may have,” she said.
Those seeking work must familiarize themselves with Internet job search engines and networks, ranging from large ones such as monster.com, usajobbank.com and LinkedIn, to smaller ones focused on specific career fields, Bartley said.
Bartley said networking is crucial for job seekers, and urged the group to let as many people as possible know they are seeking employment and in what fields they want to work.
“You’ll be surprised how quickly people will be looking around for you,” she said, adding that many people find jobs through networking with people in their neighborhood, at social activities and at church.
Sister Christina Murphy, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Hills, said they plan to hold additional sessions covering topics such as how to prepare for a job interview and research jobs on the Internet.
A repeat of the Jan. 13 session will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 26 at the parish hall. For more information, call (803) 772-7400.