I know. It’s confusing. You go to your local workforce center and you look around. What do you see? First of all, you see an intimidating building filled with stressed government workers running about, frustrated job searchers staring at computer screens, and a whole list of events for you to choose from. Well never fear! I’m going to give you the skinny on how to navigate your workforce experience with a minimum amount of fuss.

Know What You’re Looking For. The first thing that is going to help you starts before you even leave the house! Know why you’re going there. Are you coming just to look for jobs that are being offered in the area? Are you trying to start a completely new career? Maybe you’re receiving services there? By knowing your reasons for being at the building, the staff will know how to help you. Did you get a letter to come in? Bring it with you! Knowing what you want makes it ten times easier to get what you need. Know your purpose for attending the center!

Be Prepared. You may need scratch sheets of paper. You may need to make copies. You never know what you’re going to find or find out while you’re there. You might hear about a job possibility from someone at the center. You may get referred to a job by someone on staff. Either way, having a writing tablet or pad to to write down needed information is invaluable. Come dressed as you would for an interview! Not only does this save gas, it makes you prepared to do spot interviews. You don’t have to run back to the house to get ready. This can earn you points or advantages because you come to the workforce center prepared to meet an employer!

Get a Map and a Schedule of Events. Most centers have a map or event calendar that they are only too happy to give you. It will help you find the departments you need and know when they are having job fairs or other events you might find interesting. If you read on the schedule that they are having a seminar on developing your own business and you know it’s in Room 318 at 10:00am, then, you are that much more prepared to get what you need from your trip there. Get that map or schedule and start circling what you want to attend!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask. If you have questions about anything, then, don’t be afraid to ask someone. The staff is only too happy to help you get to where you need to go. Maybe you asked a recruiting department member about benefits you are receiving? They may not be able to answer your question, but they should be able to direct you to the appropriate person to get your answer. Do you want to know if there is anything going on in the building? Making friends with the receptionist is not the worst idea you could have! They are usually veritable fonts of knowledge that could get you that next job! Be nice to the receptionist!

Take Advantage.  Workforce centers have tons of trainings, seminars and workshops that you can attend throughout the year. Maybe there’s a course on Leadership. Do you need to update your resume? Maybe you just want a little help with interviewing? These classes not only deliver an inexpensive (read free) resource on upping your skills set, but they can also allow you to meet new people that may be in the field you’re seeking. Which brings us to…

Networking. Doesn’t everyone love networking? Well, you never know who you will meet on any given day. That goes doubly true for places such as your local workforce center. That man with the toupee could be an employer that just popped in to use the computer. The young woman beside you could have a cousin who is the CEO of a company that interests you. By going to your workforce center, it allows you to mingle with a lot of different types of people from all walks of life who could have valuable information that could have you gainfully employed in no time! Start networking!

Be Polite. There’s an old saying that says, “You can catch more flies with sugar then you can with vinegar.” Well, it’s true. In a workforce environment, there are a lot of emotions. Some people are frightened or stressful about how they are going to feed their families. They don’t know how to use the system, someone has asked them the same question 800 times, or someone could just be having a bad day. If there was ever a time to kill someone with kindness, now would be the time! By staying polite, you not only get more things handled quicker, but most people would be grateful for a moment of peace that you are providing. If they feel that you are harassing them, most people will shut down. Your mission, and you do want to accept it, is to get what you need with a smile and skip out the door with everything you came to get, and being polite is your golden ticket to the working person’s paradise!

Workforce centers don’t need to be scary. They are built to help you find work or change your career and your life. They are there to serve you and by utilizing these steps, you can get the most out of your workforce center experience! See you at the Workforce Center! △