When Henry Ligier, 59, lost his job late last year after 20 years as a safety director for a paperboard manufacturer in Philadelphia, he admits he knew nothing about online job boards or social networking.
"It used to be it was a handshake and a knock on the door that got you a job," he says. "Now everything is different."
Like many other job seekers who are older, entry- or mid-skill level, Ligier found a lot of resources aimed at professional, white-collar job seekers but few that addressed some of his unique challenges.
Ligier says he felt "stuck" in the face of a new job-seeking world of résumé keywords and online job sites that were nothing more than "junk."
"I needed something to get me out of the murk," he says.
That guiding light turned out to be a local Goodwill that not only provided him with some advice on writing a résumé but also directed him to its free website called GoodProspects.
Brad Turner-Little, the international director of mission strategy for Goodwill Industries, says the organization that has been helping people find jobs since 1902 knew it had to reach a segment of job seekers finding it difficult to find mentors and networking that fit their needs.
So far, the site launched two years ago has 14,600 registered users, who have access to information on specific career paths, discussion boards, mentors and virtual job fairs.
For job seekers like Ligier, it has been important to feel like he's on the right road to finding a job.
"Everything these days is done incognito online. I have sent applications up the wazoo without ever knowing if anyone is looking at them," Ligier says. "I even got onto some websites that are now sending me lots of spam."
Those concerns are ones that Goodwill officials often hear, which is why this site tries to filter through the noise so job seekers who may not have much experience in the working world or in online participation might find it easier to network and educate themselves, Turner-Little says.
Ligier has joined an older workers' group through Goodwill and says he's asked specific questions during online interactions with mentors, and their answers have helped him feel more confident about his efforts.
"If you look at a lot of websites, they're geared toward a higher level. They have their own boys' club that's hard to get into," he says. "I have a high-school education. As soon as I walk in the door, my education and age hurt me. This GoodProspects is a way to help me figure out ways I can use my experience to get a job."
The older workers' group Ligier uses is just one that Goodwill fosters online to help job seekers find support in their community, Turner-Little says. For example, Latinos also have a community.
"Many of these people just lack knowledge about what types of jobs or career paths are available through different industries," Turner-Little says.
Ligier says he is learning that his safety and construction background can translate into jobs in other industries.
That's exactly what Turner-Little says Goodwill tries to help all job seekers discover. Those who want a job in computers may need to explore not just programming but related positions such as computer repair or computer recycling.
"We're helping them uncover many different possibilities," Turner-Little says.
The website also offers 20 mentors who volunteer their time and represent different industries such as business and education. These mentors may volunteer as much as they want for as long as they want, he says.
"They've been so helpful," Ligier says of GoodProspects. "I was a little apprehensive at first and nervous about how to go about finding a job. But this has made a real difference."
Anita Bruzzese can be reached c/o Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va. 22107.