As the state'ês unemployment rate climbs ever higher, the people in charge of mailing checks to the jobless are trying to get the word out: Let us help you find work.
A new study by the state Employment Security Department concludes that people who used the services of WorkSource, a public-private job-assistance center, were up to 37 percent more likely to find work within six months than those who didn'êt. The bounce was higher for men than women, and for people who had been working intermittently rather than steadily before being laid off. As with most studies, this one comes with caveats. Even state officials acknowledge built-in biases, including the fact that people who seek help might be more skilled or more driven to find work in the first place.
I would raise an even bigger red flag: The data is old. Job-seekers who were tracked for the study received assistance in late 2007 and early 2008, then found work (or didn'êt) in the second half of 2008 — right around the time this recession came crashing down on Washington state. Still, the general point is fair. People who'êve spent months looking in vain for work have nothing to lose by getting a little free help. Since my job at The Seattle Times was eliminated last December, I'êve been to two WorkSource classes and felt ambivalent about what I learned.
I'êve gotten some absolutely useless advice; the counselors in both of my 'êone-on-one'ê sessions offered only one specific tip, and it was the same one — to search for job listings on indeed.com, an online search engine for job listings. Fine, but that didn'êt add much to the five or six searches I was already using.
On the other hand, I did learn a thing or two, like when an instructor told a group of us what typically happens to the resumes we submit to employers. Businesses are so swamped, she said, that they shovel resumes into databases without reading them, then run keyword searches for the qualities they want. The best counter-strategy: Make a custom resume for every application, shamelessly copying phrases pulled directly from job descriptions.
Who knows how well such tricks will work, with the unemployment rate now at 9.3 percent, up from 5.5 percent at the time of the study. But for me and thousands of others, anything is worth a try.