• February 2013

Job Hunting? Career Specialist Sharon Armstrong Guides the Way

By Sharon Armstrong
Career expert
Sharon Armstrong and Associates

Finding the perfect job is the quest for all workers—but sometimes it’s tough to find your way through the maze of options, opportunities, and interviews.

So I started asking for input from my clients on what frustrated and confused them most. Scroll down for their questions, and send us an email with your questions.

Question: I have never been tech-savvy and now it’s even harder than ever. Every job ad asks for software I don’t know at all or where my skills are very weak (Excel and PowerPoint). What is the best way to learn and/or brush up on technical skills when the treadmill is running much faster than I am?

Sharon Armstrong: I think employers these days do expect a certain level of computer expertise. So you are smart to start thinking about how to get that training. It’s the only way to compete. I’d approach it two different ways: Find a good friend who can help you brush up on Excel and PowerPoint, and look for a course where you can learn new skills. If you Google “computer skills training, Washington, DC,” you will see some options pop up. Or ask friends for training recommendations. It’s a good use of time. Make sure you indicate the training on your resume so potential employers will know you are a lifelong learner.

Question: How useful is Craigslist for finding jobs? I have responded to probably more than 100 ads over the past year and have gotten maybe three “thanks for your resume but we’re hiring someone else” responses. Are Craigslist jobs real, and are other website job postings a worthwhile use of my time?

Sharon Armstrong: Only 10 percent of job seekers find jobs online. It’s the least effective way to search. If applicants combine applying for work with networking to see who knows whom at what company, that is the double whammy that does work. So establish a list of all your friends and colleagues and keep them posted on your target jobs. The ideal situation is to have one (or more) of them walk your resume into HR, or to the hiring manager, with a recommendation after you’ve applied in the conventional way.

Also, sending resumes without cover letters is a waste. I know you don’t always have that option, but when you do, always take it. Let the company know you know who they are and make a link between your skills and their needs. Cover letters should be more about the company than the applicant.

Question: What is the best way to augment or highlight 10 years of volunteer experience, much of it at a leadership level? Do people reviewing resumes look at that at all?

Sharon Armstrong: Definitely highlight your volunteer work on your resume. You can put it under a “Professional and Volunteer Experience” heading. Or do a separate section for “Volunteer Work.” I prefer including it with other work experience. List all of it chronologically. I think many reviewers give volunteeer work weight—if you do.

Here’s to your fabulous career!

About Sharon Armstrong

Sharon Armstrong has more than 20 years of experience as a Human Resources consultant, trainer, and career counselor. Since launching her own consulting business in 1998, Sharon Armstrong and Associates, she has consulted with many large corporations and small businesses. She has facilitated training, completed HR projects, and provided career transition services for a wide variety of clients in the profit and nonprofit sectors.

Armstrong received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine and her master’s degree in Counseling from George Washington University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

Armstrong is the co-author of a humor book, published by Random House entitled Heeling the Canine Within: The Dog’s Self-Help Companion in 1998. Career Press published her first business book, Stress-Free Performance Appraisals: Turn Your Most Painful Management Duty Into a Powerful Motivational Tool in July 2003. The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional was published in August 2008. Her most recent book, The Essential Performance Review Handbook was published in 2010.