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Job seekers urged not to give up

You can tell yourself it's tough all over. You can tell yourself not to take it personally, that your spouse still has work, that your parents haven't thrown you out.

But when all is said and done, unemployment is unemployment. And it hurts.

"I'm starting to think it might be the way I look, the way I present myself,'' said Jeffrey Richards, 24, who has been looking for work for almost a year. "I don't know what it is.''

What it is, in Florida, is the highest unemployment since 1994, last measured at 6.6 percent.

The latest national numbers don't look any better: 6.5 percent, also the highest in 14 years. Manufacturing, construction, and service industries lost jobs, with new jobs created in health care and mining.

Two months ago, the St. Petersburg Times interviewed job seekers at an employment fair in New Tampa for the Shops at Wiregrass mall.

While several have found work, others are still going on interviews that go nowhere.

"I still don't have a job,'' said Vicky Caicedo, an 18-year-old Wharton High School graduate who lives in Tampa and plans to attend beauty school. What kind of work does she want in the meantime? "Right now, anything.''

Skills but no offers

Tinamarie Gaskin is trying to hold down household expenses while her husband supports the family. She lost her office job at Saint Leo University this year.

"We have drained our savings account,'' said Gaskin, 41, of Wesley Chapel. "I look for a job every day. I put applications in. I check (the nonprofit) Career Central. I had a couple of interviews. Most of the time they tell me I'm overqualified.''

Eamonn Molloy, 24, of Holiday, found part-time work at a flooring company in Clearwater. He had planned to get married last month, but postponed the wedding.

And he learned the hard way that some companies outsource their reference checks, charging money for the most basic information about his record.

"It took months just to get this position,'' he said, hoping for an improved economy now that the elections are over. "I would like to think it's getting better, but who knows?''

Richards, meanwhile, is doing his best to stay busy and keep his name in circulation.

"Any time I see a hiring sign, I apply,'' said Richards, who used to deliver pizza and helped his father, a university professor. "Sometimes I get fed up with it. Sometimes I call back, but most of the time I don't.''

He spends a lot of time on his computer. "Eventually I'm going to go back to school,'' he said. "But I don't know what I want to do, and I don't want to waste my time.''

Lots of potential

In much better spirits are Lisa Norris, Antonio Carcano and Danielle Burton, who found jobs at the new mall.

Norris, discouraged after she lost her job in medical sales, is now delighted to be a manager at Luxottica Retail, the eyewear company.

"It's a fun job,'' she said. "It's a huge corporation with lots of potential and I'm very excited about that.''

Also celebrating is Antonio Carcano of Brandon, who landed a part-time job at the Forever 21 clothing store.

"I love the store,'' he said. "I like the people who work there.'' It's a long drive, but thankfully gas prices are down.

"I feel good right now,'' he said. "I'm trying to get a second job closer to home, and still keep that one.'' And he plans to return to Hillsborough Community College.

Carcano's advice to other job seekers?

"The best thing to do is keep on looking. Keep on searching, it doesn't matter if you have to travel far if you need a job.''

Be positive, added Burton, the 26-year-old single mother from Spring Hill.

After fielding three offers, Burton now works as a manager at Pottery Barn, full time with benefits. "I went on three interviews with Pottery Barn,'' she said. "I made sure I was on my game. I looked my best and I tried to answer the questions realistically without being too over -the-top.''

Norris' advice was simple: "Don't give up. And think outside the box. Retail is new to me. Just don't give up.''

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 269-5307 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Job seekers urged not to give up 11/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 8:46pm]
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