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March 26, 2009

Regional Job Search Skills Workshop helps northeast Louisiana job seekers make work connections

Torrea Martin, 47, of Tallulah, has been looking for work for almost a year. She knows a bit about the value of networking, since that is how she landed the variety of jobs she has held in the past.

So Martin was taken aback when her once plentiful opportunities dried up like a bad crop smothered in the Delta’s summer dust.

“I usually would get a job because someone who knew me would recommend me … I would be filling out the application after I was already hired,” she said. “I’ve never had to look this hard or long for work.”

Martin joined several others in a free Regional Job Search Skills Workshop offered by the Office of Career Connections at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

The workshop was the brainchild of Ann Bloxom Smith, director of the ULM Office of Academic Internships at the Center for Career Connections, who recognized the “hunger for knowledge” that job seekers had about more efficient ways to find work.

Smith gave a handful of participants pointers on updating their resumes.

“The idea of the cover letter is to ‘interpret’ the resume for the reader, so write your resume first,” she advised them.

The economic downturn has folks scrambling for work for the first time in years, but others simply wanted to network and polish their resume and interview skills on Wednesday, including executive consultant John Holborn.

Holborn recently sold his “very expensive” home in suburban Pasadena, Calif., outside of Los Angeles, and replaced it a relatively less expensive one on Bayou DeSiard where he can be closer to family and “ride out the recession.”

Holborn attended a free workshop on networking in a small-to-medium-sized city, led by local author Sarah Fuller.

Fuller told the group that networking was “extremely relevant”, since roughly 80 percent of jobs are never advertised. She advised job seekers to seek out their local Chambers of Commerce and Better Business Bureaus and ask for their business directories.

“That’s a goldmine of contacts,” she said.

Licensed industrial psychologist M’Kay Bonner talked about avoiding the feelings of failure that flow naturally after a series of job rejections.

“We have to set our mind on winning,” she said. “The only other alternative is giving up.”

Counselor Steve Kelly of the ULM Community Counseling Center held a workshop about coping with job loss, while other officials offered tips on job interview skills in nearby rooms on the first floor of Malone Stadium.

Participants filled a basket with their resumes as they left, so professionals could review them and make suggestions.

“I feel very humbled and blessed by this whole experience,” said Career Connections Director Brenda Allen. “I have definitely been touched by the plight of these people and amazed by their spirits.”

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