By FRANK GIBSON
Special to the Saipan Tribune
If you read the papers regularly and saw the article Monday in the Saipan Tribune, you might know that the CNMI SHRM Chapter was awarded a technical assistance grant in January this year. This grant through the Department of Commerce, from the Office of Insular Affairs, is intended to help prepare qualified U.S. workers to enter the CNMI workforce. I was selected as the program manager for SHRM's Workforce Readiness Initiative, the implementation of this grant. The Initiative will consist of 12 one- to two-week training and OJT sessions in this calendar year in various entry-level jobs such as warehousing, wait staff, food service workers, administrative assistants, and other similar-level positions.
On April 20, the first group of trainees completed a week of job preparation and warehousing skills training. Of the 11 participants, five have been employed, two are pending interviews, and jobs are being sought for the remaining four.
What I want to do in this HR Matters article is to talk about the training provided these participants and how this information can serve as guidance to those readers who are also in the job market.
There are jobs available and employers are ready to hire. Some of the openings are from existing vacancies and others are in preparation for vacancies to come, both through employees choosing to leave the CNMI and employers not renewing contracts. I'm an optimist and a firm believer that the economy will pick up and there will be a greater demand for employees in the near future. I applaud Tan Holdings and the upcoming startup of Saipan Air and the business and employment opportunities that will be created by the additional tourist traffic. I also applaud all other new start-ups and those that keep hanging on.
Job seekers have to prepare themselves for these opportunities. It's not just dress well, comb your hair and say “Yes, sir. No sir,” although that helps. Some of the preparation comes far in advance. If you are still in high school and you are thinking of dropping out, think again-stick with it and finish. It is much harder to get employment without that high school diploma-and to advance after getting a job. Two of the four participants mentioned above for whom I am still seeking positions did not finish high school, although they are working on their GED. If you did leave school, get enrolled in a GED program. That impresses employers and, when completed, will improve your qualifications. Check with the college or with WIA for help in getting started.
Sit down and do a self-inventory. List your capabilities, your accomplishments, and your strengths. When you fill out an application or write a resume, or have the opportunity in an interview, you want to make sure the employer knows about these. Can you use a computer, operate office equipment or shop equipment? What computer software can you work with? What technical or vocational skills do you have? Did you play sports, win any prizes, captain a team, or coach a younger kids' team? Did you participate in Thespians or NFL in school? Were you a member of the Honor Society, student council, clubs, or other activities?
Why worry about things back in high school? They show extra skills, leadership, involvement, interest, discipline, and commitment-things that might set you apart from other applicants, things that employers like to see and do look for in applicants. When there are more applicants than there are jobs, you want to show anything you can that makes you the better applicant. Also, if you're a young applicant with little work experience, you don't have much more than your school and teen accomplishments to show, so show them.
Inventory your weaknesses. Know what you can't do or can't do well-or don't want to do. Figure out what you can do to correct or overcome your weaknesses, or accept what you can't or won't do. No, I can't tell you what your answer should be to that interview question “Tell me about your greatest weakness.” When, if it comes, keep the answer within the work environment. The question isn't about your social or family life. Whatever you choose, pick a real weakness, but be able to show how you are working to correct it or improve on it. “I'm a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” just don't work as answers-be real, but not too revealing.
Inventory your plans and what you want to do with your life-immediate and down the road. You might do this with your wife or beloved or maybe just a friend. It adds perspective to have someone else involved. Sometimes we can't afford to be picky and having a job is more important than just exactly what it is. That's not a great recipe for happiness or sticking with it. When you can make a choice, apply for jobs that you will enjoy performing. That works better for both you and the employer. Don't waste your time or an employer's interviewing for a job that you really don't want. Know ahead of time what you're going to say when they ask you “Why do you want this job?” The answer is definitely not “I just need a job, man.”
These hints simply get you off to a start-know yourself and know what you want. In future articles we'll look at more and different aspects of the job search. I know that if you are out there in the job search right now, you can't wait around for my next article. Consider what I've said here and look at the article on Interview Hints that I did for the Nov. 3, 2010, article. You can find it in the Tribune Archives under that title and date.
Good luck with your job search.
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Frank L. Gibson, SPHR, GPHR, owner of HR Support, CNMI, has been a resident of the CNMI for more than 14 years. One of the founding members of the CNMI Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, he has worked both as a line-manager of human resources and in the Human Resource Office.