Like it or not, needing a computer to apply for jobs these days is essential. So when you live in poverty and struggle just to pay for a roof over your head and put food in your stomach, you can be at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to applying for work.
Without a computer, those on social assistance and living below the poverty line are restricted to finding locations in the community where they can use them free of charge. Public libraries are a good example where a person can go and often find one to use, however in many cases their use is restricted to an hour at a time. If you’ve been actively job searching at all in recent times, you’ll know that an hour flies by quickly. In that brief time you’ve got to log on, find a job search website, scan job boards for the right job, pick out the key qualifications and responsibilities, overhaul or tweak an existing resume and then write a targeted cover letter to match. After all of this, there may be a username and password to create as part of a profile on a company website, then upload your résumé and cover letter, answer a number of questions as part of the application and then finally click on the, ‘submit’ or ‘apply’ button. Try doing all that unaided within an hour, especially if you only use one or two fingers to key in all that information!
The other major drawback of walking into a library to do your independent job search is that you won’t find an Employment Counsellor or Coach to sit down with you and help navigate all that technology. Nor will you find help to proofread your documents, help you answer some of those questions you don’t entirely understand or sit down with you for more than a few seconds. This isn’t a knock against library staff, it’s just a statement of fact. To be fair, this isn’t their job, and even if they had the skills, they don’t have the time to give to each person coming in. The library is an excellent place to sit quietly and do an independent job search if you know exactly what you’re doing and have all the required to skills to job search using their computer.
The better alternative is dropping in to a community employment agency. Many of these resource centres have computers with internet access just like the libraries, but they are staffed by people who will sit down with you and support your job search. These folks are employment specialists with various titles, and they’ve got the skills to help with your online applications. Some are better than others just as in any field of work, and you may find you get the help you’re after at one over another. The synergy, or connection you make with an person or a collective group of people is important to feeling welcomed, getting served as you’d like and so trying out a few places is a good idea.
There’s one key drawback to using a computer outside your own home however, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at the library or an Employment Resource Centre. You are of course limited to dropping in during their working hours. This is a problem for a couple of reasons; your schedule might not jive with that of these facilities, and if you find a job you really want to apply to and today is the deadline, it might be you became aware of it after hours and your lost without your own personal computer to use.
I am so grateful to those organizations who when upgrading their employee computers, give their older models for refurbishing and distributing to the poor and disadvantaged. When a personal computer or laptop makes its way into such a person’s hands, you do so much more than just give them a computer. A recipient gains some independence, they now have a tool that somewhat levels the playing field and gives them a better shot at applying for jobs, and if they have children in the family, those children now have the resource in their homes to do their school homework.
If you’re living in poverty, you might not know about such resources. It would be a conversation worth having with a few social services organizations in your community to find out if such a resource exists. Essentially, companies donate their old technology which in turn gets wiped clean and often comes with a word processing application such as MS Word on it to help a person get going. These computers are refurbished (overhauled) and made available to the poor who otherwise couldn’t afford them. The only cost to such people would be paying for internet services and perhaps a shipping fee if they can’t get to where they are available.
If you’ve used a computer and have had the internet for what seems like forever, don’t take it for granted it exists for everyone. There are many places around the world where it doesn’t exist – and I’m talking 1st world countries here. Some rural communities in Canada and North America still haven’t got full internet connections; some that do have slower, less reliable connections. A personal computer is a must when you live on some isolated property, 28 kilometers from a town, you’ve no transportation and you want to work!