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Rosemary Alexander of JobNet | On the Hot Seat

Staying upbeat in tough job market

(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
September 11, 2011

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Rosemary Alexander is executive director of JobNet in Boston, one of the state’s busiest one-stop career centers. Globe reporter Jenifer B. McKim talked to Alexander about the economy, hot jobs, and the importance of staying positive.

Being near South Station, you see a lot of people looking for work - from homeless veterans to professionals expecting six-figure salaries. Is there some advice that benefits most everybody? The success of your job search is going to directly correlate with how much work you put into it. These days you don’t find your job in a newspaper. You have to identify yourself as a commodity - you are marketing yourself to employers.

How do you do that? You get yourself described on paper like an advertisement - your resume is your written commercial. Once you get that together, you have to get the word out, electronically primarily. If people don’t have a lot of facility with electronics, we will teach them. It’s marketing tips, really.

Does anybody send a paper resume anymore? People are still doing that with very little return on investment. Some smaller firms will have you mail them a resume. Just go through the ads yourself, they say e-mail your resume or submit an online application.

Who is hiring right now? In Massachusetts, we are looking at health care and hospitality. Those are the big ones. There are some newer areas - but there are [fewer] skilled people to fill them - in biotech and with environmental-based companies.

Many people have been out of work for months or even years. What advice can you give them to help persuade employers they are up for the job? Volunteer. Get involved in some company that did what you used to do or get involved in a brand new, what we call, crossover occupation, which requires similar skills. People rarely say no to free labor. It gets your foot in the door and helps you hone skills. It also helps you psychologically.

Staying positive must be one of the biggest challenges. Sitting around and e-mailing and going on interview after interview is a bit demoralizing. An employer isn’t looking for someone who has been rejected a lot. They are looking for the positive person. You have to keep yourself up. It may mean taking a vacation, taking a time out. Whatever it is that keeps you fueled and keeps you upbeat.

Do most unemployed workers need to expect a pay cut in their next job? Many should expect it.

Yet I know people who found better, more lucrative jobs at the end of a layoff. How often does that happen? Not many people say I am better off compared to how I was in my last company that went offshore, or moved to another part of the country. Some people change occupations altogether and love it. Some people go into their own businesses. The majority of people take the cut and keep going.

If a person is unhappy in their current job, would you recommend they go back to school? Or should they just be thankful they have work? If you are miserable every day, that is not good. I would recommend you have a plan: Can you afford to quit your job? Do you need to go to work part time? Have you done your research?

You have been running this office since 1998. How have the services changed? Our staff has constantly worked to upgrade our skills. We’ve seen the need to be in tune with electronics increase tremendously. Two years ago we weren’t using LinkedIn. Now, not only are we recommending it, but all of us had to get accounts.

As a person who talks to job seekers every day, where do you think the economy is going? It is a slow crawl, but I think it is a slow crawl upward. Our entire global economy is changing. I liken it to the Industrial Revolution and what it did to the agrarian society. It was huge.

We are right in the midst of a technological revolution. It is changing the way we do business.

Rosemary Alexander,
executive director,
JobNet Boston