Check index, choose carefully
High unemployment is causing a rush to bookstores for ''how to'' books on finding jobs. Publishers are obliging with a bunch of snappy new titles and books with a ''directory'' look, plus updating old standards with ''enlarged,'' ''revised,'' and ''1982 edition'' stamped in big letters on the covers.
There are a few gems, but many are woefully out of touch with the millions in unemployment lines today. The only ones solving income problems with such books are the authors. Of course, books don't sell to people who are destitute, so perhaps we shouldn't be disappointed that the unskilled or those whose skills go begging in the face of factory closings or the standstill construction industry are virtually ignored. The book for them is yet to be written.
Most job-find books aim at the educated (or those who can afford to get educated), the professions, or people with time and at least a little money to pick and choose, change careers, open their own businesses, enter the work force after college, or reenter it after time out for families.
For this group, there is abundant help. Each book has its own ''strategy,'' and, while the terminology differs, the themes are the same: self-analysis (who am I?), decisionmaking (where to live? how much to earn?), figuring out what training and education are needed, and then - and only then - how to go about doing it.
Strategy experts tend to be pompous, and some of their advice is downright silly. But it's true that when confidence ebbs and times are tough, a pep talk helps, and that's what most strategy books offer. Also, being a brilliant scholar or technician doesn't always include the ability to write a convincing resume, so examples to copy are lifesavers.
Generally, the newer authors are more up to date in their thinking. Some crusty ''oldies'' give specious advice. For instance, telling blacks to exploit their blackness as a way to get ahead exacerbates racial misunderstandings rather than healing them. And it must make middle-aged executives bitter, after being replaced by younger workers, to read that they should market their ''wisdom'' and ''experience,'' and that age is no barrier to success.
Check the index for ''token chapters'' for women. They show how entrenched sexism still is. Some even advise female college grads to become secretaries to learn the business, though male grads are spared this hackneyed route. And authors who whine but continue to use ''he'' instead of ''he or she'' could take a lesson from Richard Nelson Bolles, who has no such problem in his nonsexist ''What Color Is Your Parachute?''
Male exclusion of women may be one reason for the burgeoning market for books exclusively for and by women. Some of the most lively, well written, and well researched are in this category. Another growing market is for part-timers, who account for 1 in 5 of all jobs. Shared jobs, flexible time, and at-home jobs are getting much deserved attention for a work force expanding three times as fast as those who work full time.
Here is a sampling of some of the better titles:
* What Color Is Your Parachute?, by Richard Nelson Bolles (Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press. 320 pp. $6.95, large paperback). Perennial best seller with reason: breezy, humorous, irreverent, scoffs at traditional job-getting gambits as ''neanderthal,'' which they are. Offers ''The Quick Job-Hunting Map'' and a bountiful resources section listing books (general and by categories), sources of professional help, and notes for career changers and others. Crammed with spirited, realistic tips and insights. Extremely useful; even the illustrations have charm.
* Blue-Collar Jobs for Women, by Muriel Lederer (New York: E. P. Dutton. 257 pp. $7.95, large paperback). Excellent, inspiring; specifics on training (and funding to get it), wages, working conditions; 80 best jobs (from crane operator to telephone repairer) explored in depth with zingy quotations from women in those jobs. Resource section includes agencies designed to tutor and guide female applicants into the trades.
* A Part-Time Career for a Full-Time You, by JoAnne Alter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 394 pp. $15.95 in hard cover). The most comprehensive, well-written, thoroughly documented of all new titles. Includes information for older people, disabled, homemakers, and students, and lists the 25 top US companies that hire part-timers, also top state programs that do so. Delightful, helpful quotations from those doing it successfully. Solid advice.
* Women Working Home, by Marion Behr and Wendy Lazar (New Jersey: WWH Press. 173 pp. $12.95, large paperback). A business guide and directory with 19 contributors and a network of 100 women in various occupations; information on groups such as Women's Caucus for Art, National Alliance of Homebased Businesswomen.
* Networking, by Mary-Scott Welch (New York: Warner Books. 364 pp. $2.95 paperback). One of several books on ways women help each other through personal contacts. Networking groups listed.
Guerrilla Tactics in the Job Market, by Tom Jackson (New York: Bantam Books. baring his teeth and going ''grrrrr'' as he writes tactics in little billboards (''Tactic No. 22 Visit your library. . . .'').
Re-entering, by Eleanor Berman (New York: Playboy Paperbacks. 179 pp. $2.25). Back-to-work strategies for women seeking a fresh start.
Earning Money Without a Job, by Jay Conrad Levinson (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 204 pp. $4.95, paperback). He really means going into business for yourself, which is not exactly ''being without a job.''
Executive Jobs Unlimited, by Carl R. Boll (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company Inc. 197 pp. $10.95, hard cover). A strategy book.
Jobs 82-83, by William N. Yeomans (New York: Perigee Books. 331 pp. $6.95, paperback). For college grads with jobs listed according to major studies.
The Hidden Job Market for the 80s, by Tom Jackson and Davidyne Mayleas (New York: Times Books. 273 pp. $9.95, large paperback). A strategy variation. The ''hidden jobs'' are not jobs we don't know about; they're the same old ones which become available when people quit, get fired. I think this is misleading.
Marketing Yourself, The Catalyst Guide (New York: Bantam. 185 pp. $3.50, paperback). The Sylvia Porter introduction promises this guide will take a woman job hunter step by step through the resume, interview process - and it does. Catalyst is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to women and their careers.
Titles for the college crowd: Summer Employment Directory of the US, edited by Barbara Norton Kuroff (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books. 209 pp. $7.95, paperback); includes information on jobs at the World's Fair being held in Knoxville, Tenn. Jobs in the Real World (The Student Job-Search Handbook), by Lawrence Graham (New York: Grosset & Dunlap. $6.95, paperback).
Specialty books are available on careers in law, civil service, typing at home - you name it. Check chapter titles to see if you are getting what you want. Sacrifice catchy or pushy titles for books filled with lists and specifics.Good luck. A job is a precious thing.