Internet is not quick link to good job Computer: There's a lot of information online, but you need some expertise to find it, and a lot of it is irrelevant anyway.

Working Life

June 16, 1996|By Deborah L. Jacobs | Deborah L. Jacobs,CHRONICLE FEATURES

When it comes to using the Internet as a job-hunting tool, there's some good news and a lot of bad news right now. The good news: You can tap into a wealth of information at little or no expense, through your home computer or one at the public library. The bad news: You shouldn't expect it to be a quick or easy way to find exactly what you're looking for.

As an experiment, I logged on recently to see how much help the Net could offer with two readers' questions. Shelley LeBon, an administrative assistant at a New York TV station, wanted ideas about jobs at the beach that didn't involve being a lifeguard. Lise Fattel, of Teaneck, N.J., a highly experienced French teacher, asked how she could find headhunters specializing in teaching jobs that pay $50,000 or more.

In an effort to answer these queries, I perused four of the more popular "search engines" -- Internet directory services. I started with Web Crawler (http: //www.webcrawler.com) which, like most search engines, lets you "surf" through topics such as business, education and computers.

Clicking on one topic produces "hyperlinks," meaning underlined or highlighted words or phrases that can automatically take you to other documents or Internet sites. For example, by clicking on "business," then "career & employment," I got to "job listings & reference," with links to sites that post jobs in many different fields. LeBon and Fattel could spend many hours reading these classifieds. But I've never heard of anyone outside of high-tech fields actually finding a job online.

Another way to use search engines is to compose word searches. You usually do this by picking out some of the key terms you hope to find, and asking the engine to look for them. How you connect the terms depends on the search engine (look for search tips within each engine).

The search I wrote for LeBon, "beach AND job (NOT lifeguard)," turned up almost 1 million documents on Web Crawler, supposedly listed in order of relevance. They included Web sites for a number of beach communities where LeBon might look for a job. Using these leads, she could visit some of the places where she'd like to work and talk to business owners who might use her help. Still, I frankly doubt she needed the Internet to come up with this information.

A word search for Fattel's question didn't hit the target any better. "Headhunter AND teacher" led me to a manageable list of six documents on Web Crawler. One was completely irrelevant and two sites no longer existed (that happens a lot on the Internet). The search also turned up links to another popular search engine, Yahoo (http: //www.yahoo.com).

Yahoo had no sites that matched my search (headhunter + teacher), but hooked me into Alta Vista (http: //www.altavista.digital.com), one of the most powerful search engines. Its user-friendly search tips helped me design an "advanced query," that narrowed the results to 400 documents. Among them were headhunters' home pages, and links to some of the job sites I'd already discovered.

In many hours of surfing, I didn't find a mention of "The Directory of Executive Recruiters" (Kennedy Publications), which Fattel might find helpful if she'd consider making a transition from campus to upper-level corporate life. Cross-indexed by job function and by industry, it's available in many libraries. My phone call to the publisher in Fitzwilliam, N.H., turned up a Web site advertising the book (http: //www.kennedypub.com/der.html).

Where do we net out? (Forgive the pun.) Unless you're an expert surfer (and few job-hunters are), Internet research tends to be haphazard and extremely frustrating. It's only as good as the quality of what you retrieve -- and there's a lot of junk out there. Online browsing is certainly no substitute for a little help from a good librarian and some old-fashioned footwork.

Deborah Jacobs welcomes letters from readers and will address topics of general interest in this column. Contact her by e-mail (DJWorkingaol.com) or by letter at: Chronicle Features, 870 Market St., Suite 1011, San Francisco, Calif., 94102. Please include your name, address and telephone number.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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