Even as the economy has shown some feeble signs of improvement, many people are out there looking for jobs — including a crop of newly minted college graduates.

Both for those who haven’t looked for a job recently or who are newly applying for a “real” job, the universe of possibilities can seem overwhelming — especially with the Internet playing such an important role in the job-seeking process.

Luckily, a number of tools are available for free to library card holders through the New Jersey State Library and local libraries. These include not only job search tools but also extensive support through the preliminaries that are so critical to finding satisfying work.

A recent presentation by librarians Jane Brown and Janet Hauge on “Databases for Jobseekers” at the Princeton Public Library introduced several of these tools. As many share similar features, the Job and Career Accelerator will be described in detail, followed by shorter explanations of other similar tools.

Use of the Job and Career Accelerator at the Princeton Public Library requires individuals to register and use their library card numbers as user name; this tool is also available online to library card holders through jerseyclicks.org. Here are some of the ways it can be used:

Get suggestions of potential occupations. The purpose of the Occupation Matcher tool (under “Get started”) is to widen your thinking about what types of occupations you might consider; it requires answering 100 questions about potential job tasks that you like, dislike, or are unsure about.

“I took it, and, if you’re honest with yourself and realistic, you come out with an interesting profile of yourself — even though some of the questions you think are really dumb,” says Brown. “The results of this little test are lists of occupations that might interest you; occupations are grouped according to the level of education, training, and experience they require.”

Brown grew up in Souderton, Pennsylvania, and attended Elizabethtown College, earning a bachelors in history. In the mid-1980s she moved to New Jersey and got her masters in library science at Rutgers. She has worked at the Princeton Public Library since 1987 and served as the adult services manager there before retiring from full-time work several years ago.

Investigate individual occupations. One of the first questions a potential jobseeker wants answered about any occupation is how many openings it will have over the next decade or so. Answering this question is the first tidbit of information under “Explore Occupations” — a description of the occupation, average salary, number employed, and projected growth from 2008 to 2018 as well as number of current job openings; this information is available for the United States as a whole or in a selected state.

You can also check how well your own knowledge, skills, and abilities mesh with those the occupation requires; what kinds of tools and technology you will need to use; and what kind of education and training is necessary.

The Occupation Matcher also helps answer one of the most important questions for new college graduates and people considering changing fields: Would I enjoy working in this type of job? To do so, it offers a long, detailed list of likely job tasks for each potential career.

If the occupation you thought you were interested in looks like it may be a dead end, then you may want to check out related occupations. For wannabee reporters and correspondents, for example, alternative occupations included broadcast news analysts, editors, radio and television announcers, and technical writers.

Get the computer skills you might need. Because so many occupations require a variety of computer skills, the Job and Career Accelerator offers comprehensive tutorials for common software, ranging from Adobe Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop to many Microsoft products and Microsoft and Mac operating systems.

Look for a job. When using job-search tools, librarians point out that you should always use the “advanced search” option, which allows you to more narrowly specify not only the jobs you are looking for but also those you are not interested in. It is important, of course, to also note when and where a job was posted.

Prepare your resume and cover letter. Perhaps the biggest surprise in this database and others like it is the “hands-on” help in crafting resumes and cover letters.

For resumes, the first things you see are sample resumes of people who have applied for jobs in the same field, at all levels; each example is accompanied by “expert notes” that describe the strengths of the particular resume.

And if you see something you like in a sample, even just a small piece, you are invited to use it as a template in your own resume. You can also store multiple versions of your resume, and cover letters as well.

In addition to the resume examples, the resume builder offers detailed instructions and examples on how to proceed. For example, it offers the following advice for getting started: “Like a newspaper headline, your resume Headline should capture the reader’s attention, demonstrate your knowledge of the job, and highlight your ability to meet the employer’s needs.”

Career experts now recommend using headlines, rather than the outdated Objective, once used on resumes.” Next several approaches for creating headlines are described, and of course examples are included. It also offers detailed approaches to creating sections on highlights of qualifications, experience, education, skills, and others as well as a new element on the resume scene, endorsements.

Writing a cover letter proceeds similarly. The database takes you through each step in writing a cover letter, saving it as you go along.

The opening paragraph is short and tells why you are writing the letter. The next paragraph provides a few examples about how you fulfill the employer’s needs as indicated in the job ad; instructions here include nitty-gritty details like what action words to use to describe your relevant job experience.

In the next paragraph you allude to the company’s broader goals and how you can help enhance them. The next paragraph, which can be the closing paragraph, is a request for action — for example that the person reading your letter invite you in for an interview.

Another database, Career Transitions, is also available to library users through Jerseyclicks.org. This database offers features similar to Job and Career Accelerator, but offers somewhat different selections in its job search tool.

One of its unique offerings is a simulation to help you prepare for a behavioral interview; it teaches you how to describe a relevant situation from your past experience, what your goal was, what action you took and why, and what the result of your action was.

The simulation interview is based on a particular hiring organization and job opening as well as a profile of a specific interviewee — all of which are provided beforehand. During the simulated interview, you will be asked to choose among three options in response to several different questions.

Then comes the feedback on your interviewing skills. Brown says, “When you’re unsuccessful, it tells you what can do to improve your performance. In the real world, it is rare that you ever get that feedback.” A successful first interview yields a second one, at the end of which you find out whether you got the job.

Career Transitions also offers videos of interviews with people in various fields that are tantamount to short informational interviews. They either provide a general introduction to a career or offer a “day in the life” of a professional in that field.

Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center also offers similar tools, but has some unique characteristics. It offers in-depth industry profiles that include industry associations that may post jobs or provide scholarships.

Within an industry, it offers profiles of a variety of jobs, and includes who you can talk to when exploring a particular career, what the work environment is like, what the job outlook is, and what background will give you the best prospects for that type of job. It also offers tips for entry into the field.

This database also offers lengthy, in-depth articles on the ins and outs of creating resumes and writing cover letters as well as how to compose networking and thank you letters.

These databases are only a start. More are available to help you as your job search proceeds. For example, Reference USA offers several databases that include directory information on millions of businesses in the United States and Canada; these may be useful when you have a better idea of what kind of job you’re looking for.

Business Source Premier provides the full texts of articles from business-related journals, which can be especially useful when you start researching particular companies in preparation for a job interview.

Yes, these tools may seem overwhelming, but if you sit down and allot a block of time to go through one or more of them, you will be amply rewarded. These standalone tools are amazingly powerful and, if you’re lucky, and persistent, they may be able to open your mind to new possibilities that could change your future.

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