Job Seekers Readiness Guide

Unemployment�s high and competition is tough. Here are five key areas that can give you the edge in the job market

Your Skill Set
A re-evaluation of your strengths and some additional training can help you land your dream job


Unfulfilled: Dawn Loney, 33, supervisor, was managing a team that performed quality assurance at one of Canada’s five major banks, but she lost the motivation for what she called the monotony of her daily responsibilities. “My job became very repetitive,” she says, “it just wasn’t the right job fit for me.”

New Position:
Corporate trainer, where she takes new employees through orientation, and trains them on corporate systems and company policies.

Her Challenge: At the behest of an internal mentor, Loney assessed her interests inside and outside of the office to help find her passion and took advantage of a company program which allows employees to temporarily try out various positions within the company. Loney temporarily worked as a corporate trainer, where she found her passion teaching others. In her dream job as a corporate trainer, Loney would spend six weeks with new employees showing them the ropes by instructing them on organizational policies. But Loney lacked specific skills and her company decided instead to hire a specialized expert in the field, who would require less training.

Her Strategy: Loney took adult education courses in classroom management and learning to work with adults with disabilities. She also participated in Toastmasters International, an oratory organization which helps members develop public speaking and leadership skills. She dug into her network, finding friends in the particular field of her choice and spent more than two weeks of her own time shadowing them in the position.

The Result: The on-the-job experience she gained as an informal apprentice gave her in-depth insight into what exactly the job required. After learning new tactics, she’d go home and do more research and practice explaining the information. “At the second interview I was very well prepared,” she says, having landed the position. “The recruiters said I was well versed and asked me about my action plan. They were impressed at the fact that I took it upon myself to learn that much about the position.”

What You Need to Know
It’s important to determine where you stand in terms of the skills you posses—or lack. “You can start with the job description of your current position,” says Sharon Hall, partner at executive search firm SpencerStuart. “In that description it will say you must have the following skills. That will give you a checklist against which you can assess your skills,” she adds.

Hall recommends reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press; $24.95), and taking online assessments as well at She also urges you to use the human capital around you: “Ask them, ‘What would you say I’m good at? What skills of mine are more pronounced in your judgment?’” Finally, talk to your human resources director and your boss to find out what skills you need to develop for promotion.

There are some clues to know when it may be time for additional training. “Your frustration level at work increases, the number of times you’re rated average as opposed to excellent increases, you’re not growing.” That’s when you know it’s time to assess. “If you’re in meetings and the conversation is just a little over your head, you didn’t pick up the last reference, or you have to say ‘I don’t know’ eight times a week, these are clear indicators of when you need more training,” says Hall.

Evaluating your skill set is not a one-time-only occurrence. An assessment needs to be done at least three times a year, adds Kenneth Arroyo Roldan, CEO of WBMB and author of Minority Rules (HarperCollins Publishers; $22.95), “You need to ask yourself: What skill sets or attributes am I lacking? Where do I stand apart from the others? This self-introspection will give you a clear understanding of your competitive edge.”
—Renita Burns

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  • Thanks for this article. With the black community being hit the hardest by the employment slump, this informative article has perfect timing. I love your recommendations about including special keywords in your resume. Here’s a more in-depth article about using keywords to create a searchable resume that should help people understand how to utilize this keyword resume strategy better.

    Ozzie Saunds
    Career Specialist

  • Thomasina Garner

    I sure hope you received my initial comment. When I pressed the sumit button, the message I received was something about double or duplicate message error. Anyway, just in case it did not go through, I will restate the gist of it. I glad to catch your inspiring show on Sunday mornings, but I worry about the time slot in terms of the loss of valuable information that may parents, students, teachers and counselors do not get a chance to see. I could not get through to TV1 to learn why you are not given a better time slot. I was also pleased that the woman whose organization is working on projects in the Bronx (Greening Ghettos) is reaching out to give training and employment opportunities to those who need it most – our youth. I was concerned that I do not here about the various companies reaching out to schools, talking about training programs/internships they offer. I am concerned about the lack of presence and information about Black Enterprise in the schools,particularly the middle schools and high Schools, or programs for Black males. The gentleman interviewed regaring Green housing development did not mention any opportunities for youth. Mention was made about the Expo but what is it? Who is invited? What is its purpose? I did find out a little about it on the website but I still do not know whether it helps our youth, those newly graduated from college seeking employment, those in high school, or, those who are ex-offenders. Please feel free to contact me. I was very happy to find that you do list career opportunities. Not too long ago, you did a special on successful women, but there was no information for youth interested in gaming or business.