Dear New Shrink,

I am interested in finding a new job but am not sure how to get started. A few of my friends have suggested using online websites to find out about local job openings. Do these sites really work?

Signed,

Online Jobseeker

Dear Online Jobseeker,

Online job search websites can be helpful, however, they should not be your only source of job leads. Limit your use of job search websites to 10-15 percent of your total job search. Keep in mind, if it’s easy for you, it’s easy for everyone else too.

If you do use job search websites to begin your search, start with broad keywords. Terms like “entry-level,” “assistant,” “analyst” will generate key results for new professionals and words like “manager,” “executive,” and “vice president” may help you to identify opportunities for more experienced workers.

Use the job search websites as a starting place to test the marketplace. The meta-search sites like indeed.com, simplyhired.com, and jobcentral.com, can be helpful in identifying key companies or organizations. Adjusting the advanced search features can provide you with more streamlined results.

For instance, indeed.com allows you to select a salary range for your search which can help eliminate the positions that are below your ideal pay scale. Simplyhired.com has the option to sort results based on special filters like “new graduate,” ‘socially responsible,” or “mom friendly” workplaces. Signing up is generally free and it will help you keep track of postings that were added since your last visit. Many of the major job search engines also provide a free service to e-mail you postings that fit your job interests. Using search aggregators can be useful in getting you motivated; the e-mail may provide the spark you need to get going on your job search.

Beyond the meta search sites, you may also look to industry-specific sites. Idealist.org provides postings specific to the non-profit and volunteer industries. Dice.com has a good reputation for hosting job postings for technically-focused careers and usajobs.gov is the job posting clearinghouse for most federal government agencies. These sites can be useful in giving you a sense of who’s hiring.

Craigslist can be a decent source for local opportunities with smaller employers as well. However, when applying online to job postings, be cautious of the information you are sharing. In many cases your resume has your personal address and phone number. While many corporate employers have systems in place to protect your information, sending your resume to a randomly-created e-mail account may not afford the same privacy. As a reminder, your resume should not contain personal information like your Social Security number or date of birth. Follow basic common sense; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Use the job search websites to get ideas about key job titles, responsibilities, and desired qualifications. You will do far better in your job search if you have a good sense of what employers are looking for. Use the online job search websites as a career research mechanism. Identify the types of positions that are appealing to you and categorize the skills they are looking for. For instance, if you are interested in a business role you may find that a large majority of employers are looking for critical thinking, analytical and communication skills. Knowing what the employer is looking for will help you showcase your skills on your application, resume, and in personal interactions. Use the keywords and phrases included in the job description to craft your cover letter and ensure that your resume is using the industry buzz words.

Bottom line, job search website can be helpful but you should use them sparingly. Relying too much on the search sites will lead you to disappointing results. The best advice is to get out there, meet people, and make yourself relevant to the company’s hiring needs. Best of luck with your job search.

KATRINA DAVY is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor who holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters! Visit us online at www.newshrink.com.

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