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Step Back, Be Patient, Network

Published 12/18/2011
The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC

Bridgette A. Lacy writes about resources for the unemployed twice a month.

Ask Chapel Hill resident Wyatt Isabel about how he found a new job, and he'll credit networking and staying visible to employers.

After being let go from his product manager position in the banking industry, Isabel found himself isolated. His only contact was with a small group of friends. He needed to expand his circle to find a job.

He began attending several networking events every week, including Colonial Jobseekers in Cary. He also attended events geared toward professionals in his industry, such as the ProductCamp RTP conference, which is offered once every six months and is geared toward product managers and marketers.

After attending seminars on networking, interviewing and job skills, Isabel increased his visibility on LinkedIn, the professional online network. He co-authored a report on the latest trends in online marketing, driving traffic to his LinkedIn profile.

"You need to know someone inside," Isabel says. "It was very useful to get with other product managers. It gave me insight on what companies were hiring."

And it ultimately led to his new job, working as a product manager at Wells Fargo for Internet Services.

Whether you work in the private or public sector, you need to demonstrate both patience and diligence in your job search, says Joyce Weathersby, the State Employees Career Transition Center coordinator.

"That has not changed over the years," she says. "You have to be patient with the system and understand things don't happen overnight."

And you have to continue to apply.

That was the case for Raleigh resident Magalene Watson, a state government housekeeper who was laid off last June. She worked for the state for 15 years and was recently hired back as a housekeeping supervisor in the Department of Correction.

Watson, 58, stayed busy looking for work and taking classes at the State Employees Career Transition Center. For the first time in her life, she created a résumé. She learned how to use a computer to aid in her job search.

"It was like I was going back to school," Watson says. "I'm really not a computer person, so it helped." Watson also stayed in touch with one of the human resource officers at her previous job, and he helped her with job applications.

For example, Watson added five years of experience as a cafeteria worker that she normally didn't think to include. The HR officer kept sending her job leads and Watson kept searching websites for government positions.

Chapel Hill resident Mary Kramer, who had been a self-employed mosaic artist for 12 years, thinks an attitude adjustment might also make the difference in getting hired. Kramer, 56, was in a group of unemployed people and noticed how many of them had a lot of great work experience but didn't want to be flexible about what positions and salaries they would accept.

"I had my own set of difficulties as a starving artist," she explains. "These people were holding out for something really great. It almost made me feel better ... they were totally deserving of the salaries they wanted. They were rattling off these wonderful accomplishments."

Kramer could relate. She was struggling emotionally to surrender her past as a person who brought sunshine to people's lives in the form of mosaic backsplashes for their kitchens.

"I was being so proud of what I was doing that the thought of going in to take care of the elderly seemed insulting," she says.

But then Kramer stepped back and thought about her experience 30 years ago when she was just starting out as a nursing assistant. She now works as a residence assistant at the Carol Woods Residential Community and loves her job. "It's an honorable thing," she says. "... I've been blessed with taking care of people that are intelligent, funny and full of life."

In hindsight, Kramer now realizes that by taking a step back and reflecting you might find interesting work that is not what you imagined. "I'm still touching people," she says. "I didn't have to give up anything. ... You might find surprises you didn't anticipate."