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If laid off, don't give up hope

We're a country where careers are often part of our identity, and you don't suddenly yank that part of a person out without ripping up the rest.

So, in the midst of a miserable economy, when layoffs have become so common, the questions on the minds of a sorrowful number of Americans are: How do I pick up the pieces and put them back together?

After casting lines out to people who specialize in helping others find jobs and talking to folks who got laid off and recently made it back into the workforce, I can offer some general advice.

The one constant is: You cannot give up hope.

Easy for me to say, sitting behind a computer with a paycheck. People out of work for two years with barely an interview to show for their search will shake their heads, and I understand that.

But whether you want to hear it or not, it's a mantra that a job hunter must maintain. Because if you surrender hope, you're done.

Rocki-Lee DeWitt, a management professor at the University of Vermont, said: "The point I usually make and say is, 'Think about it if you were in business. Do you want to be hiring people who are down in the mouth and weary and so forth?' The pragmatic aspect of it is you need a positive attitude; you need to have perseverance."

J.T. O'Donnell, chief executive of, said it's up to each individual to steel themselves, despite the rejection letters.

O'Donnell said Green's approach is a part of the "marketing plan" that every job seeker needs.

"Just sending out 1,000 resumes isn't going to get you anywhere," O'Donnell said. "If you're just spraying and praying, you're not building any sort of a job search. The 'automated job search' concept is not working, and people are using an antiquated approach to networking."

Her point is that networking is not just setting up a LinkedIn account and going to job fairs. It's trying to get at people inside companies, not asking them for a job but asking them to meet for coffee or informational interviews.

"My best example is a young woman I worked with who wanted to work for ESPN," O'Donnell said. "She wound up going through a series of five informational interviews at ESPN. Each one she'd ask, 'Who else should I talk to in the organization about this? Who could I learn more from?' She winds up getting a phone call from a hiring manager at ESPN, he interviews her and then they hire her because so many other people met her and liked her."

Bentley Patterson, 52, lives in northern Colorado and just started a job as a project manager with a Microsoft consulting services group.

The job came about, he said, because he kept his head up and networked fearlessly with people he knows, from close friends to mere acquaintances: "What worked for me was going back and touching base with people I had worked with in the past, either clients or co-workers, as far back as I remember, just calling and saying, 'Hey, hi, I'm in this situation. Can you help me?' You can't put hints out. You have to come right out and say it.

"I think people are shy, and they're also embarrassed about their situation. Most people you talk to who you might ask for help, they understand what's going on out there. And, in general, people like to help people, but you have to be pretty direct about asking for that help."

If laid off, don't give up hope 09/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 2:18pm]
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