Eighteen years ago I walked in to the WIC. (Women, Infants, & Children) office at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. (At the time, I wondered if a bit of collusion was going on; it seemed odd to me that a federal employer such as the US Army paid its workers low enough for them to qualify for federal food assistance.) However, with our third child, my family became eligible to apply.
Recently, I once again found myself applying for government benefits. My position was eliminated, and I have joined the ranks of job seekers in Central Indiana. While beginning my job search in earnest, I also filed for unemployment.
The website of Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development offers a tutorial video for the unemployed to walk applicants through the process. I suddenly felt as if I was a college grad in a fifth grade class. The video first explained how to use the video. Terms like “navigation bar” and “pause button” were defined. I came to understand that the state of Indiana is aware of the #1 rule in marketing: know your audience.
Many people lack computer skills, and more than a quarter of Americans have no Internet access at home. I would imagine those people tend to be disproportionately represented in the ranks of the unemployed. As I made my way through the tutorial, I was surprised to see that terms like “hyperlink” and “scroll bar” had to be explained. During my first visit to a WorkOne Center—the heart of Indiana’s workforce development system—I found even more glaring examples of the constituency that is served. As I sat down with my counselor, on one side of me I heard a claimant ask, “What’s a home page?” On the other, “I’m not sure how to get out of Google.” Wow. Claimants like these find themselves having to embrace a world they had very little knowledge of. I was impressed by the patience of the WorkOne staff.
© Laura Neidig
Throughout this period, although not without a few headaches and hiccups, I’ve found the Department of Workforce Development folks to be doing their job quite well. They deal with people every single day who are grumpy, desperate, in panic mode or combination of all three. No one walks into a WorkOne office for a happy reason. Yet from my experience, they’re doing their job competently and with a healthy dose of compassion.
My advice to those seeking work in Indiana: Check out all of the services to jobseekers at WorkOne. Learn all you can, embrace the chaos, and most importantly, be patient with the process.