Heather Boulger | Inside the Job Market: It's time to spring clean your career

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PITTSFIELD >> The weather is getting warmer. Flowers are ready to bloom. Baseball season is beginning. Spring is in the air!

The new season brings a time of renewal, fresh starts, reorganizing and refocusing. Whether you are currently conducting a career search or are stable in your occupation, the same philosophy applies.

In January, the Berkshire County unemployment rate was 5.9 percent a full percentage point higher than state unemployment for that month, but a full point lower than the local rate was for January 2015 (the state releases local unemployment rates for February on Tuesday).

Based on January's statistics, 65,178 people are listed in the Berkshire labor market with 61,178 employed and 3,863 collecting jobless benefits.

As of Thursday, there were 1,789 available positions in the Berkshires listed on JobQuest, ranging from entry-level jobs to high-level professional opportunities.

As the local workforce expert, the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board can help connect you to the right organizations to assist with finding your ideal job, advancing within your career, upgrading your skills, or finding the right worker for your company.

Here are some easy steps to help put your best foot forward and find or revitalize your career:

Sharpen your skills

• Brand yourself and polish your resume: Revisit your strengths and weaknesses to help maximize your opportunities.

Spring is a great time to update your resume or take some additional courses to stay sharp within your industry. Employers are always looking for individuals with relevant and timely training to meet their employment needs. Make sure to update all your certifications and skills on your resume as well.

If you are looking to spring-clean your resume, sharpen your interview skills, or obtain a national certification to make you more marketable, contact a career coach at the BerkshireWorks Career Center in Pittsfield.

• Dust off your social media skills: How long has it been since you last updated your social media page or LinkedIn profile? Does it still portray the professional message you want to present? A new profile photo or updated skills summary may be what is needed to draw attention to your experience. Most employers will utilize social media venues to research your background, so make sure any content you post online is appropriate and professional.

• Freshen up your wardrobe: Dressing to impress is critical. An employer can make a decision about a candidate in a little as seven seconds based on their attire. You don't have to spend a million bucks to look like a million dollars. Keeping a few essential business pieces in your wardrobe at all times will ensure that you're never left digging through your closet should a last-minute opportunity or meeting arise. Adding a new button-down or accessory to your wardrobe is economical and can help boost your confidence.

• Reconnect and network: Networking is not always easy, but it is an important component to any successful job search strategy and advancement within your career. Networking can be done both face-to-face and online, so take advantage of internships, job fairs and volunteer opportunities. The BCREB can help you access various venues. Make sure to organize your network, too. Contacts in your personal network are unable to help you further your career unless they understand your goals. Whether you are conducting a job search or not, it is critical to keep the lines of communication open. So take the initiative and reach out to your contacts you never know what possibilities may arise.

The BCREB wants to remind anyone cleaning out their closets to donate their gently used business attire items to Goodwill Industries and the Christian Center's Suit Yourself Boutique. Clothes are given to workforce customers in need and assist them in making that great first impression required on the road to re-employment. Please make sure clothes are clean and hung on hangers. All donations are tax deductible.

• Open a window to new opportunities: Another way to stay involved in activities outside the workplace and a great way to find potential employment is through volunteering and attending social events. It is a great way to refine your skills, gain some additional experience, and make some new connections. When it comes to your career, a little bit of effort up front can result in a big payback.

Profit and productivity

Did you know that 47 percent of working adults eat lunch at their desk on a daily basis?

Although this might sound harmless, most workstations carry dangerous levels of bacteria. Utilize this new season to clean up and clear out the cobwebs at the office. This process not only removes stagnant energy from a closed-up winter office, it makes way to remove the clutter and opens the door for new energy. Numerous research studies have shown that a clean, organized office environment means a healthier, more productive workforce. Here are some tips to jump start your office spring cleaning:

• Prepare your facilities and equipment: Inspect and refresh floors, entrance ways, machines and ensure all safety signage is up to date. Make sure all cooling systems, fans and ceiling vents are maintained and ready for operation. A cool and happy workforce is a productive workforce.

• Encourage and promote healthy habits around the office: Start a walking club and offer healthier snack options in the kitchen. When you clean and improve the environment you engage the workforce, improve their productivity, their loyalty and their retention, which improves your profitability. Revisit policies and procedures to make sure they are current and still relevant.

• Get organized and be productive: Evaluate what is on your desk and tame the clutter by parting with items you no longer need. This eliminates chaos and disorganization and replaces it with effectiveness and improved performance.

• Update your technology: Remove any applications and files that are no longer required or needed. Update your technology library, back up procedures and disaster recovery plans.

•Prioritize: Evaluate your workload and break it down into the essential projects that need immediate attention, those that can be put off until another time, and those that are no longer relevant or needed.

Spring cleaning involves hard work and yes, some arm-twisting, but it can lead to many improvements. By improving in critical areas, you and your company can become more competitive and profitable.

If you are interested in starting your own spring cleaning opportunities, the BCREB has resources with the following topics than can help to help yoo grow: Recruitment/retention; training; lean and continuous improvement; sustainability; innovation; and workforce development. For more information, visit BCREB.com.

With a little preparation, you will sail through those April showers and be ready to smell the roses this spring!

Heather Boulger is the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board in Pittsfield.


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