Blogs: Jobs and careers

laptopAt your Multnomah County Libraries, you can find a wide array of free computer classes - from computer labs where you can get extra assistance to e-book and e-reader classes to office productivity skills, like spreadsheets and word processing.  Here are some other great options:

  • Free Geek - Free Geek offers a range of educational opportunities including hands-on experiences in their Build and Adoption Programs as well as a wide variety of desk-based learning in their classroom.
  • Portland Community College (PCC) - offers a wide variety of computer and IT courses, tailored to fit your situation - find out more about their computer education programs
  • Mt Hood Community College (MHCC) - for East County residents, MHCC offers many in-person and online computer classes through their Community Education program
  • Portland Parks & Recreation - offers basic computer and Internet classes for senior

support groupsAs some smart person once observed, looking for work is work, darn hard work.  And the pay stinks.  It's a process full of frustration and disappointment, which makes keeping the focus and motivation necessary for a good outcome difficult.  But you don't have to go it alone.  The Portland/Multnomah County area is full of people in the same boat as you, willing and able to offer their comradery, support and advice to help you through these trying times.  I recently sat in on one such group, the Job Finders Support Group, which meets at the Capitol Hill branch, noon to 3pm every Friday.  I was greeted warmly by a bunch of very together people who were happy to share their experiences with job applications, networking events, social media, the latest job search-related apps, company research, interview strategies - in short, they were on top of all different aspects of the job search game and very encouraging and supportive of each other.  It is facilitated by local author Cleon Cox and he lists many other local support groups and other job seeking resources on his website.  Another source of support in the east county area is the Job Seekers Support Group which meets at Gresham Library at 1:30pm on Tuesdays. Finally, an option in your job search arsonal is the job fair, where employers vie for the attention of prospective employees like you - the State of Oregon website lists job fairs and events in the area

Need help finding more job resources? Let us help!

Leonid Pasternak, from WikipediaDo you need an MFA? You’re a writer. You write stories. You have a novel brewing. You’ve published some poems in small magazines. Or you’ve sold an essay. Maybe you’ve self-published a chapbook, zine, pamphlet, or little book. Or an e-book! Maybe you write and write, and would like to do these things.
 
Artists, including writers, might choose to pursue an Master of Fine Arts (MFA!) degree in order to become a professional in their field. It usually takes two or three years, and in many cases involves a substantial amount of money, which often means major student loans. An MFA in creative writing usually centers around a writer’s workshop, where students receive feedback on their work, and provide feedback on the work of their colleagues, under the guidance of a professor who is a published author. MFA students have mentorship, community, an ear to the publishing world, and perhaps most importantly, dedicated time and space to write. Funding and an opportunity to gain teaching experience by working as a teaching assistant are also sometimes part of the deal, but not always. 
 
Do you need an MFA to be a writer? Well, you already are one, right? Debate rages on (well, perhaps rages isn’t the most accurate term - simmers? drags?) about whether it’s worthwhile for aspiring writers to pursue an MFA. Plenty of writers don’t bother.  
 
Novelist Chad Harbach wrote an essay examining the social and literary consequences of a writing world (fiction, in particular), in which writers inhabit one of two systems: the world of MFA programs or the world of NYC publishing. This is published along with essays by contributors examining features of life from both sides in MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction.
 
So, is an MFA right for you? If you think so, some guides to programs might be useful: the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) guide to programs, or the MFA Programs Database from Poets & Writers Magazine. In book form, there's also The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students.
 
Perhaps an MFA program isn’t in the cards for you. Perhaps you might be be a better writer going under your own steam. Can’t you have mentorship, community and connections without the hefty price tag? Can’t you create your own reading lists and writing assignments, your own deadlines? Meet writer friends and share ideas and constructive criticism on your work? I’ll bet you can do these things. After all, you have the whole library at your fingertips!*
 
Here’s a booklist for you: DIY Creative Writing MFA
 
You might try working through an online Creative Writing course: there are quite a few free online courses offered by MIT OpenCourseWare! These cover different topics and genres, with courses about reading and writing poetry, reading and writing stories, writing the personal essay, genre writing, writing about race and border crossings… You can find these and other free (and for-fee) online courses on SlideRule.com. If you'd like some help finding a syllabus or other course materials that are a good fit for you and the work you'd like to do, please feel free to get in touch with us
 
Especially if you want to do it yourself, local resources for writers are essential - they include classes, events, and writing groups. Here’s our post about some of them in the Portland area.  Also see our booklist of creative writing prompts and guides for ideas for creating your own assignments!
 
Let's not forget that the whole point of an MFA program in Creative Writing is to do a huge amount of work in a focused, directed sort of way. MFA students read like crazy, from the masters to the innovators. They write like crazy, all the time, head down and pen moving (or, you know, keyboard clicking). They read one anothers' work and think intensely about how and why a great piece of writing works. They dig deep into the mysteries and ambiguities and theories of language and literature. Get to work! 
 
*Sorry, shameless plug for library services. But seriously: everything you need to read is here, and plenty of resources for guidance about craft. We can help you borrow obscure poetry books via Interlibrary Loan, if necessary. We can connect you with suggestions for your reading list. We can even provide space for writing. If only we could help with the problem of time for writing.

Craigslist is a popular online tool for job searching. Because it’s open to anyone, there is a wide variety of jobs available, but be careful to avoid scams!

Here’s how to search, but keep in mind that services like this change all the time, so it might look different when you try these steps.

Start at Craigslist.

In the jobs column, find your field or click jobs to search all jobs.  

The default search is “all portland,” which includes Multnomah County plus six additional counties. Use the drop-down menu to refine the search to a specific county.

Choose a county

Type a keyword or keywords into the search box. Don’t enter a complete sentence, just use a few words that describe the job you want.

  1. Limit the search by using the check boxes for telecommute, contract work, internship, part-time work, or non-profit. Leaving these blank will generate the most results.

  2. Click search.

  3. Organize results the way that’s most useful for you. Map displays your results on a map so that you can see where each job is located.

  4. Click the link to read a description of the job.

Apply for the job:

Be sure to read the entire job description. Follow the application directions in the posting very closely.

Often you can apply for the job using email by clicking the reply button.

  1. Click the reply button

  2. From the drop-down menu, select the text in the copy and paste into your email field.

  1. Right click and select copy.

  2. Paste that email address into the To field in your email.

For more help, try the Craigslist help page.

For more help searching for a job, try Multnomah County Library’s Jobs and careers page, Job Seekers’ labs, and classes for job seekers.

 

Job search image

If you're looking for work and aren't sure where to start, consider these top sites that will help you begin your job search, network with others find out when jobs in your area of interest open up.
 
OregonLive: Best Local Jobs
Take a look at the Oregonian’s online employment classified section.
 
Craigslist isn't just for getting a couple of bucks for selling that old futon in your basement - you'll also find lists of local jobs in a wide-variety of categories. Here's a great article on getting the most out of Craigslist for your job search.
 
Craig isn't the only one with a list - this is a newsletter and website that posts jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities from hundreds of Portland Metro and greater Oregon non-profits, public agencies, and private employers. It also offers a resource page with recommended books, career coaches and more.
 
LinkedIn is a profession-focused network that allows you to link to people you know and network with those who know them. Its job board allows you to post your resume and it also includes a browser toolbar widget that can help connect you with your targeted employer. Still not sure what LinkedIn is or how it can with your job search? Take a look at LinkedIn's job searching tips and here are some tips from Forbes that LinkedIn won't tell you.
 
Indeed allows you to set up searches and have the results emailed to you daily and/or pushed to you via RSS. Easy to limit to a particular location. As with LinkedIn, this site also lets you post your resume.
 
Search for jobs throughout the state - use the advanced search to limit to a wage per hour, occupational group and more.

Closing the ‘Skills Gap’

A report released by the Oregon branch of America's Edge describes the cost of the state's skills gap

There have been many articles about the relation of unemployment and the so-called ‘skills gap’ recently and there have been lots of discussion about whether that’s real or just hype (check out these articles from the Harvard Business Review, the Economic Policy Institute, and Wharton Digital Press).  But regardless of where the real fault lies for jobs going unfilled in a time of high unemployment, that's the reality of hiring in the computer age, with the advent of applicant tracking systems, scanners and parsing software. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to adjust to the realities of computerized hiring and cut through the avalanche of job seekers applying online (and the software employers use to weed them out), to get to the actual people who still do the hiring.

First, you need the skills to actually do the job before you can convince someone you can.  We can help you brush up your computer skills with our library computer classes and labs, as well as books and other self-instruction materials. The library also offers online tutorials and practise tests on a wide range of in-demand skills, including preparing for many occupational skills and licenses and even connects you with career experts online. Let us help you navigate these options in person, by phone, email or chat.

The next step involves telling your story to potential employers...

Resumes and cover letters

Everybody talks about how choosing the right words to use in computerized job searches, resumes, cover letters, and interviews is the key to success, but how do you find them? QuintCareers.com shares several articles about using keywords to enhance your resumse’s effectiveness, how to find those keywords and even offers a worksheet to help you get at just the right keywords. This article from Wharton Digital Press is a practical guide for what can you do about parsing software.  You can find more advice and examples on websites like Susan Ireland’s Resume Site, Monster.com and the many resume and cover letter books we have at the library. Before submitting your resume to potential employers, it’s always good to have someone else review it - you can do this for free by posting your resume to the library’s Tutor.com service or MSN’s CareerBuilder site.

Networking

Because 'It's not what you know...' - well, actually it is, but it's also who you know who knows someone who needs what you know.  So you need to make those connections and here are some ways to do that:

  • LinkedIn: use that “six degrees of separation” thing to your advantage and put your best foot forward in a place where people who can help will see it.

  • pdxMindShare:  techies and creatives, this is your place.

  • CNRG:  networking and more for the local nonprofit world.

  • Network After Work - Portland: old-fashioned, face time networking events.

  • Meetups: because you have other interests, and so do the people who can help you get hired; and they have job seekers groups too.

Interviews

Now that you’ve gotten the interview, it’s important to prepare before you tell your story in person. Glassdoor.com has lots of examples of real questions applicants were asked in real interviews with various companies, as well as other insider tips.  They may not ask you exactly the same thing but it will probably be a similar kind of question - according to Forbes, all job interview questions boil down to three basic things:  ability, motivation & fit. The library also offers many books to help you prep for your interview.

Keeping all your ducks in a row  - organizing your job search

There’s a lot to keep track of in a full scale job search - industries and companies researched; networking contacts made; applications due and applications sent; jobs boards searched, results of different job titles, skills and attributes sought; followup, resume revisions; etc.  How do you keep track of it all?

Fortunately, there are a number of places that can help you:

  • Learning Express - this library database does more than provide a way for you to learn new skills, it also has a Job & Career Accelerator section which can help you with your job search in many ways, including keeping track of it all.

  • jibberjobber.com - a web-based way to keep track of it all.

  • this spreadsheet from the makers of Excel is designed to track various aspects of the job search and can, of course, be modified to suit your needs.

  • Do it yourself, e.g., a very simple Word doc with expandable rows & columns for keeping track of where you’ve looked, what you’ve found, and, most importantly, what new searches that leads to. Any calendaring system can be good for keeping track of deadlines, interviews, callbacks, etc.  You just have to pick one and use it consistently.

"Music is the poetry of the air." 
--Jean Paul Richter

If poetry lifts up your spirits, chances are really good that you are also uber fond of music. Legendary songwriters like Tupac and Bob Dylan are poets at heart. Writing a poem is already quite a task, but coming up with words that fit a particular melody is an entirely different journey.

Do you feel that there is an inner songwriter in your that is just aching to explode out of you? Our library collection can certainly aid you in creating musican content. Who knows? Maybe this is your songwriting year!

 

Search for a job on Craigslist ... really?

Yes, really, because aggregator job boards don’t go there so you should. An aggregator site is one that sends its ‘spiders’ crawling over the web to gather together links to jobs listings (or other things). Among the biggest are Indeed and SimplyHired. One aggregator that pulls job listings directly from company websites is LinkUp, which means they should have fewer duplicate, out-of-date or scam listings. Niche boards are those that focus exclusively on a particular area of employment - a couple of examples are Idealist, which lists both paid and unpaid opportunities in the nonprofit sector, and Madden Industrial Craftsmen for welders, machinists and other industrial positions in the Pacific Northwest. This About.com Job Searching page has links to lists of niche boards covering all different sorts of work.

In addition to the usual places to search for your next gig, government employers feature new opportunities on these sites:

  • The Multnomah County government notes all open positions, including jobs with the library. 
  • The City of Portland's Employment Center is a great resource for learning more about employment with the city, including internships and workstudy opportunities.
  • Portland Development Commission has a page for job and internship seekers.
  • Metro Jobs is the place to browse current job openings at Metro, the Oregon Zoo and the Metropolitan Recreation Exhibition Commission.
  • The State of Oregon has a useful page which includes links to city, county, state and federal government job pages.
  • USAJOBS is the Federal Government's official one-stop source for Federal jobs and employment information.
  • Government Jobs is a handy government sector job board showing openings in many different agencies. 
  • Port of Portland is the place to go for jobs at the airport, marine facilities, industrial parks and more.

Also, don't forget that Multnomah County Library locations offer computer labs and other resources for job seekers

Before working for a new company or starting on a new career path, a little research goes a long way to helping you find the right match. Here are some resources to get you started:

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