Jewish agencys Web site puts job seekers in better positions

NEW YORK — Seeking to get a better sense of her career goals, Amy Strong recently sat down at a computer, called up a Web site and answered about 300 questions to evaluate her skills, personality and interests.

Billed as more comprehensive and user-friendly than any other career-related program on the Internet, was developed three years ago by a career counselor at a Jewish nonprofit here called FEGS, the Federation of Employment and Guidance Service.

"It didn't say I should be a doctor or a lawyer," the 26-year-old Strong said. "But it said I have certain skills and that I should use them in areas that I had not thought of in the past."

A graduate of the State University at Albany with degrees in Judaic studies and women's studies, Strong has been working in the administrative side of a nonprofit Jewish communal organization. But the test, she said, indicated that with her skills she might want to aim for a management position.

"It helped me identify my goals," said Strong, who lives in Forest Hill, N.Y. "While you may know them in the back of your head, how often do you put them on paper? And now that I have tangible goals, it makes me feel more confident about achieving them. It makes me focus on them."

While she had taken skills and personality tests in the past, Strong said this test "isolates the skills you identify as your strong points and those you would like to improve. That's helpful when you go on job interviews because when you are asked your best and worst qualities, you don't have to hem and haw."

The staff at FEGS, which is a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, told her also that unlike other career tests that provide 200 career recommendations, this one offers up to 2,000.

"They are very specific recommendations, like being a lawyer for Amnesty International, rather than just being a lawyer," Strong said, "or working as a facilitator at the Department of Labor."

Gail Magaliff, chief operating officer of human services at FEGS, said the program has links to descriptions of the jobs suggested and to job openings currently available in that field — including how much they are paying.

"FEGS has been providing career guidance for nearly all of its 65 years to anyone and everyone who is career-confused or who wants to make a career change," she said.

Magaliff said is valuable for everyone from high school students to retirees who don't want to quit working.

"There are high school students who say, 'How can I choose a college, I don't even know what I'm going to do with my life,'" Magaliff said. "And there are college kids whose parents want them to be lawyers. But after studying art, math and computers, they are not so sure that's what they want to do. So career assessment is important for people who are in college and high school."

Research has found that most people — 80 percent by some surveys — are unhappy with their jobs, Magaliff pointed out.

"It could be for monetary reasons or because they are bored, work too hard, don't like their boss or want more career mobility," she said. "In addition, women may want to make a career change to have more time to be with their families."

The days of employers frowning on job-hoppers are over, Magaliff said.

"That began to change about 10 years ago as a result of mergers, the recession and the globalization of the Internet," she said.

"Jobs and industries could suddenly function in different ways because of it. As a result, people now have two or three totally different careers in their lifetime. And because they have different skills, they can have more mobility and the confidence to go from one firm to the other."

FEGS' decision to hook up with Xcape, a high-tech firm that could translate its material for use on the Internet, is part of the organization's attempt to keep up with rapidly changing technological advancements, said Al Miller, FEGS' executive vice president. costs $69.95, compared with at least $500 for a comparable test administered with a pad and pencil. It takes three hours to complete but doesn't have to be finished at one sitting.

Miller said FEGS and Xcape will share the profits from their joint venture.

"We are not looking to own a private business," he said when asked why his organization did not buy an Internet company and handle the whole thing itself.

"Our profits go to provide additional services — in many cases for the Jewish community," he said. "And we might use the profits to translate this program into other languages for use overseas."