Job Readiness Workshops help the suddenly unemployed, as well as those entering the workforce for the first time

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Northwest Family Services employment and life skills instructor Rob Seemann trained those looking for work last week. For recently laid-off baby boomers hoping to reenter the workforce, because of changes in technology and societal norms the strategies they used to earn their first job decades ago may not apply in 2018.

But in unison with Northwest Family Services and WorkSource Clackamas, the Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Department hosts Job Readiness Workshops to help the suddenly unemployed, as well as those entering the workforce for the first time, adapt to the ever-changing landscape and nab a new gig.

"We're happy to provide it here and our department sees it as a valuable resource for the community," Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Coordinator Erica Behler said.

The program sprouted in Wilsonville in 2015 and 65 people have gone through it since. Two workshops took place last week and upcoming dates include March 21, May 16, July 18, September 19 and November 14. Northwest Family Services employment and life skills instructor Rob Seemann was the host of the two-day workshop in January.

He says while millennials rarely sign up for his workshops, baby boomers who have worked at the same company for 20-plus years are his most common demographic.

"The workshop is filled up with baby boomers, talented people who are out of work through no fault of their own," he said.

To Seemann, the days of trotting around town and dropping off resumes at businesses are long gone. But he also says that sitting on a computer and responding to job ads is not a sound strategy either.

He instructs pupils to leverage existing relationships and to communicate with individuals in the companies they hope to join. However, Seemann also helps candidates learn how to use job-oriented social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

"The biggest thing to leverage is relationships in the community, other businesses and other organizations," he said. "You find a way to establish a relationship with someone in the company. You start buying them a cup of coffee or a beer and ask them how they got there."

And resumes themselves are a bit different than when he started 15 years ago. Now, Seemann says crafting idiosyncratic resumes for specifics jobs is the norm rather than one-size-fits-all resumes.

"You need to make it as obvious as possible to the hiring manager that you have what they're looking for. (For) the hiring managers, resumes are browsed for anywhere from five seconds to 20 seconds," he said.

Seemann says that while ageism may very well be a prevalent phenomenon, older job seekers should not use it as a crutch. And the job seekers that are the most tenacious tend to find new work fastest.

"I met one job seeker, head of grey hair, she's like 'I'm proud of my experience. I would definitely be an asset.' And she was speaking with conviction that she had something to share. She didn't spend very long in my workshop because she had a job," he said.

And, according to Seemann, managers who are thinking about hiring baby boomers are primarily concerned about such applicants' technological aptitude and commitment to stay for more than a year or two.

"The candidate has to address those fears at some time during the interview process," Seemann said.

In interviews, Seemann teaches pupils to present themselves as seasoned experts in a particular field and to approach it like a conversation rather than a question and answer session.

"I coach people to approach the interview as if it's a meeting, an equal playing field. You're trying to figure out if you want to work for them. They're trying to figure out if they want you to hire you," he said. "And if you're approaching the interview as a consultant you would come with more questions. You would come as if you're doing a needs analysis."

Another change from decades ago is that panel interviews are more common whereas one-on-one interviews are less common. However, other than altering nonverbal communication, Seemann tells pupils not to change their style in a panel setting.

"I coach my candidates to not do anything different for a panel interview with the exception of, when the individual asks you the question, you respond to them at the start of your answer and then you include the others as if it's a small group conversation through eye contact and nonverbal cues," he said.

While finding a new job often takes longer than well-qualified individuals expect, Seemann says after the training sessions, they eventually vault from the couch to the office.

"In nearly all cases people really do connect with another job," he said.

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