Here’s a question for you. How long has it been since people were unable to use computers and the internet to job search? What about for you personally? Depending on your age, you may have never had a time when you didn’t use a computer to job search. So would you know how to go about looking for work if you had all your technology devices taken away and you didn’t have the means to replace them?
You probably know many people in 2014 who cannot seem to go more than a few minutes without checking in on their phones with others, networking and chatting on Twitter and Facebook, using some App to quickly get some information. Even getting around in cars these days to go places you can see driver’s using computer navigation aids which draw on the internet.
So imagine the disadvantage for the person who has no access to a computer or skills to use the technology available. These people are restricted to conventional methods of reading job boards in Employment Centres, scanning want ads in storefronts and newspapers, and word of mouth with those they can reach in person or on the phone. They can drop in at local libraries perhaps and use a computer, but in the neighbouring communities where I work, those libraries allow people a single hour of access per day and then they are terminated for the day. How much do you think they can accomplish in one hour using only a finger or two on the keyboard at a time, and with a limited knowledge on how to access job boards online and conduct employer research?
For a number of people, the cost of having access to what many of us take for granted is staggering. Not only is the initial cost of a laptop or computer out of reach, but monthly internet costs, anti-virus software and maintenance fees are all prohibitive. Now there are some programs in some cities that come and go whereby computers are refurbished and made available for people who cannot afford to buy one on their own, and I applaud those programs. But consider that if those same people who receive one gratefully now stay in their apartments instead of using Employment Centres to get help, how successful do you imagine they are, going about job searching with their limited knowledge of how to target resumes, write cover letters and safely navigate the internet?
Where I work on a daily basis, we have 20 computers that social assistance recipients can access off the street. They come and sign in, and can sit at a PC anytime from 9:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. Monday to Friday. If they are open to some help, they have a minimum of one Employment Counsellor at the ready, and sometimes more, who can provide feedback, help navigate to job search websites, locate an employer, help write a resume, plot out the transit route and the time to get there and back, help locate a contact number etc.
And it’s not just the one Employment Centre where I work that offers this help, there are others making similar services accessible.
I would guess you’ve got some anti-virus protection on your computer and run regular scans, update your computer etc., and hopefully can tell the difference between legitimate email and scams. What would life be like if you used your computer with no such protection whatsoever because you couldn’t afford it, didn’t know how to run the software even if it came installed, and because computers aren’t your thing, you never deleted any emails at all but just let them build up on your inbox and deleted box because you don’t know about storage capacities etc.? See the problems looming from these accumulated actions?
I am reminded daily how fortunate I am, and how grateful I am, that I am in the position of being able to both afford and use the technology available. The internet has opened up dialogue not only with family and friends from afar, but also with people whom I’d never have been introduced to otherwise. In my job, one of the things I quite enjoy is showing people one or two things that make their lives easier. Be it a website that meets their interest, using the tab key to move to the next field on an application instead of reaching for the mouse, setting up an email account, it’s sometimes the little things that people can learn and then master that promotes more exploration, and increasing confidence.
So whether you are an older job seeker who didn’t have the advantage of being introduced to the computer at an early age and is now faced with a world that moved too fast in that direction, or you are young and haven’t got the advantage of having had some computer training, we can all learn from each other. Here’s something to try as an experiment. No matter your level of experience on the computer, ask someone you come into contact with to show you one thing – just one thing – that they’d be willing to teach you today using technology. If you know next to nothing or absolutely nothing, one thing might be all you can actually handle and remember and it might be just how to safely turn it on and get past the login screen. Whatever you are shown, be thankful; at least you have the technology.