Unemployed facing new kind of job hunt

DFN: Details the challenges and the rewards of facing a job search in today’s market. Reward, I say, because its very gratifying when people that you really don’t know, reach out to help. This is a key to today’s job market and recovering from unemployment. FYI, rather than call it a job hunt, I’d prefer to call it a quest.

Unemployed facing new kind of job hunt
By Jennifer Davies
Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 2:30 a.m.
Sean M. Haffey / Union-Tribune
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/nov/07/unemployed-facing-new-kind-of-job-hunt/?business

Hotline: Looking for work and looking for help? Get tips on how to improve your job prospects on Smart Living’s Job Seeker Hotline today between 10 a.m. and noon. Call (619) 293-2700.

Lorraine Clayton (left) spoke with former colleague Sophia Esparza at a networking event last week.

Lorraine Clayton has seen her share of tough job markets, but she has never experienced anything like this.

The Scripps Ranch resident was laid off as a project manager at a telecommunications company in May, a casualty of its global downsizing.

Since then, Clayton has sent out more than 100 résumés and gone to every networking event she can find. So far, she has failed to land even one interview.

“If you are 97 percent qualified, there’s a person who is 110 percent qualified, and the company will hire that person because they can get more bang for their buck,” Clayton said.

Not only are the unemployed facing a job market like none other in recent memory, but they’re also encountering changes in how to conduct a job search. From job Web sites to social networking to in-person networking events, job seekers must use new ways to connect with potential employers.

Clayton said she’s using all available avenues.

Every morning after she hits the gym, she heads home and spends the rest of the day exchanging information with other job seekers and scouring LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site, for potential contacts at the companies where she would like to work.

The response has been overwhelming, Clayton said.

The way she sees it, people are grateful to have jobs but are fearful of losing them and feel more inclined to lend a hand to others.

“It’s like paying it forward,” Clayton said.

The problem that even diligent job seekers keep running into is the dearth of opportunities.

With San Diego County’s unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, the situation is bleak. Quite simply, there are more job seekers than there are jobs — a lot more.

Kelly Cunningham, an economist with the National University Institute for Policy Research, said San Diego hasn’t experienced a job market this bad since the 1980s. During the 1990s downturn, the jobless rate was 8 percent and only a few key sectors were affected, he said. This time, no sector has been spared.

Because of that, human resources managers say they’re being deluged with hundreds of résumés for each position.

“The HR folks and recruiters are overwhelmed,” said Linda Amaro, co-founder of NextWorks, a career-transition-services company.

Debbie Silott, a human resources partner at Pacira Pharmaceuticals, a local biotech company, said she has just one position open — a maintenance/mechanic job. Even though the required skills are specific to biotech, she’s getting applications from those who have worked at schools or in construction.

“People are just desperate,” Silott said.

Mid-career applicants are having to learn the new rules on the fly — from tailoring their résumé for each application to the etiquette on follow-up e-mails to discovering unadvertised jobs through online contacts. Job searching in the Internet age is like nothing they’ve ever experienced before.

But it isn’t just the job seeker with experience who’s struggling to find a job. Recent college graduates and current students are facing dim prospects, too.

James Tarbox, director of San Diego State University’s Career Center, said the school’s career fairs are down about 40 percent. He has decided to offer a new course on conducting a yearlong job search.

“They are much more aware,” Tarbox said. “They realize they have to have options.”

Victoria McIntyre, a marketing and technical writer, has had to learn to be flexible in her search. Since being laid off in February, she has gotten some contract work, but hasn’t found a full-time job with benefits. She’s making $21,000 less than last year and is saddled with hefty COBRA health insurance bills for herself and her college-age daughter.

“In this job market, I’m hearing over and over again from companies, ‘We just can’t afford to hire people,’ ” McIntyre said.

While contract work is frustrating for McIntyre, human resources experts say it could portend a turnaround in the job market.

Phil Haynes, director of AllianceQ, a national recruitment consortium for many large corporations, said he has seen companies begin to hire contract job recruiters. After the dot-com bust a decade ago, he said it was the hiring for contract recruiters in Silicon Valley that foreshadowed that region’s turnaround.

“They (companies) are now hiring the people who hire the people,” Haynes said.

Bob Williams, co-founder of Williams & Sewell HR Consulting, a San Diego firm that provides contract recruiting, human resources and outplacement assistance, said companies are gearing up to hire if the much-touted recovery takes hold.

“People are now calling and saying: ‘We may need to expand. Do you have recruiters?’ ” he said.

Employment agencies such as Manpower are seeing an uptick in hiring for skilled workers in such fields as information technology, engineering and accounting.

Temporary workers “are the first ones to be let go and the first ones you hire back,” said Mel Katz, executive officer at Manpower.

Clayton said she hopes the experts are right, but plans to keep plugging away at her job search.

“If you do everything you are supposed to do that day, then you can go to sleep at night,” she said. “Then you have to wake up and do it all over again.”

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