When competing for employment, preparation is key to make sure you stand out among other applicants. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is helping people do just that through its Promoting Readiness for Employment Possibilities employment preparation program.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, in February 2015, the civilian labor force totaled 2,111,624. This number combines all Alabama residents ages 16 and older who identify themselves as either employed, unemployed or seeking employment.
While these numbers may seem overwhelming, Alabama Extension understands the simple truth that prior preparation prevents poor performance.
Promoting Readiness for Employment Possibilities (PREP) is an initiative created under Extension’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs unit. The program is designed to equip participants with information to effectively increase their chances of acquiring a job.
The PREP program is designed for adults and high school seniors who are entering the workforce. The ultimate goal is to make sure participants are prepared to be their best self and are ready to be employed upon the completion of the program.
Building resumes, completing job applications, interview skills and professional image are the four areas in the PREP toolkit. The toolkit was developed by the Financial Literacy Across the Lifespan Strategic Program Initiative Team of Alabama Extension and includes interactive materials and take-away products that reinforce the concepts presented in the program.
Heidi Tilenius, county Extension coordinator for Lauderdale County, is one of several agents presenting the PREP program to those interested in expanding their knowledge of what employers are looking for in new hires.
Tilenius, who has been with Extension since July 2013, connects well with the program. Prior to her Extension work, she spent four years working with students at the University of North Alabama (UNA) in career planning and helping get students ready to enter the workforce upon graduation.
“The PREP program is key because people have to be employed,” said Tilenius. “You have to have income to be able to provide for your family.”
Tilenius believes self-awareness and networking is necessary throughout the employment search. She encourages people beginning their employment search to create a list of 50 people they know and where each of these people work.
“You have to know what skills you can provide and how those fit into what the employer is looking for,” said Tilenius. “Your fastest trip to your next job is the network of people you have.”
PREParing a Job Application
Tilenius noted that when filling out a job application, it is important to fill out the entire application. It is important to be able to show an employer that you can follow instructions, and the first way you can do that is by completing the job application fully.
“The employer is looking through hundreds of applications,” said Tilenius. “They’ll scan right past yours if you can’t follow simple directions.”
PREParing Your Resume
When it comes to resumes, it is critical to remember it is not a one-size-fits-all document. Your resume is the place where you can show how what you have contributed to previous positions can be applied to the available employment opportunities.
Looking at the job description for the position is crucial when constructing your resume. It is very common for companies using an applicant tracking system to scan through applications and resumes to find the best fit.
“Take the job description and construct your resume based on what the employer is looking for,” said Tilenius. “The better you can match up in the applicant tracking system, the higher your chances of being called in for an interview.”
PREParing for an Interview
The PREP program’s toolkit provides a list of questions applicants should be able to answer in an interview situation. The program encourages participants not only to look over the questions, but also to take time to write out the answers to the questions.
“When you are in an interview and you freeze up, chances are you will remember the thoughts you took the time to write down,” said Tilenius. “Preparation is the key word when it comes to interviews.”
PREParing Your Personal Appearance
Although there are several varying opinions when it comes to the appropriate dress for interviews, Tilenius believes that there is never an excuse to not be neat and clean.
“You want to dress for the next level up,” said Tilenius. “It is a good idea to make sure your clothes are ironed and pressed. You aren’t owed a job, so make sure you show the company that you respect them, and will be able to represent them well in any position.”
At the end of the day, the PREP program is working hard to put Alabamians to work. And thanks to Tilenius, and other regional agents, Alabama Extension is succeeding in making employment for many a reality across the state.
By: Valerie Cashin, Extension Daily