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The Internet helps take some of the drudgery out of job-hunting

By Rene Iwaszkiewicz

THE PARTY'S OVER. That's right, smarty-pants. You graduated from college. Now it's time to get a job and start paying off those student loans, or get off the dole from mom and dad. Lucky for you, today's job market couldn't be better.

"The job market for college grads is outstanding," says Camille Luckenbaugh, director of employment information of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, adding that this year's grads "very well may be enjoying the best year this decade."

According to the NACE, the hiring of new graduates is expected to rise 19.1 percent. Now, you could go job-hunting the old-fashioned way: clipping newspaper ads, sending out scads of résumés, and pounding shoe leather. But you're a child of the '90s, and you figure that, like everything else, this can be done from the comfort of home by using your computer and the Internet. You're right ... kind of.

For instance, the Internet can help desperate grads track down job listings in another state or worldwide, find information on companies before an interview, exchange information with professionals in another field, allow you to share information with specialty user groups online, and post your résumé on job-search sites, says Susan Epstein, assistant librarian at Florida State University.

"I found it helpful to find out where the jobs were," says Tara Holt, a graduating senior at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. "You can look through the classified sections of newspapers on the Internet to find jobs nationally, not just in a specific area."

If used correctly, the Internet also can save time and broaden a job search, says Epstein. The Internet is a plus as well for those whose schedules don't fit career-service-center hours. Through the Internet, you can locate unusual or hard-to-find information and communicate with people or resource groups in specialized areas. You can also post a résumé on various job-search networks. There are also career service centers on the Internet.

MOST BUSINESSES, for example, now have their own homepages, offering a quick and easy way to learn more about the companies. In addition, most company homepages contain job advertisements listed at the bottom of each site. They also contain e-mail addresses for contact people within a company. Search engines such as Yahoo, Lycos, or Metacrawler can help find homepages for career service sites or company sites by using keywords such as "jobs," "headhunters," or company names. Many online career service centers have listings of helpful job-search sites or of links to them.

There are also numerous job-search sites specific to certain groups and professional fields. These sites include job listings, job market projections, résumé and interviewing tips, and even have online experts who can help you define career goals. If one site doesn't have what you're looking, there are often links to other sites.

The big question, however, is this: How well do the Internet job-search sites work? Not surprisingly, those with sites on the net tout its successes. In March the Monster Board, an Internet job-search site containing a large interactive database for listing and locating job opportunities, put out a report conducted by the Advertising Research Corporation stating, "One out of every four job seekers who apply for a job through the Monster Board receives a job offer, and those receiving an offer receive an average of three offers each." The typical visitor to The Monster Board is between the ages of 24 and 49, with an even split between female and male users, and 72 percent have a college degree.

Sites such as JobDirect, which started three years ago in Stamford, Conn., also helps undergrads and graduate students find jobs through the Web, says Rachel Bell, co-founder of JobDirect. The site offers two features: résumé posting and job listing. Once a résumé is posted, the student's job interests are matched every 24 hours to employers' requests. So far, students have posted about 80,000 résumés. While the company has no figures on how many students have received jobs through the site, participating companies range from the Peace Corps to Random House and Intel.

Jobtrack is another potentially helpful site for college students and alumni. Jobtrack works with university career centers and employers. Employers send job listings to colleges that are posted online by the campus career centers. Most universities allow students and alumni access to the site by using a password. You specify your search by keywords and place of interest and then send your résumé to the place of your choice. The site also allows you to post your résumé and network with participating alumni.

"I used Jobtrack and sent my résumés to numerous companies in the area," says Laurie Scata, a '96 University of Connecticut grad. "I heard from companies and set up interviews."

Despite its potential benefits, the Internet also can be a waste of time, according to Epstein. "It sounds like you can post your résumé and get jobs, and that's not the case," she says, adding that the many of the sites on the Web offer "high expectation and low results." Because the Internet works like a giant newspaper, it's important to remember that not everything appears on the Internet.

Information may be dated, and there is no guarantee that posting or sending your résumé is enough. Epstein says job-seekers should still call the companies and talk with the Human Resources Department to make sure a résumé was received and try to set up an interview. She says it's important to network, talk to people, and inquire about jobs. Many great jobs aren't advertised, she says, adding that finding information about jobs on the Internet requires time, research, and critical evaluation skills.

"The Web is useless," says Jeff DuBois, who graduated in 1997. "There's so much information on the Web it's difficult to find the information you're looking for. It's time-consuming. For psychology or photography, there were no job listings for the Connecticut area on the Web."

Bottom line, the Internet is only one tool and certainly should not be the only resource used. The Web cannot replace human contact through networking and interviewing. "The best way to find a job is through connections, human connections," DuBois says. "It's who you know."

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From the June 11-17, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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