Article Comment 

To land employment, job seekers must lower expectations, experts say


Garthia Elena Burnett



Shavannah Cotton, who has been without a steady job since 2005, echoes a common refrain among local job seekers: The jobs just aren''t out there. 


"I''ve put in applications everywhere, and it seems like no one wants to call ... It''s just really hard to find a job," said Cotton, 23, of Columbus. 


In the meantime, Cotton volunteers and uses the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. She has filled out seven or eight applications since the end of last year, looking for work at cleaning services, restaurants and other areas. 


With the state''s unemployment rate in the double digits, it''s a common assumption that jobs just can''t be found. But local employment agencies'' listings tell a different story. Jobs are there. They just need to be matched to the right candidates. 


The Golden Triangle WIN Job Center in Lowndes County has 43 job listings and a total of 93 openings listed on its website alone, ranging from production to landscaping to mechanic.  


The CPI Group, a private staffing agency, has about 22 positions listed at its website, ranging from temporary and customer service to executive-level jobs. Wise Staffing Group, also a private staffing agency, has 10, ranging from cashiers to engineers. Key Staff Source, another private agency also has several positions that run the gamut, from industrial to clerical and professional. 


But what seems like a plethora of jobs on the agencies'' end hasn''t translated into employment for job seekers. 


"Most everywhere you apply, they ain''t hiring," said Clyde Bingham, 38, of Eupora, who was among the people at the WIN Job Center looking for work Friday morning. Bingham, who works in landscaping during spring and summer months, has filled out 14 applications and inquired employers in auto mechanics, carpentry, painting and plumbing. 


Donisha Jefferson, 22, moved back to her hometown of Starkville from Lousiana about three years ago. 


"I''ve been everywhere (looking for work)," Jefferson said, noting she has filled out 40-50 applications in the past year. ''Everything is slow. Everything is real slow. It''s like at a standstill ... In a way, I want to go back to Lousiana, because I know I have a better chance getting a job there." 


With all these jobs out there, why can''t job seekers seem to get hired? 


In Cotton''s experience, it''s hard to get a job unless the applicant knows someone within the business. 


Employment agencies also advise job seekers to apply for jobs with lower salaries than they might expect, research and apply for jobs for which they are qualified, don''t get discouraged and train for the current job market. 


"Part of it is, people need to lower their salary expectations," said Billy Hamilton, branch manager at the Golden Triangle WIN Job Center. "Just get your foot in the door, and once they get in there and show the employer what they can do, the raise will come." 


Job seekers also should do a little leg work themselves, said Meagan Coughlin, the operations coordinator for The CPI Group, a local staffing agency. 


"We know there are qualified candidates out there, and a lot of them come through our door, but we know there are more out there," Coughlin said. 


The CPI Group uses an online application and fills job orders based on skills listed in the application and on candidates'' resumes. Sometimes candidates do not list their skills, making it impossible to match them to a job description. 


"They could still be a qualified candidate," Coughlin noted. "We just won''t ever know." 


Hamilton agrees, now more than ever, job seekers are empowered to "match themselves" to the right job. 


"It''s so simple that, if you go into our system and just put in your information with your zip code and no miles constraints, you could see every job we have listed in the state," Hamilton said, noting individuals also can search for jobs nearby. 


"We are able to match people, and some people can match themselves, from home," he said. "Then, we can give them referral instructions on how to apply for the job they found." 


Though Wise staffing has listings at its website, applicants must fill out an in-house application between the hours of 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. or 1-3:30 p.m. 


"Our problem is, we do have jobs coming in, but the jobs are specialized and they want specialized skills," said Lori Richardson of Wise Staffing. "It may take longer to fill that position with, say, a person with past experience in slitting steel. We may have some that come in and say they''ve done it for three to six months and think that''s good enough, whereas, our clients are looking for at least two years experience." 


Richardson said job seekers can be placed as early as the following week and as long as 30 days later. 


"We have been very busy lately with job openings, and when we get those job openings, we try to fill them with applications we have in the office," she said. 


The CPI, similarly, keeps applicants in a "bucket" to look through as the company receives new job orders. 


"With the unemployment rate at 10 percent, there''s more people out there looking for a job that would be considered qualified (candidates)," Coughlin said, encouraging job seekers to fill out applications available through employment agencies. 


Hutchins says job seekers should not get discouraged; Key Staff fills positions for a range of people, from the longtime unemployed to first-time job seekers. 


"We''re seeing a lot of growth in the area and a lot of industries coming back," she said. "The staffing industry usually sees that before the community as a whole." 


Hamilton also recommends getting additional training, to gain marketable skills. 


"I think maybe some people need to go back and get retrained," he said. "For example, a lot of garment operations have gone out of business, and there''s not the need for those machine operators." 


Those people, said Hamilton, should retrain for current industry. 


The WIN Job Center offers limited grants for training, with the bulk of the funds being distributed in July, when its fiscal year begins.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/28/2011 6:51:00 AM:

If you want to see your tax dollars being wasted, go to the local WIN office and look in any direction. Half of the workers there don't know their own procedures and the other half will give you the wrong information about what to do next.

And don't waste your time going to their website either. They don't update it often enough.

Having said that, I'll leave you with this idea. The article said workers need to re-train for jobs that are in the market today. Ok, so after you spend a year in training somewhere (they didn't say how you were suppose to support yourself or even buy gas to the training) and you get out of school, what are you going to do when that job isn't available now? Go train some more?

Wouldn't it make better sense for the employers here to hire people for on-the-job training? The employer gets what he needs, the employee is bringing in an income, and the state isn't having to fund it.

All you gotta do hillbillies is think outside the box instead of trotting to the WIN Job Center to watch state employees hard at work doing nothing.


Article Comment usarover commented at 3/28/2011 11:24:00 AM:

here is a job listing for starkville (in the paper)

HAMPTON INN IN Starkville is now accepting applications for a fulltime front desk agent. Hours 11pm-7am. NO PHONE CALLS!! Please apply in person, Monday -Friday 8-5


Article Comment usarover commented at 3/28/2011 11:25:00 AM:

another for the landscapers

16TH SECTION M.B. Church is accepting bids for lawn and cemetery service. Please contact Melvin Harris @ 722-0231 or Thomas Ware @ 312-0518 for Req. All bids must be submitted by March 30, 2011


Article Comment usarover commented at 3/28/2011 11:28:00 AM:

if you can match your skills to the openings I would definetely try these sites - look at the categories on the right and see if you match any......these are craigslist listings.

also if there is a specific place you want to work like Servastal or Pacaar, I would go straight to their websites....simply google Jobs Columbus Mississippi

This may help.


Article Comment usarover commented at 3/28/2011 11:39:00 AM:

two more and then I am done -plenty of different types of jobs

Forget what the article says, don't lower your expectations, go get the job you want. Forget the WIN centers, they are run by lazy people who already have easy jobs (but cant fufill them as coltrain pointed out).


Article Comment jackdawg commented at 3/28/2011 1:46:00 PM:

Looks to me like whomever is over these WIN job centers needs to put already trained people in these places to help people better instead of on-the job training people.There are many many good people around here looking for work and they need to talk to somebody in these job centers that are qualified to really help people in a PROMPT manner.


Article Comment liegeygirl commented at 3/28/2011 2:34:00 PM: is a GREAT site also.


Article Comment cb76 commented at 3/28/2011 3:46:00 PM:

There are openings in the area you just have to be willing to put the time in to look for them.

Some tips to remember:
-Dress professionally or at least dress pants and a nice shirt or something nice. The first impression is always important. Do not dress like you are going to the club or just got done cutting the grass, hunting, fishing, or working out etc. You get the point.
-Do not take children with you.
-Turn the cell phone off or leave it in the car!!
-I would also recommend not asking to take the application home to fill it out. Fill it out at the place where you are applying. At one of my former jobs I helped a few people fill out their applications because their reading skills were not very good. It had no affect on the job they were applying for and I was willing to help them.
-Do not call back everyday checking on your application. If the person wants to talk to you, they will call you back.

If any of you have any more to add to this list please feel free to. These are just a few things that I noticed always seemed to happen. I am trying to help someone out.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/28/2011 10:20:00 PM:

"-Dress professionally or at least dress pants and a nice shirt or something nice. The first impression is always important. Do not dress like you are going to the club or just got done cutting the grass, hunting, fishing, or working out etc. You get the point."

So if I were to apply for a commercial plumbing job I'd wear a suit and tie? Oh please, you wear what you are going to work in. No one will be impressed if you show up for a horse manure shoveler job wearing your Sunday best.

Wrong again, calling back indicates your really want the job, but there is a cut off limit. If you call back 3-4 times over the period of two weeks and still get an uncommitted response....move on.

Finding jobs boils down to being in the right place at the right time. Neither of which has much to do with Columbus.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/31/2011 11:43:00 PM:

I hear there is a local job opening soon. A local preacher is in need of someone to help him pull his foot out of his mouth.


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