WASHINGTON -- I thought I was overwhelmed with work -- until I started searching for it.
When I started trolling popular Internet job sites to see just how convenient and simple online job searching really is, I realized the job hunt still takes some elbow grease.
Career searching online can be a job in itself until you familiarize yourself with the sites and options out there in cyber-classifieds. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of job sites on the Web. How do you dig through the mess? What do some sites offer that others don't? And can they replace the traditional job search?
Most job sites have several things in common. Among the top employment destinations, all have job listings and places to send your resume in response to a specific listing. Or you can put a copy of your resume on file, if you don't mind e-mail, advertisements and headhunters coming your way. Some sites, such as Monster.com, have auto-resume tools that let you plug in your information while the site takes care of the look of the resume. That takes a lot of the pain out of preparing for the job search because for many, once that horrendous resume is written and formatted, the rest of the search almost seems easy.
When you've finished polishing your credentials, you can proceed to inspecting those of potential employers. Many of these job sites include a section with company profiles; these can be useful but often look a little gilded, as they often come from the company's public relations machines. If only the company profiles on the top sites would list the ''real'' information -- from employees who have worked there for a long time, as well as previous employees. Sites such as Vault.com do this, featuring insights and commentary from employees and industry analysts.
Be aware that you need to figure out what category your job description falls into. I kept looking at ''Media'' when searching for a job that would resemble print journalism, but the only hits I got were for new-media, Internet-oriented jobs. It would have been better looking on a site specific to my career. The category of career sites devoted to just one portion of the work population seems to be growing.
Generally, all employment sites offer the option of searching for jobs by plugging in a keyword, a geographic location or a specific company. I ran through several searches just by entering my Zip code. It's an easy way to get an idea of what sort of jobs are open in your area -- and if you should move.
HotJobs.com, one popular site, makes it easy -- if, that is, you are looking for one of the types of jobs listed in its main categories. This simple search involved typing in the city and state in which you want to work, clicking on one of the job interests and hitting the search button.
Click on one of the job options and get an entire description of the opening -- minus salary. Then a form to apply for the job online appears, making it a relatively painless procedure to paste in your resume (if you don't already have one registered with HotJobs) and even type up a quick cover letter and send it on. It all is so easy that once you're used to it, you could easily fit in some job searching during your lunch hour, before you go to bed, or while you're sipping your morning coffee.
In addition to the easy search format at HotJobs, job hunters can search specifically for openings at a start-up. Several sites include this option -- a helpful tool for tech types.
At CareerMosaic.com, the job hunter is greeted by listings of categories that include the ever-popular company profiles, and the simple ''Search Jobs'' option. A quick search by Zip code and keyword (again, you need to know the right keyword to find the right jobs) pulled up multiple listings.
One annoying factor at all of these sites is the advertising overload -- both in the number of banner ads clogging the Web pages, as well as the junk e-mail that blossomed in my in-box after I registered at them. Add to this the headache I got from days of looking through all the sites and job openings -- which many times didn't even match the criteria I thought I had correctly entered. It was enough to make me want to pound the pavement instead of the ''Enter'' key.
Many folks can find jobs by searching online. And some can even go through the entire interview process without really making human contact. ''Some'' being the key word here. The Internet can't really take over the entire job search process. Job seekers still need to make contact, send thank-you notes, check in if they haven't heard from hirers, and network in order to find particular openings.
And even though some can make it through the job search process without making face-to-face contact, they may miss out on important points. One of the major assets missing from job sites is personal contact. The best way to find out if you're going to like a company or organization is still actually seeing it in operation and interviewing face to face.
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