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Local employers give advice to job-seekers and the unemployed

March 1, 2011

by Jackie Abukhalaf

The current economic climate has stifled many job seekers, including those in the Pine Hills, but local employers and career counselors have some words of wisdom to help those looking for work.

Albany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state at seven percent but there are many residents actively looking for work who have not been successful. Employers and career counselors in the Pine Hills neighborhood say there are jobs out there but important skills must be identified and used to land an interview.

The Albany Adult Learning Center on Western Avenue assists students in writing resumes, complete job applications and

The Albany Adult Learning Center on Western Avenue assists students with various stages of the job hunting process (Jackie Abukhalaf)

assists with writing cover letters and thank you notes. For the past 21 years, Luvenia Cleavland has worked at the center in professional development and specializes in assisting students with job searches.

“Our students are usually looking for entry level positions and they are having difficulties because they typically do not have good employment history,” said Cleavland. “There are not a lot of job openings at this time; therefore our students are finding it difficult to find employment. I talk to students about reaching out to friends and relatives regarding their search for employment, making contacts and follow-up being important.”

Although students are having a difficult time finding full-time work, temporary employment has flourished recently. “A lot of our students have been successful in finding work with a temporary agency. About two-thirds of those hired become permanent employees of the company—temporary to permanent positions,” Cleavland said. “There are also some companies who will call us when they have job openings or send job announcements.”

Ryan Livingston, who has worked as a barista at Tierra Coffee Roasters on Madison Avenue for the past six months, said that there are several factors that go into being a successful employee. “For this job in particular… reliability, promptness and friendliness. You really need to be a people person with good social skills. If you’re quiet, kept and don’t smile, you probably wouldn’t be the best person for the job.”

A bank teller at Trustco Bank on Madison Avenue has an opportunity to observe job applicants when they come in the door.

“Probably about 20 people come into the bank per week looking for work,” said teller Shanise Williams. “I know about 15 people personally who have applied to the bank but they haven’t gotten a position or a call back.”

She has also witnessed some applicant faux pas’ along the way. “I saw someone who applied right next to me and his hygiene wasn’t the best,” she said.  “I think that’s one of the reasons he didn’t get a call back. You just have to professional and try and sell yourself.

“Past experience is very important but I think that job-seekers should come across as professional,” Williams said. “When I came to apply here, I took it very seriously. I made sure I was dressed right, my body was covered and nothing was showing that shouldn’t have been.”

A newer employer in the neighborhood is Anton Pasquill of the Hudson River Coffee House. He receives several inquiries daily about jobs since he opened three months ago.  “It’s gone down slightly since I first opened…at least one person a day comes in looking for work, both part time and full time positions.”

Interestingly, Pasquill uses less traditional forms of hiring practices when he’s looking to fill a position. “I hire based on intelligence. For example, how quickly they are able to talk and put together an answer for me. You can kind of tell by vocabulary level and people’s responses if they’re intelligent enough. I don’t really care about background in terms of experience. Are they going to be able to understand concepts and understand the nuance of what I am explaining?”

Recently opened Hudson River Coffee House located at 227-229 Quail Street (Jackie Abukhalaf)

Pasquill also emphasizes that flexibility is a very important element when choosing an employee. “Scheduling is really important, the more flexible the schedule, the better—especially if you are available on weekends.”

He said that initiative is imperative. “Follow up is some of the best advice you can have. I had over 50 people come in and talk to me when I first opened, only a dozen actually emailed me back and I based that on who I hired. Most managers and owners are really busy they don’t necessarily have time to call you up and schedule an interview, if you come back and follow up a couple of times, you usually get it. It shows you actually want the job.”

There are many helpful tactics to utilize in the process but Pasquill has one more word of advice that may help job-seekers find their perfect professional fit. “Think outside the box,” said Pasquill. “Just because you have a certain degree doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. There are tons of jobs out there, you just have to think outside the box and be creative.”  -30-


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