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Networking is critical for job placement

By Staff | Jan 14, 2011

With unemployment historically high, jobseekers need the tools to find work now more than ever.

Though the national unemployment rate is showing marked improvement at just 9.4 percent, according to recent estimates, and West Virginia’s unemployment rate is now around 8.8 percent overall, the local area still reportedly continues to struggle to provide job opportunities for both young and old.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the unemployment rate rose .03 percent in both Jefferson and Berkeley counties in November, to 6.8 percent and 9.4 percent respectively.

The Eastern Panhandle recently saw a change in fortune, however, with the projected arrival of a Macy’s distribution center in Martinsburg, which will provide almost 2,000 part-time, full-time and seasonal jobs locally.

Whether returning to work after being laid off or just starting out in the job market, many seeking employment will likely apply for available positions at the center.

But for those more interested in starting careers in a particular field, the Shepherd University Career Development Center, provides career counseling and assistance to students and alumni.

“It’s a continual process,” said Victoria Buchauer, director of Career Services.

A former private sector recruiter, Buchauer understands that employers are looking for candidates who demonstrate a history of experience.

Buchauer said becoming proactive about one’s career should begin as early as freshman year for students who hope to find a job upon graduation.

“Getting involved is essential,” she said.

Students should volunteer, participate in research projects, find internships and co-ops and become members of professional organizations throughout their tenure in school.

Opportunities for networking often spring from participation in activities or internships outside of regular coursework, and according to Buchauer, networking is probably the number one way people find jobs. She encourages students to follow up with contacts after meeting them and fully research and pursue any and all leads that present themselves.

In this market, the ability to network and successfully present oneself to potential employers at career fairs, online or on paper is fundamentally important.

Developing a portfolio that showcases accomplishments is a major factor in finding employment at anytime. Buchauer said it should quantify an applicant’s experiences by detailing who they’ve worked with, for how long and in what capacity, as well as a history of education, awards and any special training.

Buchauer encourages students and alumni to take advantage of available resources, like workshops for resume writing, career planning, interviewing, as well as job fairs and seminars provided to assist in the process of finding and applying for jobs.

Buchauer also offered caution for those looking to live and work locally and insisted that it may be a good idea to look beyond the Eastern Panhandle to find more opportunities in their area of interest.

“Be able to commute,” she said. “Step out of your comfort zone.”