A Database that Offers Tips, Tests, Practice, and eBook Study Guides for Job Hunters

January 10, 2011

Most people who are familiar with Learning Express use it for the academic practice tests that it offers.   Many people do not know that it also includes a number of opportunities for people looking to brush up on or expand their work and job search skills.  If you live in Newton, you have home access to this database through the use of your library card and the Newton Free Library website.  Anyone has access to it within the library.  If you live outside the Newton area, a library near you may subscribe to this service.

There are three main categories of interest.  The first is “Job Search and Research Skills.”  Under this category, Learning Express offers courses, practice, and eBook study guides on Business Writing; on the TOEIC [Test of English for International Communication]; and on Job Searching, Resume Writing, and Interviewing Skills.

The second category is “Jobs and Careers.”  Here you will find information broken down by very specific careers and career types.  Their list includes Air Traffic Controller, Civil Service, Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Electrical, Emergency Medical Services, Firefighter, Green Careers, Law Enforcement, Military, Nursing and Allied Health, Legal, Plumbing, Real Estate, and Teaching.  A last category is more general but very important, Test-Taking Skills Improvement.  What LearningExpress offers here are eBook study guides, courses, and instantly scored practice tests.

The last category is more general in terms of job requirements, but may be critical if you feel “rusty” or vulnerable in certain types of skill sets.  “Skill Building for Adults” includes tests, courses, and eBooks to help you improve your skills in math and reasoning, personal finance, public speaking, reading, science, statistics, trigonometry, and finally, writing and grammar.

To take advantage of any of these offerings from home, you must be a Newton resident with a Newton Free Library card and use the Newton Free Library website.  Go to http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net.  Click on “Free Online Databases” on the right of the home page.  Click on the subject heading “Test Preparation.” Click on Learning Express Library “Home Access” and put in your library card number. You will see a list of all the databases the City of Newton offers Newton patrons.  Click on Learning Express Library again and register with the user name you would like to use, a password, and your email address.  Be sure to write these down so you can get back in again.  [A word to the wise.  Have a secure area where you keep all your user names and passwords, whether it is a notebook, old Rolodex, or somewhere on your computer.]  Then poke, prod and explore the site.  As mentioned above, if you are not a Newton resident, you can use the site within the library.  You may also want to see if your local library provides this service.

vea/10 January 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.


Help for Job Seekers from the Massachusetts State Website

November 17, 2010

The state of Massachusetts offers help for job seekers in various sections of its online website.  I would suggest starting with the Job Seekers section of Labor and Workforce Development. Click here to find this.  Take a look at the headings and explanations to see which of these categories will be most useful to you.

Two key sections that you should definitely read through here are “Career Centers” and “Job Hunting: Information to Help You.”  Under “Career Centers,” you will find free classes that give you the opportunity to learn or to hone computer and  job searching skills. “Job Hunting: Information to Help You” is a treasure trove of useful material.  It includes advice on everything from resumes, networking, and interviewing, to tips for completing an online application. (If you are already trying to cut and paste your resume information into an online application or email and are having trouble, you may need to change your resume from formatted text to plain text. This is not covered on the state site. To learn how to do this, click on the Newton Free Library list of class handouts and open number 7.)  

When you are going through the Massachusetts offerings, as with anything on the web, use your judgment.  If you are not comfortable with a recommended site or with launching your resume onto an online posting site, don’t use it or do it.  The state lists craigslist.org as one of a number of recommended sources.  Personally that would be a site I would hesitate either to use or to recommend.  (See new posting above regarding craigslist.)  To learn more information about posting resumes, click here.

One additional site is the state’s  job blog.  Called Commonwealth Conversations, you can find it at  http://jobs.blog.state.ma.us.

If you want to check the main site for Massachusetts state government, go to http://www.mass.gov.  Here you will find a whole range of state services and information. To maneuver your way around the site, you can scroll down to the very bottom right corner and click on Site Map.  You can also check the A-Z Subject Listing near the top right of the website.

Good luck on your job hunt.

17 November 2010/vea
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.

Career Coaches: What They Do and How to Find Them

July 28, 2010

I first started noticing the term career coaching about a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve found it coming up with increasing frequency, usually in terms of helping job seekers, career changers, and people dissatisfied with their current work situation.  I thought I would do a little digging to find out more about it and pass the information along to you.

Why career coach?  Why not job coach?  I’ve also seen the terms life coach and retirement coach, but it is career coach that I’ve seen used most often.  A statistic that is in my last posting explains why you may be seeing more people who are advertising specifically as career coaches.  “Today’s workers will run through at least 10 jobs, three careers, and two layoffs between college and retirement.”  These days, people who are currently employed may feel the need for professional help when thinking ahead to their next career moves.  Others, whose main concern at the moment is finding a job, may also need help in planning a long term strategy for controlling, as much as may be possible, the course of their work life.  If one of these options sounds like a good idea to you, you have some homework to do.  Your first assignment is to figure out what you want a career coach to do.  Do you want them to do the majority of their work figuring out why you are not finding a job?  What you don’t know, or are not doing, or are doing incorrectly?  Or do you also need help in short term and/or long term career strategy?  In what profession?

Once you figure out what you need, your next step is to find some career coaches. The first thing to remember is that career coaching is pretty much an unregulated profession. You have to figure out who is legitimately there to help you.  Richard N. Bolles has a very good section on career coaches in his 2010 edition of What Color is Your Parachute.  He points out that career coaches come in three basic categories.  The first includes those coaches that are good and know what they are doing.  The second are those that think they are good, but don’t really know what they are doing.  The third are those people who know precisely what they are doing and it has nothing to do with helping you.  Their goal is to get as much money out of you as possible on totally fraudulent promises and expertise.  Even among the very good coaches, some will be better equipped to help you with your specific needs than others.  Now you are starting to see why you, and only you, must do your homework.

You have a number of options when you start out on your hunt for names. You can check your local yellow pages.  You can ask friends and/or relatives.  You can check your contacts on your LinkedIn account.  (If you don’t have an account, check out the postings about LinkedIn and get one.)  You can check the organizations that certify career coaches.  There are a number of them.  They, like career coaches, will vary in their usefulness to you. You can find a list of them here. Remember, this is not an endorsement, just a list.  One Wall Street Journal article mentions The International Coach Federation and The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

When you have your list of coaches, you need to interview them, thoroughly and completely.  If the person you are interviewing becomes impatient with a set of thoroughly planned questions, it is probably a good indication that you will not work well together.  You will want to know how much experience a coach has had.  What is their success rate?  Is their experience limited to career coaching or have they actually been out in the work force before they became a coach?  Do they have experience in your field, either working in it themselves or successfully finding jobs or obtaining advancement for  clients in your field?  These are only a few questions. Check below for more sources. Don’t forget to think about additonal information that you need before signing onto a coach.

Now there is the subject of cost. Unless your company has laid you off and supplied job coaching for you, you are going to have to pay for the help. The good coaches are providing a valuable service that may affect the rest of your work life.  Asking about the cost should be right up there on your list questions.  The price can range anywhere from $50.00 per hour and up.  Some coaches will charge for your first interview.  Others will not.  It is not a good idea to decide that one coach is better than the other on the basis of whether or not they charge a fee for your first contact.

You may decide you want to investigate firms that employ a number of coaches. If you do this, you will have additonal homework. The good news it that it is unlikely these firms will charge you for the first visit.  The bad news, from what I’ve read, is that they often do not charge because they want to sell you the most expensive package that (your) traffic will bear.   You will need to find out about the firm as well as the coach you may be getting. You can use the same sources as with coaches above.  You may also want to use some of the business and periodical databases available through your public library, as well as contacting your local Better Business Bureau.

Be prepared in advance to deal with contracts.  Make sure you can get a copy to take home to read before you sign it.  If the person you are interviewing (an individual coach or the representative of a firm) insists that you sign it immediately, that would be a deal breaker, at least for me.  Being by nature skeptical, I always wonder what they don’t want me to notice.  Also like me, I think most people have to carefully read a legal document a number of times and think about implications to truly understand it. If someone is putting you under fabricated (by them) time pressure, I would proceed cautiously.  I definitely would not sign anything under those circumstances.

To continue your research on career coaches, you might want to check out two articles I found useful. You can find the first, a Wall Street Journal Online article, by clicking on the title “Career Q&A: Finding the Right Career Coach”.  You can also look at the second, “How to Find the Right Career Coach,”  the same way.  If you get your hands on the current edition of What Color is Your Parachute mentioned above, just look for the appendices on the green pages.  The first entry gets you started with “Finding Your Mission in Life.” Then make sure you spend time with Appendix B, “A Guide to Choosing a Career Coach or Counselor.”  Bolles ends with a list of coaches by state.  He points out that these are not recommendations, just a list. Look at other career books at your local library.  They may also have a section on career coaches.  If you want to know about what these coaches do, take a look at a book like Career Coaching: an Insiders Guide by Marcia Bench, pictured at the beginning of this article.

Wishing you a successful search.

vea/27 July 2010
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.

Stats, Coaches, and Help for a Tight Budget

July 16, 2010

Taken by the Curious Genealogist at the Newton Free Library

Recently (July 4th) the New York Post had an interesting article regarding career coaches–where they come from and what they do. It’s worth a look here. ( This is a print version rather than the web version.  It’s easier to read, but you may have to cancel out the print button when it comes up.)

The piece included three sobering facts that appear in article after article.

1. “Today’s workers will run through at least 10 jobs, three careers, and two layoffs between college and retirement.”

2. “90 percent of all jobs come through networking.” (Face-to-face and online)

3. The big five [social media networking sites] are Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and blogs.

What do you do with all of this information?  First you can hire a good career coach.  Finding one is going to be the subject of another blog.  To start off, though, you could sign up for an account in LinkedIn. It is free. (There is that social media networking again.  See number 3 above and the posting on this blog about LinkedIn.)  You will not only find career coaches here, but the people who have used them and how successful they have been.

The problem today is that individuals have limited monetary resources.  It is good to remember that a number of helpful free lectures and classes are available in the Newton area.

You may have already met two local career coaches here at the library. Tammy Gooler Loeb and Danila Székely have donated their time and skill giving lectures in the Job Seeker Series that was held here.  They will be participating in a new series that will start in October.  You can learn more about these coaches and the programs they have already given by typing “Tammy Gooler Loeb” and “Danila Szekely” into the Google Search box near the upper right of the library’s home page. Do not cut and paste Danila Székely.  For some reason the accent mark throws off the search engine and nothing comes up.

 Clicking on the following entries will bring you to more information on other free offerings in the Newton area. If you live outside our geographical area, check the offerings at your own local libraries.

 Newton Free Library

Minuteman Libraries Helping Job Seekers

Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers

If you do not live in Massachusetts and need to find a One-Stop Career Center in your area, click here.

Charles River Public Internet Center

Most of their classes cost between $50 to $120 per class.  But the center does offer a free one-on-one tutoring program that provides basic instruction on e-mail, Internet navigation, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel.  The sessions run from 1/2 hour to a full hour.

vea/16 July 2010
Newton Free Library 
Newton, Mass.  


May 25, 2010

In both the print and online versions of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, you will find key information you need when deciding on career choices and alternatives.  Do you want to expand your options in a current career, jump to a related job, or switch completely? The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you make an informed decision.  Each occupation based article has sections that describe the nature of the work; training, other qualifications, and advancement; employment opportunities; job outlook; earnings; related occupations; and sources of additional information.

The online version has much more information for the job hunter if you know where to find it. The rest of this article will show you where to look and what you will discover,  On the homepage of Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/oco/) look down the left frame until you see “Special Features” (just above the search box).  Click on it.  The top two categories are of special interest to job seekers.

The first, “Sources of Career Information” categorizes useful sites into several subject areas. Take a look at them.  Pay special attention to the State Sources heading.  Here you will find the states listed in alphabetical order.  On the Massachusetts site provided, please note that you do not have to register.   You can skip the user name and password at the top of the screen.  Choose a city or fill in a zip code at the bottom of the screen.  That gives you full access to all of the site’s information.

The second option under “Special Features” is “Finding and Applying for Jobs and Evaluating Offers.” Again, take a look at the headings listed here.  Under “More Information” it suggests you visit us, your local library.  It also provides links to five articles from Occupational Outlook Quarterly.  All in all, there is a treasure trove of information here provided at no cost from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.  You can take the information at your own pace, checking out a little or a lot.

You can find the print copy of the 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook in the reference stacks of the Newton Free Library.   Look for the call number R 331.7 O15O. You can find the online version on your home computer at http://www.bls.gov/oco/.

JOB-SEEKER ADVICE: Tips for finding, getting, and keeping a job

May 11, 2010

I have been searching for a local site that gives useful, but compact, information on searching for a job. I hate sites that feel their work is done when they throw down a long list of undifferentiated web addresses or tips for you to follow.  You (or at least I) don’t look at any of them.

I think “Job-Seeker Advice” on the boston.com website comes close to fitting the bill. It has good advice, but usually doesn’t give you so much of it that you get overwhelmed.  They do have some lists.  “Globe Top 100 Places to Work” or “Linkedin Help” are good examples.  In lists of 100, they often give you ten at a time to skim.  In a list of tips, they usually give you one at a time.  The site is divided into seven topics.  The topics are Choose a Career, Organize your Search, Resumes, Network, Interview, Workplace, and Layoffs. You have to scroll down on the main page to find the topics you want to see.

 If you use this site, I’d love to hear what you think of it.  Did it help you?  Did you find it easy to use or not?  What did you like and not like about it?  As with my classes, I can really use feedback.  It helps me to make decisions on what to put in the blog that you need and can use.


February 23, 2009

A web site that provides salary information for various jobs and will give job seeker a personalized salary report for a fee of $29.95