Right now, even the best and brightest are being ejected from promising jobs. But it is still possible to find another. Here are lessons from six determined people.
Lesson: Ask for Help
Susan Bushey Manning, 35, public relations manager
Former newspaper editor Susan Bushey Manning left journalism in 2007 because she feared layoffs. The Worcester resident took a job as a public relations director at Regis College, where she thrived until August 2008 -- when the school’s communications division suddenly shuttered.
“I was freaking,” says Manning. “Why did I leave my newspaper job? I went straight home and had a daylong pity party.” Then she got over it. Within three weeks, she’d landed a PR job at Framingham State College. But a few months later, its communications department shut down, too.
By then, the recession was in full force. One month turned into several, and Manning kept sending out resumes -- 183 of them, in fact. Because she didn’t get same-sex insurance benefits through her wife’s company, because their emergency fund was shrinking, and because just sending out resumes clearly wasn’t working, Manning tried a new tactic.
She started gingerly approaching long-lost contacts through LinkedIn, a networking website for professionals. Happily, an old acquaintance put in a word for her at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, and another connection revamped her resume. That 184th resume was the one that worked. Since May 2009, she’s been a library PR manager. Her advice? “Don’t put on a front and make it seem like everything is good. Reach out for help! Let people in.”
Lesson: Focus Your Search
Richard Damon, 53, software engineer
Richard Damon hadn’t worried much about career-building. He’d held a job at the same small high-tech company for 20 years. “I was the number-two guy at my firm,” he says. “Then again, there were only five people.” Could a mid-career engineer who’d worked at the same job for decades recover from a job loss?
Definitely. Because his wife had a secure position, Damon could conduct a thoughtful search. He sent his resume to targeted job sites and recruiting firms, and he visited an executive consulting firm to learn the art of self-selling. (Lesson one: Contact one new person every day.) He also left his resume with a specialty temp agency. There, he was discovered by a Manchester, New Hampshire-based company, Optics 1, which was looking to fill a permanent position. “By the time I got home from the interview,” he says, “they’d called with an offer.”
Damon says it was his highly focused search that led him to his current position. “I knew companies wouldn’t want me if I was overqualified,” he says. “Companies aren’t going to fill an entry-level position with someone who has 30 years’ experience. I marketed myself to the right type of firms and knew my strengths.”
Lesson: Plan for Your Next Position
Tom Innis, 32, management consultant
In 2006, Tom Innis was thriving. He had earned his MBA the year before, had just landed a coveted position as a project manager at a new health-information company, and was contemplating starting a family. But by 2008, the firm’s funding was drying up and Innis had a young daughter. He knew it was time to make a move. Through his job, he had made contacts at the Boston-based Ripples Group, a boutique management-consulting firm. Just as his start-up colleagues were starting to panic, Innis segued to Ripples.
How did Innis dodge a career setback? “It’s all about working
really hard and hoping someone will notice,” he says. “It’s hard work that makes opportunities and understanding that you need to do what you’re passionate about, so that you can work hard. If you’re in a place where you’re not passionate, you have to decide -- is it time for you to move on?”
It was time, Innis says, and he doesn’t regret leaving the old company. “Having a family, I couldn’t take that level of risk. I saw the writing on the wall.” However, his move wasn’t without uncertainty. Ripples has fewer than 10 employees, he says, and “there’s definitely risk involved with that size. It doesn’t have the stability of a large firm. But my sense is that the last couple of years have shown us that there isn’t a lot of stability in those jobs, either.”
Lesson: Follow Your Heart
Tyson Goodridge, 37, self-employed
Tyson Goodridge had a good job managing an online community when he was laid off in November 2008. The Wenham resident carried a hefty mortgage and had two children to support, but the market for someone with his skills looked bleak. “I couldn’t find anything I was passionate about,” he says.
A feverish networker, he plumbed his contacts and made it to the final round in several interviews, only to be passed over. “It was ego-crushing,” he admits. He and his wife modified their lifestyle -- refinancing their home, holding tag sales, canceling cable -- and took stock of their lives. “I knew that people gave me energy. I knew I needed to listen to my gut. How could I do what I loved?”
Ultimately, Goodridge hired himself. “I thought: What better time to start my own company? I incorporated in June 2009 and haven’t looked back.” His company, Dialogue, provides social media education and advisory services. Thanks to an enormous network and strong word of mouth, his client roster is growing fast -- though this path isn’t without risk.
“I’m in debt,” says Goodridge. “This is the most exciting and terrifying time of my life. But I’m doing what I love.” His advice? “Stick to your guns.”
Lesson: Be Open to Change
Amy Rogers, 31, former accountant
For 11 years, Amy Rogers was a successful tax accountant at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Then, in January, she got jarring news: Her job would end on February 1.
The mother of three was numb. Her husband owns a roofing and remodeling company in Arlington -- “the roofing business is tough right now,” she says -- and the family had its health insurance through her job. “I wondered: How many months do we have before we have to sell the house? All the things I tell my clients to do, like make sure you have a rainy-day fund, I hadn’t done.”
Sad news traveled fast, and Rogers’s clients reached out to her. “I had so many responses from people who were supportive,” she says. Within weeks, thanks to those grateful former clients, she had nine job leads -- just not all in accounting. She’s now contemplating a job in data-entry at a venture capital firm. It’s a step down, but the new position will allow her part-time hours so she can spend more time with her family.
“Obviously we need to pay the bills,” she says about her decision to consider jobs in other fields. “But as long as you have enough to get by, it’s more important to be happy than to have a boatload of money.”
Ron Welter, 44, technology consultant
Ron Welter had been a successful technology consultant for eight years when -- despite years of making money for his company -- he was let go, without severance, in January 2009. Welter spent his final day at work on a company laptop, networking like mad. “I e-mailed everyone I knew,” he says.
The father of three, two of whom were in college, also supports his mother-in-law, and he knew he needed to land something fast. “Don’t be embarrassed,” he urges. “Get over the embarrassment and reach out. I e-mailed about 150 people. And I received responses back from many. It was comforting.”
Thanks to his proactive approach, he never reached the point of desperation. “I just pushed to get in a potential employer’s face and make myself available,” he says. He had two job offers in less than three weeks, and today works at Zanett Commercial Solutions in Burlington. “I even got someone else I know a job here,” he says.
Welter thinks his confidence, perseverance, and hustle set him apart -- he had no choice but to be successful in his search, he explains. “There was no doubt about it,” he says. “I had to get out there.”
Kara Baskin is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.