Mark liked his job as a water treatment plant operator. After eight years at the San Jose Water Company, he had seniority and the benefits were good. The only problem was, Mark lived in Manteca. The commute took him, on average, 3 hours roundtrip each day.
So when a co-worker mentioned he'd read in a trade journal that the Stockton water treatment plant was hiring, Mark decided to pursue it. Three months later, after a tour of the plant and an interview, he was offered the job. Now it takes him only 25 minutes to get to work.
What a difference a network makes.
The world is full of chance encounters that result in better jobs. It's called being in the right place at the right time. Or, "It's not what you know - it's who you know." The fact is, the best way to find a job is whichever way ends up working for you. Although some methods, statistically speaking, hold greater odds, all of the job-hunting techniques outlined here led to permanent positions for seven successful jobseekers.
The Classified Solution
For Rusty, the classified ads worked. Rusty, an operations manager for Circuit City in Ft. Worth, Texas, had gone from being on the road as a district manager, where he enjoyed the variety of the work, to an in-house position, where he was not as happy.
"When you're on the road, each town, each store, each client is different, and I liked that challenge. I didn't know until I tried being off the road that I would actually be bored to tears," he recalls. He started scanning the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram classified ads, hoping to snag something better. One day he saw an ad for a multi-unit district manager with retail experience. The ad also asked for knowledge of horses, saddles, and tack. Rusty was already a jeans-and-boots kind of guy.
"I immediately turned to my wife and said 'This sounds like me.' She said 'It sure does.' "Rusty sent in his resume with a cover letter asking for a personal interview. Ten days later, the company called. After a telephone interview, he was asked to come in for a face-to-face meeting with the company's owner. Two weeks later, they offered him a job as a senior buyer for a chain of western saddle and tack stores.
The hardest part for Rusty was deciding to go ahead and answer a "blind" ad - an ad where the company is not named. However, once he got past the telephone interview, he was able to research the company's background. He visited one of its stores and ended up talking to the floor manager for an hour.
While Rusty advises job hunters to use all the tools at their disposal, he encourages them that "it only takes one contact to make a job search come together."
For the jobseeker who doesn't look strong on paper but who comes across well in person, job fairs are a good bet. Job fairs allow appearance, demeanor, and personality to shine through, often right in front of the person with the power to hire.
That was true for Art, who put on a suit and tie and walked into a technical job fair a month after retiring from the military as a telecommunications supervisor. As he was sizing up the participating companies, a recruiter asked whether he was willing to work a flexible schedule in Stockton. Sure, said Art, and was then introduced to his future boss at CompuCom Systems, a network integrator for businesses based in Stockton.
But the job offer didn't come that day. In fact, the selection process took three more months because the position he wanted was newly created. Art went through three more interviews before he landed the job. The hardest thing for him was giving a balanced yet effective answer to that inevitable question about what your strengths and weaknesses are. "It was a good thing I attended that fair, and it was by chance that I did," he says. Ironically enough, part of Art's present job description is to attend job fairs on the other side of the booth, recruiting for CompuCom.
"Job fairs certainly work," he asserts. "Probably 20 percent of my staff has been hired at a job fair. But, expect to be scrutinized. What rules out a lot of candidates is that they are not ready for an on-the-spot interview. They don't realize that the person who does the hiring is standing right there. People need to dress accordingly and have a resume that's ready to be looked at."
From Temp to Perm
Employment agencies can be another stepping stone to a job. Remedy Intelligent Staffing in Sacramento succeeded in laying down a yellow brick road for Elizabeth when her employer, a Woodland bank, closed. The company assigned her a temporary customer service position at Blue Shield, where she was hired after nine months. She now works at the company's Folsom site as an Administrative Support Coordinator, overseeing a department that assists policy holders.
"Remedy was a grounding influence for me while I was looking, and that was encouraging. They kept in touch with me, even if they weren't calling about a specific assignment," Elizabeth says. And the company was discriminating in the kinds of businesses they took on as clients, she recalls.
Not all employment agencies have such high standards. The ones that do belong to the National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services, which asks agencies to comply with a code of ethics, according to NATSS's Tim Brogan. The best way to pick a good one, Brogan says, is by word-of-mouth or by walking into an agency and getting an in-person impression of what their operation is like. Another method is to call some reputable businesses and ask which agency they use.
The EDD Equation
The Employment Development Department, run by the State of California, is a benevolent behemoth, a truly democratic entity as it struggles to meet the needs of all the people all of the time. All you need be is a legal resident, authorized to work in the United States, and unemployed.
The EDD offers many ways to plug into the job market. For jobseekers who know what they want to do and just need some leads, there's CalJOBS, an Internet-based job directory. For professionals or people seeking work that requires a four-year degree, there's Experience Unlimited, a self-help job club that focuses on networking and interviewing skills.
For jobseekers who have been laid off or need retraining, an umbrella system of one-stop career centers stands ready. These centers, being developed in every county, offer training that oftentimes provides the missing link. The centers go by their own names - for example, Sacramento Works or Golden Sierra Job Training Agency - but they achieve the same thing: They give the jobseeker with special circumstances one place to access several services.
The EDD also works with the Private Industry Councils, which are agencies that help implement the federal government's welfare-to-work program. Located in each county, the PIC assists laid-off workers referred to them by the EDD through job counseling.
One such worker was Eunice, who had worked at the Sunshine Biscuit Company in Oakland for 21 years. Keebler bought the company, shut down the plant, and laid off its workers. "It was a little frightening," Eunice recalls. "I hadn't had to look for a job in years." Eunice, a sole supporter, was referred to the Oakland PIC. She attended the two-hour orientation, then went through the one-week job-search workshop.
"That week was so helpful," she remembers. "The man who ran that workshop was outstanding. We just hung on every word he said. No matter what question the class had, he was able to explain the answer fully." The class, a group of about 20, did mock interviews on the last day, which were videotaped. They had to dress exactly as if they were going into the real situation.
Next, she was assigned to job counselor Shirley Williams, and that's when things really started looking up. Shirley saw that Eunice had marketable skills that just needed to be upgraded, so she helped arrange an 18-week software training program for Eunice at Business Education Technologies, a local private-sector facility. "It went wonderfully," she remembers.
With six weeks to go on her training, Eunice got a call from Shirley, who had unearthed an on-the-job administrative trainee position with a local post-secondary school. (OJT jobs are contracted positions between the PIC and the employer, giving the worker real-world experience and possibly a job offer at the end of a three-month tryout.) Eunice started working in the mornings and going to school in the afternoons. Her tenacity paid off. At the end of the three months, her employer, the National Training Institute, offered her a full-time job.
For the displaced worker, the job hunt can be especially difficult. "Everything is so intimidating now. It's not just one interview you have to go through anymore - it's a series of them now. And you're competing with a lot of other people," Eunice notes. "Shirley Williams was instrumental every step of the way. It was very helpful to be able to jump right into the OJT program while the software training was still fresh in my mind. Shirley was wonderful, always available. She always returned my calls . . . she really cared."
Career counselors in the private sector can serve as a dispassionate guide, especially for someone who's been downsized out of a corporate environment. For Dave, whose job as a regional sales manager at Rockwell was eliminated, being unemployed was a nasty shock. He picked himself up, updated his resume, and started networking.
But it was not until his wife saw an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a layoff at PG&E that his luck started to turn. "The story quoted a career specialist, whom my wife called. She ended up getting a referral to Susan Zitron, an executive coach in Marin County. I went to see Susan, and we started working on rebuilding my confidence and targeting what kind of job I really wanted," recalls Hall.
Zitron has been a career coach for eight years. Her philosophy is that people are inherently successful and deserve to have satisfying work. "A job coach can really help in building confidence levels. It's like being an Olympic coach. If the coach can't see the inherent talent of a person, that person isn't using the right coach," she says.
Zitron gave Dave a systematic approach. She had him create an office space in his home, where he was to report to work every day in the business of finding a job. She set targets: a certain number of phone calls per day, a certain number of appointments per week. "We set up an environment where looking for a job was my job," Hall recalls.
It took several months, but a networking lead paid off. A former colleague from Rockwell steered Dave toward Exar Corp. in Fremont, a maker of micro-integrated circuits. He was offered a marketing position commensurate with his skills and experience. With Susan's help, he was able to go into the interview and negotiate from a position of strength, even though he had been unemployed for three months.
"Susan helped me focus. With her objective, third-party ear, I was able to keep myself from settling for less. A couple of lateral offers had come through, but I was able to stay my course and wait for the offer that was the right fit," Dave recounts.
He has been at Exar for six years and is now the Director of Sales for the Asia Pacific Region. He loves his job, and he's eyeing the next rung. His advice to corporate people: "Keep up a solid network. Be heads up - don't get caught flat-footed. View yourself as always being in the job market, even if you are still employed."
The Internet can be a source of job leads, but best-selling author Richard Bolles says it's best used to find a job in the computer, engineering, healthcare, or finance industries. Even then, the author of What Color Is Your Parachute? estimates the success rate is only about 10 percent. The Internet does help by listing available positions and allowing applicants to apply online.
Peggy's story provides an example of how the Internet was helpful, but not instrumental, in her being hired as a permanent employee at Hewlett-Packard's Boise office. With a degree in computer science and a background in networks, Peggy had recently moved to Boise and was looking for work.
She signed up with Adecco/TAD, an employment agency, and got a contract position with Hewlett-Packard as a software design engineer. She worked on contract in HP's printer division for three years. Through word-of-mouth, she heard about a permanent position opening up. Knowing that the job would be listed on HP's website, she looked it up and submitted her application over the Internet. Several weeks later, the company notified her that her qualifications had matched not only the job she was applying for, but another one in a different group as well. Faced with two job prospects, Peggy pursued her original lead, went through four interviews, and got the job.
"Working as a contract employee is really a benefit," she believes. "It gets you inside the company, so you can see how it works. You meet so many people and make so many contacts." As for using the Internet as a job-search tool, she advises to "just keep looking at HP's employment site, because they post new jobs every day."
These are just some of the proven methods that have led to job offers. If all seven of these workers could speak in unison to the currently unemployed, they might well say, "Here is what worked for me, but whatever path you choose, leave no stone unturned." Do whatever works, and soon work will find you.