Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Almost Homeless" Finds Employment

NEW YORK -- This AP story caught my eye this morning.

Perhaps some have heard the plight of Paul Nawrocki.  He lost his job at a toy company as the rising tide of unemployment at the end of 2008 caught up to him.

So what did Paul Nawrocki do?  This isn't something we coach at the LDS Employment Resource Centers, but one has to admit, he was resourceful.  He took to the streets of Manhattan wearing a sandwich board and handing out his resume, and he became the face of the recession.  Little did he know when he began his campaign that his unemployment would stretch into 99 weeks.  But he persisted.

He appeared on CNN and was shadowed by South American photojournalists.  He gave more than 100 interviews in TV studios and on the street.  It was a long seige, but last week he landed a new job finally after declaring bankruptcy and his home still languishing in foreclosure limbo, wondering from day to day when he will be evicted.

Nawrocki's story is certainly compelling, but gives rise to the hope things are turning better for the unemployed among us.

The story underscores what we are doing every Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the LDS Business College:  "In the end, his path back to work wasn't through his television appearances, but through old-fashioned networking.  He went to a toy-industry fair, and a friend introduced him to the man who would become his boss.  Nawrocki believes the tales of his sandwich-board days helped him land an interview."

Each week I get e-mails from successful job seeking candidates who have come through our Professional Placement Program and the networking meetings we hold at the LDS Business College in the Triad Center each Monday morning in Salt Lake City.  We greet between 150 - 170 professionals each week and encourage them to network among themselves.  We provide inspiring speakers, training, and practical hands-on exercises as they prepare for interviews with potential employers, including resume coaching. 

This e-mail message is typical:

"Brother Goates -- I've got a job!!  It's temporary for now, but it's exactly the kind of experience I need to advance my career, and it's enough $ to live on.  I really appreciate your help and smile during this time.  It had been 6 months, almost to the day.  I truly believe I was doing all I could on my end, and as I asked Heavenly Father that if I'd learned what I needed to up to that point, would He please give me a job as soon as possible.  I got a call the next day.  It's through a temp agency, but there's a chance the company will be able to hire me directly in the future.  I hope to keep in touch.  Here's some advice for those still going to the meetings:  Keep going, do your part.  Networking is key.

"Even though networking didn't get me this job it will help me in the future, because I plan on maintaining relationships with those I've met.  This has been one of the best times of personal growth in my life.  More advice:  if you don't feel you can do all that you're encouraged to do, start where you can and make steps towards becoming more effective, such as talking to someone that you wouldn't have before, or making an extra phone call, going to the temple weekly, spending an extra hour a day networking or job searching, going out of your way to think of some else who may be in a tough situation.  Make this an opportunity to get something(s) great out of this time, and you will.

"Thanks again, and I wish you success and happiness!  Thanks to those who are encouraging in the meetings as well."

There's magic each week as we meet together.  Our professional volunteer staff are themselves job seekers who are offering their time and expertise to all who come.  To them goes much of the credit for the success of our offering.  Here's another one that illustrates what can happen through hard work, presistence and adaptation:

"Elder Goates, as you requested, here is a brief story of my unemployment and finding a job. I'm sure you won't want to use it all, but feel free to use any parts of it you may find appropriate:

"On the morning of July 20, 2009, I was called to a meeting and was informed that it would be my last day at work. I would remain on the payroll until August 14, and then have a severance package that would run for several weeks. It’s never good news to lose a job, but that particular job was the least favorite job I had ever had and I actually felt a sense of relief.  Even with financial services being hit hard by the economic conditions, I was confident that my skills were sufficient to land me another job quickly.

"While I had interviewed for jobs occasionally over the years, it had been since 1990, that I had really looked for a job.  I was totally unprepared for how profoundly the job market had changed in that time.

"Having severance pay, I didn’t get real serious about job hunting until after a previously planned family vacation in mid August.  I thought I could do it on my own like I did in 1990, and made little effort to reach out to others for quite some time.

"I was not made aware of any of the resources available to me through LDS Employment Resources, including the various networking meetings in Salt Lake City and Davis County, until sometime in October 2009, and my pride got in the way of participating until November.

"Since November 2009, I have been a regular participant in the Salt Lake and Centerville networking groups.  The training, inspiration, and fellowship were what got me through close to 9 months of unemployment.

"On April 16, 2010, I accepted a position with the FDIC as a Loan Review Specialist, assisting in the examination and regulatory process of banks, primarily in Utah and Idaho.  I got the job not as a result of networking, but as a result of being willing to consider all opportunities.  The job was posted in, and the federal application process is long and tedious.  On the job posting, it showed 'few openings' in Salt Lake City.  I had applied for the FDIC in the past and not heard anything from them.  With few openings and a history of not hearing from them, I was real tempted to just ignore the opening and save myself the several hours required for the application process.

"The FDIC’s application period ended on March 31, 2010, and on Monday, April 12th, while at the Salt Lake Professionals networking meeting I got a call from the FDIC to see if I could interview on Wednesday of that week.  The interview went very well and they indicated that they had to move on the position quickly or their authorization to hire would expire.  By Friday, April 16, I had an offer, which I accepted.  We are still negotiating some salary issues, but I think I will end up near my former salary.  In the worst case, it will be enough. My wife and I have learned that we can make do on much less than before my unemployment. . .

"There are several lessons to be learned from my unemployment experience. Among them are:

"1.  As a job hunter, you can’t afford to overlook any potential opportunity.  Your next job is out there waiting for you, but you don’t know where it is, and it may be in a place you didn’t think of.  I almost failed to apply to the FDIC because I thought it was a futile waste of my time.  I’m so thankful that I took the time to apply for this job.

"2. The more you learn about the job hunt/application process the better the chances are you will be considered for the job.  The federal job application process is unlike anything in private industry.  If you aren’t familiar with the application process, whether it’s federal or private, you can’t put your best foot forward and won’t be a serious candidate.  I applied for several federal jobs before getting this one.  I learned a little for each application and each successive application was better than the last.

"3. The resources provided by LDS Employment Resources are just awesome; from networking, the Professional Career Workshop, resume training, to Me in 30 and Power Statements; the tools provided free of charge are world class.  While my job was not obtained through networking, the Salt Lake and Centerville networking meetings sustained me through my period of unemployment.  The friends I made will be friends for life, and the training and inspiration were invaluable in my job hunt.

"4. Don’t give up! The employment outlook for financial services is about as bleak as any field out there, but there are jobs and well-qualified people are being hired.  You may have to reinvent yourself and look at opportunities you may have over looked under other circumstances.  I found that the networking groups helped sustain me and give me the push I needed to stay active in the job hunt."
I am always grateful for those who take a minute to document their successful employment searches, and to send back a note of encouragement to others.  Their willingness to share is a testimonial to the process we put the candidates through.  While we don't have jobs to offer per se (and sometimes people are disappointed that we don't just do it all for them), we do offer hope, a pat on the back and the warm hand of friendship, tools and networking to all who participate as they learn what they need to learn from their life experiences. 

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