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Traditional versus Non-Traditional Job Search Techniques

Career Transition Primer

In the good old days the way to find a job was to look in the want ads, mail in your resume, and expect a response. Other times, a head-hunter would call and magically have a job for you. If you were energetic you would call a few friends to see if they knew of anyone hiring engineers. The job search process was very private and conducted in shame, especially if you were "terminated."

This traditional job search approach first required that a potential employer announce to the world (either through an ad or the headhunter) that an employee is needed and then you, the potential employee, responds. Today, you can compare that approach to a company searching for business by examining the publications of government bids for work they are qualified to do. Nowadays, experts recommend a whole new approach. Non-traditional job search techniques put you in charge. Instead of waiting around (drawing unemployment checks) for the announcement that a job is available, you cultivate relationships and finding job openings before they are announced to everyone else. Today's job search strategies target the decision-makers in your future company. Unemployed engineers target engineering managers, unemployed engineering managers target the VP of Engineering and so forth. The non-traditional job search is like a shark - always moving forward, pursuing all job leads until you are successful. With these newer techniques, the only reason to approach the "personnel department" is if you are looking for a job in human resource.

There is no doubt that these newer techniques are effective, however, many unemployed (or under-employed) engineers are initially uncomfortable developing the necessary skills. Much of the time spent in out-placement programs is intended to eliminate your natural resistance to these non-traditional techniques, help you master the new job search skills, and reduce the time you're on the unemployment line. NON-TRADITIONAL JOB SEARCH TECHNIQUES WORK.

Out-Placement Services are available from a variety of organizations, not the least of which may be your former employer. These services are intended to help you evaluate your skills, learn today's job search techniques, and prepare effective resumes. These services usually include secretarial and answering services, telephones, copiers, fax machines, and office space. At the end of your "training" you are put to work finding a job for yourself. This can be a very educational as well as enlightening experience when approached with the right attitude.

If your previous employer did not offer out-placement services, then you still have other sources of out-placement services available to you. These typically are locally-administered programs with government funding through the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). You may not qualify for a JTPA program, but you probably do (let them decide, they know the rules). In fact, you can even use these resources after expiring your old company's out-placement program. The programs listed below are all required to provide a comprehensive approach to the job search. You will spend several days in testing and evaluating your skills so that when you start formulating a resume, you'll know what industry you'll be targeting and which position within that industry. This is followed by a 5-6 day program to prepare you for conducting your job search. Office accommodations are also provided, including copier, fax, typing, phone, postage, and answering services. Frequently these programs also have their own support groups. The Houston-area programs are:

TEC's Dislocated Worker Program

They have several locations in the Houston area. Call 953-9211 for the one nearest you.

Interfaith Training and Employment Project (ITEP)

They have several locations in the Houston area. Call 363-1640 for the one nearest you.

Career Resource Center (working with the ITEP Kingwood program)

2307 Crystal Spring Dr., Kingwood

Wharton Co. Jr. College's Dislocated Worker Program

550 Julie Rivers Dr. Sugar Land

Other, less comprehensive programs, provide 1-2 days of training. They include:

Career & Recovery Inc.

2600 Southwest Freeway, Suite 800 Houston

TEC's Job Search Center


Some out-placement type programs are available for a fee. The Center for Continuing Careers (which includes Forty Plus Of Houston) is one resource available on the low end of the dollar scale with a good reputation. They have 9 or 18 hour programs (ranging in price from $100 - $175) available to teach the non-traditional job search techniques, however, the office support and other out-placement services are available only to those over 40 years old (for an additional $175 plus $10 per week and some volunteer work). They can be reached at 952-7587 and are located at 2909 Hillcroft, Suite 400. They also provide testing to aid in career changing for an additional fee of $175. The Center for Continuing Careers is a good source for the "under-employed" since they offer after-hours programs also.

Some of the limited circulation papers (The 1960 Sun, The Westside Sun, for example) offer dates and times for unemployed support group meetings, seminars about job hunting, and networking clubs.

Books are a good source of information about the job search. There are numerous books available covering the entire job search spectrum from assessing your skills, writing resumes, networking, interviewing, cover letters, and telephone skills. Much of the newer material covers "non-traditional" job search techniques. These techniques are expected to provide you greater access to the "hidden job market" so you can learn about a job before it appears (if ever) in the personnel section of your newspaper. Richard Bolles's "What Color is Your Parachute" is an established favorite, although other books can be equally valuable. Try your local library for these books about newer job search techniques before you drop a lot of money at the local bookstore or for expensive seminars.

Local experts in the business of teaching job search skills are another resource to consider. We are fortunate to have two experts of the non-traditional job search methods located right here in Houston. They can be seen in person doing complementary promotional presentations for their books, video tapes, and seminars.

John Truitt, author of "Telesearch," advocates an intensive telephone technique which identifies the hiring authority (the person actually responsible for the hiring decision) and quickly lands you that interview. He also gives you pointers on how to the interview as well as the job offer.

The second expert is actually a team. Donna and Sandy Vilas, authors of "Power Networking," promote a networking method which can quickly put you in touch with hundreds (actually thousands) of people, some of which are aware of companies and people hiring petroleum engineers. Networking is a successful technique for building businesses as well as job hunting.

Other resources are available: Some credible and some existing with the sole purpose of separating you from your precious dollars. "Buyer beware" is sound advice with today's high unemployment rate.