March 22, 2012 in City

WorkSource group helps job seekers strategize

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Marv Hunt, of Spokane, listens to job-hunting tips at WorkSource on March 12. He’s seeking work in hospitality management or the wine industry.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location
On the Web

Find links to previous stories, photos and graphics in this series packaged with this story at www.spokesman.com/tags/the-road-ahead

Jobless rates

2011

Washington: 9.2 percent

Spokane County: 9.1 percent

2010

Washington: 9.6 percent

Spokane County: 9.6 percent

2009

Washington: 9.3 percent

Spokane County: 9.2 percent

2008

Washington: 5.4 percent

Spokane County: 5.5 percent

2007

Washington: 4.6 percent

Spokane County: 4.9 percent

Source : Washington Employment Security Department via Community Indicators Initiative of Spokane

A lot has changed since 1998, the last time Mike Guerdette had to design a resume.

Guerdette, who has a Gonzaga University engineering degree, has been out of work since October. He is focusing his search on about 15 local businesses, but the shaky economy has made finding a job difficult.

To help his search, he has joined the Hire U Club, a group that started a month ago with 18 unemployed people who meet weekly to strategize their way back into employment.

The weekly discussions provide him important networking job search tips and give him another incentive to find a job, said Guerdette, a Spokane Valley resident who has worked in the cellphone tower and other technology industries.

“You want to get back to work, and you want to help everyone around you get back to work,” he said.

The Hire U Club was formed by WorkSource Spokane, a joint venture of the state Employment Security Department and other organizations.

“A lot of times in a job search, you start feeling alone,” said John Dickson, area director of the department. “It’s a group of hope. It’s a group of support.”

Ray Keevy, a WorkSource Spokane employment specialist who oversees the club, said of the 18 members who started in the club, three have landed jobs. Some studies have shown members of “job clubs” like Hire U shorten their job searches by 20 to 50 percent, he said.

Marv Hunt, of Spokane, began looking for work about six months ago as the economic downturn took a toll on his workload as a hospitality consultant. Hunt said he has helped open nearly 40 restaurants. Despite that experience, he hasn’t been hired after five job interviews and applying for so many positions that he’s lost count.

“It’s very difficult to keep your spirits up after being turned down, turned down and turned down,” he said. Listening to others’ experience looking for work has helped give Hunt a positive outlook.

Each week, members share their experiences applying for jobs, interviewing and shaping resumes. They focus much of their attention on making contacts with groups and individuals who might lead them to jobs that aren’t listed in want ads or on Craigslist.

The group hashes out the dilemmas they face in applying for work. One woman wondered how she should list a previous job as cashier at an erotic boutique. Should she even list it on her resume?

Most said yes but advised her to downplay the “erotic” part. They also suggested using the business’ corporate name instead of the one on its sign.

Hunt and some other club members have talked a lot about being labeled “overqualified.” Many said they would be happy to take work a step below previous jobs.

Joyce Beitey, of Spokane, was laid off from Sterling Savings Bank last month after nearly 22 years on the job. Although close to qualifying for Medicare, Beitey, who held several positions at the bank, including customer service manager, said she’s not ready to retire. But she isn’t looking for a managerial position and is open to full-time or part-time work.

The club has helped guide her search, especially since it’s been so long since she’s had to look for a job, Beitey said.

“It’s uplifting because you feel you’re not alone,” she said.

She said she’s hopeful the pilot program will be extended to help others searching for work.

Keevy and Dickson say WorkSource likely will host another club when the first group ends after eight weeks. They also will help members of the inaugural class keep in contact.

WorkSource also may create a job club for returning military veterans.

Keevy said the goal is to encourage job seekers to take more control of their search partly by lifting their confidence.

“The seeds are being planted, and we’ll start seeing a little more fruit,” Keevy said.


There are three comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email