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Thursday, April 26 Opinion

In the Suburbs / Who knew Goodwill had great job counseling?

Over the course of our move to a new house, I learned something new about Goodwill. But it had nothing to do with the hundreds of household "treasures" I dropped off there as we weeded out our belongings.

I had lunch recently with a friend who works in public relations and told her I was trying to find more summer work -- perhaps even long-term employment. She happens to supervise Goodwill's PR account and suggested I try the nonprofit.

"Thanks," I told her, "but I already donate and shop there."

She laughed, politely called me an idiot and said that Goodwill has one of the best job-counseling and networking programs in the nation. I took her tip seriously but didn't act on it until after we had moved.

I was dropping off one of the last loads of items from our cleanout and asked the representative whether there was some kind of job-counseling center in the area.

He said there was a small one in the Westport store, but the place I really wanted was in Bridgeport off Fairfield Avenue. I walked in there Monday with mixed expectations, but walked out a true disciple of the Goodwill job center and all it offers.

At first, I thought the career center just offered work at Goodwill. I was way off base on that one. The staff of professionals helps anyone of any age find work.

My counselor, Judith, was delightful, and we began by discussing the kind of work I was looking for and the best way to get there. She asked if I had a resume, and I whipped out my trusty flash drive.

Once I'd filled out an online registration form, Judith suggested I update my resume before she critiqued it. When I asked if there was a charge for all this, she smiled and said that this is a service Goodwill offers to anyone from the community seeking a job.

The resume critique was pretty painless, and Judith made some great suggestions, including that I tailor a resume for each career direction I was planning to take.

She also said there were ways to respond to key words from online job descriptions by including key words of my own. She referred me to a Goodwill resume coach, Emily, to show me how to include and position those words for recognition.

My resume was based on a long career in public relations. Emily spent more than an hour with me, changing fonts and formats, eliminating excess words, adding bullets and using words to make key points.

I'd gotten so used to my stock resume that I'd forgotten that the communications world had changed and so had I. What I really appreciated was how collaborative Emily was. As an added touch, she quickly saved the resume in two places and reformatted one version specifically for online applications.

When we presented the new resume to Judith, she was blown away by the look and told me the new should impress interviewers. Since I was interested in education-related jobs, as well as possible job-coaching spots, Judith suggested I return a few days later with my education-oriented resume for another session with Emily.

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Judith explained that the center was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week. Goodwill encourages job hunters to come in and explore jobs from various online sites and from Goodwill's huge database of jobs. Judith also gave me a standard Goodwill application for job- and career-coaching positions and suggested that I apply for both.

The document was more like a tome than an application, and it took me nearly 45 minutes to complete it. The section that seemed the most daunting was the intensive background check that Goodwill would conduct.

I left the center feeling really upbeat. My friend was absolutely right. Goodwill is so much more than I imagined ,and I felt encouraged for the first time in a long time about finding a position. It's definitely going to be a busy summer.

(The Goodwill jobs center is at 165 Ocean Terrace in Bridgeport.)

Steven Gaynes "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: stevengaynes44@gmail.com.