AUBURN — Sitting in on a panel about career advice, Theresa Bonkoski felt like an anomaly among a sea of students Thursday at DeKalb County’s Career Fair at the LaQuinta Inn.
She was prepared — like the panelists said job seekers should be — with her resume ready to go. Unlike the students who were learning about how to prepare for a career, Bonkoski was trying to get hers back. She spent 16 years working as an administrative assistant before being let go in 2011.
Bonkoski, who lives in Auburn, said she decided to attend the career fair at the last minute after a friend urged her to go.
The panel discussion, “Get Your Resume Noticed and Ace the Interview,” provided a look at the biggest hits and misses of the local workforce.
Five human resource specialists addressed job hunters and students, telling them what they should and should not do when looking for a job. Panalists were Deb-Arend Sinclair, DeKalb Health; Jaime Bell, Guardian Industries; Jennifer Fisher, Group Dekko; Jill DeVine, Walmart Distribution Center; and Dawn Aschlemann, Beacon Credit Union,
The panel Bonkoski attended was only one of many at the career fair.
Students from DeKalb High School, CHOICE Academy and Garrett Learning Center also attended the career fair. For students it was an opportunity to learn how they could prepare themselves for a career and learn about local apprenticeships, certificates and degree programs. A student in the CHOICE Academy, Deven Haney, said the panel was beneficial and he learned that employers look at body language in an interview. Haney said since he is involved in building trades, he wants to find a job in construction, not necessarily manufacturing.
“It’s a great opportunity to see what’s out there,” Haney said.
While the event offered an opportunity for students to learn how to prepare themselves, people such as Bonkoksi came hoping to find new jobs.
Bonkoski said she is not giving up. “I will keep plugging away,” she said, “and something should come up.”
Last week, Bonkoski went to three interviews. One interview was a group interview, something she hadn’t experienced before. She calls looking for a job a “roller coaster.”
“You get psyched for a job, and then they don’t call,”
Bonkoski said. What the panelists had to say had less to do with resumes and more to do with work ethic, character and cover letters.
According to the panel, lack of skills for a job can be overcome with a good work ethic, determination and a good first impression.
DeVine said the biggest problem she sees are applications not being filled out properly. Applications come to her incomplete with the usage of acronyms and sometimes, texting shortcuts. Those applications are trashed.
“The application is the first look,” Bell said. She said job seekers should plan to allow at least 45 minutes to fill out an application and should not forget a pen.
Some companies will give red pens to applicants who forget one, she said. The red ink is another way to weed out candidates.
“Be prepared. Take those extra steps,”
Bell said. Panelists suggested bringing references, job history and phone numbers when filling out a job application.
Panelists said employers are looking for enthusiasm, work ethic and whether if candidates can show they are willing to take responsibility.
Panelists suggested that for students without work experience, dedication to volunteering or participating in sports is just as important as a job.
The panelist said that resumes are not as important as cover letters, since applications are more thorough today and resumes contain the same information that typically is on an application.
Aschlemann said the cover letter is the critical component.
“The cover letter shows writing ability,” Aschlemann said. She prefers them because it gives her a summary of what the job applicant can give to the company.
Panelists said a cover letter is key to showing what value a person can add to the workforce.
“Tell me what you what you are able to do, not what you can get out of it,” Fisher said.