Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Helps Patrons with Job Seeking


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By Steve Zalusky

Many will argue that the three most pressing issues in today's economy are: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Libraries provide a refuge for job seekers, because they offer both the tools and helpful professionals to make a successful job search possible.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one example. The library has made available - for free - a series of career-building workshops at seven different branches.

These "Skills for Success" workshops, such as the one at the Mt. Washington branch (pictured) focus on important aspects of the job search. Patrons receive valuable information on job applications and get to practice their interviewing skills.

"I think that all public librarians are seeing this now," said Reference Librarian Rachel Masilamani. "We know it's a tough time for employment and we do see people who are coming in and working on applications all day."

Many of them, she said, are not aware of the services libraries offer, including not only tools that help them build and format resumes, but also a list of local professional organizations, as well as access to other tools that assist them in self-training and self-assessment.

The workshop agenda suggests the comprehensiveness and intensity of these sessions.

The first hour is devoted to an introduction, an overview of the library's resources and a self-assessment.

"We start our entire workshop with a short self-assessment test," Masilamani said. "It's a step a lot of people skip," leading them to waste more time in the job search. Often, she said, people will try to bend themselves to fit a particular job, rather than defining themselves first and finding jobs that fit that definition."

The second hour focuses on resumes and online searching and applications.

During the resume section, attendees share each other's resumes, receiving valuable feedback from exposing them to fresh eyes, but also getting a chance to meet other people in the community and network.

The third hour is when the mock interviews begin, with patrons being trained on interviewing and cover letters.

During the mock interviews, participants are provided a set of questions that relate to a real job description they have selected.

"Mock interviews are great, especially for working out body language issues," Masilamani said.

During the fourth hour, there is more mock interviewing, plus individual consultation, followed by networking.

The program is funded by a grant that covers the 42nd Congressional District. It has received excellent support from state Sen. Wayne Fontana, who has attended nearly all of the workshops, which handle up to 15 people and are expected to continue into 2013.

Masilamani said the library is keeping in touch with people who have taken the workshop via email and a Facebook page. She had a phone call from a woman who participated in a recent workshop and just landed a job interview.

"I think our greatest achievement so far has been encouraging participants to continue growing their networks by staying connected and active," Masilamani noted.

The library offers the following tips for job seekers (PDF).



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