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Job Search Coach Knows the Drill

Westporter Stan Witkow is a career counselor and consultant, who has two words for job seekers:  branding and networking. These, he says, are the key strategies that get results in this punishing job market. But if you're thinking, right, I'm already networking, be warned: Stan doesn't mean the old-fashioned, grip and grin, one-size-fits all career fair kind of networking. No, he's honed the concept and it's a skill he gets his clients to sharpen.  “I think a lot of people think they're being strategic networkers by going to events where people congregate but I think that if you go to everything …. that's not strategic. Strategic is, Where do I meet the people I need to meet?” Stan has ideas about how and for the branding part, he provides clients with a package of pointers, everything from how to polish a resume, to acing a job interview, to elevating your presentation, and even, modernizing your look, to come across as more current.Besides private clients, Stan, a former corporate lawyer, coaches a free job seekers' group at Westport's Temple Israel on Tuesdays, at  2 p.m. The Westport and Fairfield Libraries's groups for jobseekers, he says, are also excellent free resources, led by knowledgeable librarians who help people locate job prospects. Frequently, in one-on-one sessions and groups, Stan confronts clients in the two categories facing the biggest challenges finding jobs: young people just out of college and those over 50.

“Kids right out of college, their resumes aren't going to turn someone on and the other group is at the other end of the age spectrum, 50-plus, where there's lots of resistance to hiring older people. For both of those, it's really imperative to connect with the person hiring, that's how they're going to consider you,” Stan says. Meet the employer, impress them with your dynamism and the obstacles can fall away, he says.  And sending out a blizzard of resumes? Only worth it if you don't pin your hopes on getting results. Stan says, “Don't rely on sending resumes, don't rely on going to the usual places...you've got to do more than that.  Developing strategies and networking is part of applying for  jobs and using social media is part of it too.” When will near full employment return? Anyone's guess, Stan says. For now, opportunities remain elusive in spite of Connecticut's having added 3,000 jobs in April, the fourth consecutive month with an increase, according to the Hartford Courant.  While the state's unemployment rate recently dropped, from 9.2 percent to 9 percent, Stan questions whether this number includes people whose benefits have ended.

Whatever your situation, if you're looking for work, Stan insists it's critical to figure out – and communicate – why you stand out from the crowd.  “I do an exercise, I help people come up with something that sets them apart. Oftentimes, it's getting them to talk about their passion. They'll talk about how they are the person who turns out the lights at night, for instance, 'I don't leave til my job is done,'” he recounts. And in his Temple Israel group, there are important practice sessions. “Everyone gives their pitch. They get critiqued. They have to do it again oftentimes. It's the principal thing we do with that group," he says.One thing Stan stresses for those recently laid off: make a budget. Don't wait until your resources have dwindled to decide you need professional help to find your next job. How long will it take to find a new job? Stan says there isn't an average length of time. But the more networking you can do, the more quickly you'll get back into the game. And if you cross paths with Stan Witkow, he'll probably have a few names for you. “I am constantly putting people together. It's always on my mind. I don't think anyone I see has ever left a meeting with me without having someone to pick up the phone and call. It's a value added that I have,” he says. For information on Stan Witkow's free Temple Israel group, his consulting or his Job Search Boot Camp For New College Graduates, beginning July 19, visit Stan's website or e-mail him at stan@witkow.com.

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