One excellent and often overlooked resource for career networking is your local employment resource center. Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of a visit to the employment center, and help to find an employment resource center in your area.
You would probably be surprised by the level and type of career networking and skill building opportunities available at your local employment center.
I spent 5 years of my career working as a workshop facilitator at an employment center.
Of course, our center offered standard classes for building job search skills, opportunities to work one on one with a counsellor, access to career books and a computer lab.
But what I was always most proud of when I went to work every day was the extra, unexpected types of resources and support our clients could access at our employment resource center (or ERC for short).
An ERC can provide you with surprising opportunities for networking and sourcing out local job openings. You just need to pay them a visit!
If you are fortunate enough to have access to a free (government funded), community employment resource center, use it.
In my years as a career workshop facilitator, I was always amazed by how frequently people hesitated to use the resources that were available.
I do understand that the idea of reaching out for help with your job search can feel uncomfortable or embarrassing to some people, especially when your confidence has already been shaken by the loss of a job.
The staff who work at employment resource centers are career professionals. They know how to support people who have lost a job, and they know a lot about how to shorten the duration of your job search and help you find work that is appropriate for you.
Your job is to be an expert in your line of work. Your career specialist's job is to be an expert at finding jobs in your area and building job search skills. If you put those two types of expertise together, you will have a much better chance of finding a job that is a great fit for you.
Assuming Someone Else Needs the Help More
Some people feel their situation is not so bad and mistakenly think that by using community resources they are taking something away from someone who needs it more than they do.
I can't speak to the way all free community employment resource centers everywhere in the world are funded. However, all of the community employment centers I have experience with, and the programs they run are funded based on number of people who use the service.
Staff at employment resource centers often work hard to market their programs and ensure enough people in the community use their services to keep the programs running.
By using any community employment resources and programs you are eligible for, you are not taking something away from someone else. You are helping to show funders that the programs are needed and to ensure the programs will continue to be there for the next people who need them.
Unaware of the Resources Available
I wish there was an easy answer to this issue. I am constantly amazed by how difficult it can be to source out certain community resources.
I've listed some websites that you can use to find an employment resource center in your area, which will get you started.
When you find and visit your local employment resource center, be sure to ask about all of job search and career management programs that are available in your community. Some communities have great programs that you may not be aware of, and one of them may provide exactly the kind of information, support or resources you need.
Also, I fully believe in going straight to the source when looking for important information. What I mean by that is you should speak directly to the organization that runs a specific program in order to ensure you get full and accurate information about that program.
Assuming "You Get What You Pay For"
Some people fail to use free community employment resource centers because they wrongly assume that they will get better career advice if they pay for it.
Of course, there is always variation in the skill of any professional in any line of work. However, I know a lot of career specialists who work at free community employment resource centers, and they are all intelligent, caring professionals who are well versed in job search skills and who help their clients achieve excellent results.
The bottom line is, community employment centers are normally funded by tax dollars. If you've paid your taxes, you've paid for the service, so if you're eligible for any program that you think might help you with job search networking, changing careers or launching a business, use it.
Here are a few added benefits you may not have been actively seeking, but you can find at your local employment center:
Some job seekers use their employment resource center as an office away from home.
They may have a perfectly good computer and work space at home, but as anyone who works from home will tell you, the home is full of all kinds of distractions, and it can be difficult to fully focus on work when you are at home.
On top of that, if you have a spouse, roommates, children or pets running around your home adding to the level of noise and distraction, it can be next to impossible to concentrate on your job search at home.
If your employment resource center has a computer lab for job seekers, and you are finding it difficult to focus on your job search at home, try using their office as your own personal office away from home. You may find that environment is more conducive to doing focused work.
Until you lose a job, you may not realize the impact of losing the structure that a job imposes on your life.
For some people, a loss of motivation follows a lack of structure. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to search for job leads when you are feeling upset by the loss of your day to day routine.
Many of my former clients felt quite stressed and upset by the lack of structure that comes with unemployment. Several of them visited our center on a regular basis as a way of imposing some structure and routine in their lives.
They knew that they would be at the employment resource center at specific days and times. Replacing their old work routines with some new job search routines helped alleviate some of their stress.
Losing a job can cause an enormous amount of stress and a sense of isolation. It can really cause you to lose confidence in yourself.
When you lose a job, suddenly you no longer see the people you worked with, and spent many, many hours with each week. You can lose a big part of your social network.
At an employment resource center, you will meet plenty of other job seekers who are feeling that same way. You will realize you are not alone in this journey.
An ERC can be a great place to meet and talk with other job seekers who can relate to how you are feeling. That kind of connection and community can help to ease the stress of being out of work.
Some employment resource centers employ a job developer. His or her only job is to find unadvertised local job openings for clients at the ERC.
The job developer may work with specific clients who fit certain requirements, or he or she may find local job leads for anyone who visits the center. If your ERC has a job developer, ask if you fit the criteria to become one of his or her clients.
Even if your employment resource center does not have a job developer, many of the staff there will know about local hiring trends and rumours.
Make a point of getting to know the staff at your employment resource center. Don't just work away silently at your computer station; talk to the staff. They often know about local job leads and have good business connections.
If the staff at your ERC know you and have a sense of your goals and skills and are confident you would be a good fit for a particular job, then they will think of you and let you now when they find good job leads.
While you can get a lot of good job search advice online and in books, one thing that the staff at your local ERC can do better than any book or website is let you know about resources that are specific and targeted to your local area.
Staff at your local ERC will know about all of the best business directories and other job search programs, resources and websites that are focused on serving your specific area. An ERC is a great place to find local resources.
Different cities and towns tend to have different labor market characteristics. Which means job search needs can be very specific to a community.
For example, your community may have a lot of:
Each of these groups of job seekers have very specific needs.
Staff at employment resource centers get to know the specific character of typical job seekers in their community, and they become experts at dealing with the specific challenges their clients usually face and finding the types of resources that support their specific clients.
You can find plenty of generalized job search information on your own to get started, but if you visit an ERC, you'll probably be able to work with people who have expertise dealing with your very specific career-related needs.
Other job seekers can be a great resource for finding job leads.
They are immersed in the job search process, so they are probably sourcing out all kinds of job leads, and they are sympathetic to your own job search needs.
Of course, other job seekers will probably not share job leads that they intend to pursue. However, in the course of job searching, other job seekers will find great job leads that are not a good fit for their skills and experience.
If you have been effectively networking with other job seekers at your local ERC, and they know what type of work you are seeking, they may pass along job leads that are a god fit for you.
The sheer number places to look for advertised jobs can be overwhelming. There are endless job boards online, and it can be easy to get sucked into spending hours sifting through job ads on several sites.
Staff at an ERC will know the very best sources for advertised jobs in your local area and for the specific type of work you are seeking.
While you may know about the big job search sites like monster or Job.com, which are great places to look for advertised jobs, there are also some great little local, niche online job boards that you have probably not heard of. The staff at your ERC can direct you to those types of resources.
Your employment resource center will probably have subscriptions to all of the newspapers that serve your city and surrounding areas.
When you are out of work and money is tight, paying for a newspaper subscription can be a real financial hardship. You should be able to find all of the newspapers you want to review at your local ERC.
There are an endless number of employment resource centers out there, so listing the locations of every ERC is beyond the scope of this article. However, I can provide you with links to sites that do list the ERCs in a specific area.
Find an employment resource center in your area:
If you live in the United States, visit One Stop Career Center.
The link above will take you directly to the starting page to search for a One Stop Career Center in your area.
If you live in the United Kingdom, visit the Job Centre Plus section of the UK government website
This link takes you directly to a listing of the programs and services offered for job seekers in the United Kingdom.
If you live in Canada, visit Service Canada (Canada Employment Centre).
This link takes you directly to the page for finding a Service Canada office (sometimes called Canada Employment Centre or HRDC) in your area.
Service Canada funds employment programs in Canada, but they don't actually run the programs. So once you find the contact information for the Service Canada office in your area, call or visit them and ask where you'll find the closest employment resource center in your city or town.
If you live in Australia, visit this section of the Australian government website for a listing of government employment services.