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Looking for work? Job coaches have some advice | COMMENTARY

***NOTE TO INSPECTOR: All visible graphics are our own design, and were produced for this particular shoot.***
***NOTE TO INSPECTOR: All visible graphics are our own design, and were produced for this particular shoot.*** (Rawpixel/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As of last week, all Marylanders receiving regular and/or federal unemployment benefits are again required to actively search for work. The good news for these individuals is the current job market is plentiful, as local employers look to fill hundreds of thousands of open positions across the state.

But for workers displaced by the pandemic, a surplus of openings doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to get back to work. With some industries still slow to recover, many job seekers are unable to return to their previous employers and are faced with starting over in unfamiliar fields. Others are seeking better conditions than they had previously — wanting higher pay, safer work environments, more security and opportunities to advance. And many are still facing multiple barriers exacerbated by the pandemic — including access to health care, transportation, child care, internet and even food — that hinder their ability to secure and hold a job.

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As an organization that has helped adults in and around Baltimore change their lives through employment for nearly 50 years, we know every successful job search begins with having the motivation to improve your situation. But beyond that, hunting for the right job can be tiring, confusing, and discouraging — especially without support.

If you’re looking for your next career opportunity, our job coaches have some advice:

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  • Believe in yourself. The most important asset anyone needs to pursue a new position and hold a positive interview is self-confidence. But confidence can be hard to muster, especially when unemployed. Remember: Everyone brings something to the table, so it’s important to focus on what you do have, and not what you don’t. If you’re struggling with confidence, start by listing your best professional and interpersonal skills, and positive character traits. If you can’t be objective, a career assessment can help identify your strengths and your past work, volunteer and personal experiences that make you an asset to your next employer.
  • Take advantage of free resources to address your barriers. If there are circumstances in your life preventing you from working, there are many great nonprofits in our area that can help you overcome them. Our organization and others offer many valuable, no-cost resources to address clothing, food, rent assistance, mental health needs and other obstacles.
  • Get your resume in shape. Make sure your resume is up to date with accurate dates and information and keep it to one or two pages. If you have employment gaps, or are entering a brand-new field, consider choosing a functional resume rather than a chronological one. Make sure your resume is ready to upload electronically, and make it available on LinkedIn, Career Builder, Indeed, and other online job boards so that recruiters and employers can find you online. If you need help building or revising your resume, there are many free resources available.
  • Don’t settle for a position that is less than what you want and/or need. With so many companies currently in need of help, many employers are increasing their entry-level pay, and adding benefits and incentives. When applying for a position, do your research and make sure the employer is offering the right salary, expectations, environment and culture for you.
  • It’s never too late to choose a new career path. Often, the hardest step to take on any journey is the very first one. If you can no longer find work in your field, are unsatisfied with your current employment or you’ve been thinking about making a career change for some time, your first step is to explore. Do your research online, talk to a friend who is working in the field that interests you or find a job coach who can help you learn what is required to break into that industry, whether it’s feasible for you and the steps you need to take to get there.

Finally, and most importantly, never give up hope. While the events of the past 16 months have created many challenges, they are also now spurring new opportunities to build a better future. No matter what your professional or personal goals are, a realistic path exists to achieve them, and resources are available to help you along the way — please don’t hesitate to take advantage of them.

Grace Lee is executive director of Maryland New Directions, a nonprofit organization providing no-cost employment coaching and specialized career training to people in and around Baltimore City. Information is available online at www.mdnewdirections.org or by calling 410-230-0630.

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