Weekly Oak Harbor club eases job hunting pains
By REBECCA OLSON
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
February 25, 2012 · Updated 5:51 AM
Finding a job is a full-time job, according to T.J. Larrick, and those searching can use the helpful hints and leads found at Job Club.
Larrick, employment specialist for the Department of Social and Health Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, meets with the unemployed, under-employed and those looking for a better job every Monday at 1 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Library for free.
He completely deconstructs how to get a job by teaching tips for writing better resumes and cover letters and answering questions in job interviews, but his teaching goes further to include what employers are looking for and how the group can express that they possess the skills an employer seeks.
Larrick teaches the group a pro-active approach: follow up on applications and set up informational interviews with the company; those could potentially become job interviews.
“I focus a lot on how to help them help themselves,” Larrick said. “Part of it is for me to teach and also for people to come in here and work on something they need help on.” Be that a cover letter or interview techniques, everyone is at a different stage in their employment plan and Larrick understands that.
With the difficult economy, many people who haven’t held a job recently or who were laid off are having trouble securing a new job.
“It’s as hard to learn how to find work as it is to find work,” said Deborah Hardy, who frequently attends Job Club.
It’s very difficult to get a job these days, much less figure out how to apply for them, Hardy said. It’s a different process now than in her younger years when searching for jobs via the internet and filling out computer forms weren’t involved.
“We work on strategies to work smarter. It’s very competitive to get a job. It’s different than it used to be; you have to really plan,” Larrick said.
The club has been going on for six months and was started because Whidbey Island had no job clubs. With the help of Skagit Valley College, Oak Harbor Library and Work Source, the program has expanded.
“Resources are tight, so it makes sense for everyone to get together and share those resources,” Larrick said.
Approximately 12 people show up each week, Larrick said. Generally, half the participants have attended before, which is beneficial because Larrick finds job leads tailored to the individuals between meetings.
Colleen Gregory has been coming to Job Club for three months in her search for a chef job. Larrick handed her job listings he’d found seeking chefs and cooks.
“It gives me information on jobs and I learn things like how to fill out resumes and applications,” Gregory said about the club.
Knowing how to answer the questions potential employers throw at her is one of her biggest hurdles for landing a job, Gregory said.
The club can help with that. A general meeting consists of Larrick handing out job leads, talking about unemployment trends and teaching about a topic.
A couple of weeks ago, the club focused on answering the question posed by potential employers: “Tell me about yourself and why I should hire you.” Larrick helped the group develop templates that they can work on at home.
“The nice thing about a club is you can practice and make your mistakes here and you won’t lose a job, but it might help you get one,” Larrick said.
Larrick did have some positive news for the group. Unemployment in Island County is down to 8.2 percent. It had been between 10 and 13 percent.
While Whatcom and Snohomish counties sport similar numbers, Skagit County is now at 10 percent unemployment.
“For the first time in a very long time, Island County is decent compared to the others,” Larrick told the group.
“There’s a good percentage of people that get jobs by going through job clubs,” Larrick said. “It’s a little bit of information, a little bit of training and hopefully, a lot of what you need and what’s going to benefit you.”
Anyone can attend Job Club Mondays at 1 p.m. at the meeting room down the hall from the Oak Harbor Library, located at 1000 SE Regatta Dr.
For information, call the library at 675-5115 or visit www.sno-isle.org.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Rebecca Olson at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5052.