Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Things Are Never as Simple as They Should Be: Teaching the New Jobskills--Upload, Download, and Attach

My middle name is workaround! How do I explain to a new computer user that they really need to have a resume that can be downloaded in various formats because Microsoft Word is not available on all computers? How do I explain that having a resume that's been pasted into an email is not the same as a resume that has been attached to it?

I started teaching job finding resource classes about a year ago, and realized that it was actually the little things that were tripping new users up. It wasn't locating the online job posting that was so difficult- instead, it was figuring out how to get the resume from Point A (paper) to Point B (onto the application or website). In a class environment, I realized that each user understood only a part of the process, and in a full-class setting, I couldn't spend the time to explain the nuances of each situation.

Before I started working with patrons, I had assumptions about what I should be showing them. I assumed that everyone would want to gain an overview of library job finding resources. For example, one of my first classes was an overview of the Illinois workNet website. Another class (which I hoped would be overwhelmingly popular) was called "Job Finding Resources at the Library." Although both series were relatively well attended, I felt as though people were not completely satisfied with the information they were receiving. The resources themselves were too broad to effectively pinpoint the needs of each patron. As I taught more, I realized that a) I had assumed too much about my users' computer prowess, and b) I needed to focus my classes both in material and in size.

Lately, I have switched to teaching one-on-one appointment-based sessions because it seems that each person has their own unique road bump that is causing the most job-searching anxiety. Just for the record, I love teaching these sessions! The setting allows me to focus on exactly what each user needs, and for many, this means going back-to-basics. Uploading, attaching and emailing a resume are specific skills that have caused enormous frustration. I was helping one woman who said that she had refused to apply for any job that needed her to upload a resume. She said she was too embarrassed to ask for help. When we sat down and she learned how to do it, she had the same reaction that many others have had: a huge grin, and a gasp of, "That's it!??" She couldn't believe such a simple skill had been so intimidating.

Even though patrons have their own specific questions about online jobs and applications, some things are universal to the new user. For new users, even learning how to multitask with multiple windows open can seem like an overwhelming skill. Every time I work with a patron, I realize that mastering this type of procedure is not an insignificant detail. Instead, these proficiencies are huge roadblocks to the average person's ability to apply for a job he might otherwise be qualified for.

In the next few posts, I'll write a bit about the resources that I have used to teach some of these skills as well as the best resume options for new computer users.

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