“Our fax machine was lit up,” said McCain, the director of career services at the Art Institute of Tampa. “People were calling us, faxing us constantly, looking for people – ‘We need people, we need people.’ “
Eventually, though, the nation headed into recession and Florida, once riding high on a building boom, became one of the hardest hit states as a result of the housing market crash. Around the same time, the phones stopped ringing in McCain’s office, and the fax machine got awfully quiet.
“That stopped happening in late 2008 for sure,” he said. “It just slowed down. I remember literally coming out of my office and saying ‘Is this thing working?’ Of course the fax was working, there was just nothing coming out of it.”
McCain knows students and veteran job seekers alike face very tough competition today, at a time when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes there are 4.5 applicants for every available job opening.
“I posted a job six years ago and I think I got six applicants,” McCain said. “I posted it a year and a half ago and I got 350 applications. That’s kind of frightening.
“So what does that mean for anybody looking for a job?” McCabe added. “You just have to do whatever you have to do to stand out from the crowd. You have to be aggressive and active.”
And, he’s quick to note, savvy about new technological advances.
“I can remember my dad looking for a job and getting the Sunday paper and going through the classified ads,” he said. “Then he would send his resume out in the mail, and after you do that, you’re waiting, and there’s so many places for things to go wrong. It’s not that people don’t still do that, they do. But most jobs are not gotten that way. Most jobs are gotten through networking of some form.”
McCain said he has a lot of advice for his students – and it starts the moment they first enroll. He urges them to update their resume for accuracy and format, and brush up on research and organization skills.
“Every art institute has a career services department, and we’re tasked with assisting students when they first come to school,” he said. “Sometimes they just need a part-time job or something like that. We get them a resume and help them find jobs while they’re in school, and we actually do mock interviews with them. Obviously they spend their time in school developing some really amazing materials that can assist them in finding jobs in their field.”
McCain knows it’s a tough economic environment out there right now, so he’s urging students – and all job seekers – to kind in mind that as technology changes, their job hunt strategy has to as well.
He’s encourgaing them to maintain a list or spreadsheet that includes the goals they set each week, which helps them track the jobs they’ve applied to. He also recommends they identify companies they want to work for and follow them on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook and connect on LinkedIn.
“This will help you stay abreast of the organization’s news on new products, services, changes in staff, and new position announcements,” he said.
Set-up “Google alerts” on each company or organization you’re interested in, and spend at least two hours per day searching for jobs or following up on job openings.
And networking, he said, means putting social networking opportunities to work for you through sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other Internet social media forums.
“Use the networks you’ve developed online to inform friends of your search and gather information about job openings whenever possible,” he said. “A lot of times they drop information on positions that are becoming available. It’s a good way to maintain contact with businesses. Times change, and you have to keep up with the times.”
That means learning about, and taking advantage of, every available tool there is, he said.
“If you’re unemployed, your job is looking for a job,” McCain said. “It can be a 40-hour week. It can pay off in the end. So you utilize all the tools, and there’s a lot of tools out there. Some of the best accounting jobs are done through networking. You can’t just sit on the couch and wait for someone to call you.”
Today, he said, employers get so many resumes that applicants need to find a way to stand out – and quickly. It’s also important to look beyond jobs posted in newspapers or online sites like Career Builder and Monster.com, he said, because those positions tend to attract huge numbers of applicants.
“It’s kind of legally jumping the line, where you do get looked at ahead of the next person,” he said. “Its like finding jobs that are hidden — and you have to find them. You can’t start too early, I don’t think. It’s a sale position, too, while you’re looking for a job – you’re selling yourself.”
The Art Institute of Tampa is a branch campus of Miami International University of Art & Design, and can be reached by logging on to www.artinstitutes.edu.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.