Some people might consider 18 exclamation points in the first paragraph of an email a bit excessive.
But for Beverly Pogue, it almost qualifies as understatement.
“Special Announcement!!!” one of her recent missives began. “If you are out of work and seem to be up against a wall in your job search, we understand!!!”
For added emphasis, Pogue underlined “we understand.”
The email was part of a campaign promoting “Operation Renew,” a government program to help the long-term unemployed find jobs.
Pogue is the career coach at WorkSource Spokane, part of the state’s Employment Security Department. During the past year, she has helped more than 150 people re-enter the workforce.
An ebullient grandmother who moves at close to the speed of light, Pogue paused long enough recently to share job-hunting advice, including a variation of the Golden Rule.
S-R: Where did you grow up?
Pogue: In Sumner (pop. 9,500), near Tacoma. I lived on the West Side until we moved over here in 1976.
S-R: What were your interests?
Pogue: Music. I had my first recital when I was 5 – I sang “I Don’t Have to Wait Until I’m Grown Up,” a Sunday school song – and later sang in the All-Northwest Choir.
S-R: Were you thinking about a career back then?
Pogue: Goodness, no. When I was growing up, if you weren’t married by 18, you were going to be an old maid.
S-R: So were you married by 18?
Pogue: Oh, yes. (laugh) I was married at 18, and began selling Tupperware by the time I was 21. I spent 30 years with Tupperware, both as a franchise owner and traveling the country as a corporate trainer.
S-R: Any formal education?
Pogue: I took some business classes at Green River Community College, and Tupperware offered extensive training in sales, marketing and leadership. After I sold my franchise, I worked in the staffing industry. Later, after schooling to get certified in human resource management, I was HR director at Silverwood Theme Park, where we hired and trained 1,250 people each summer.
S-R: Was there a particular moment that changed your life?
Pogue: Years ago I took a job in downtown Seattle, and I hated the commute so much that sometimes I’d cry. Then all of a sudden one day – it was as if someone spoke to me and asked, “How long are you going to stay unhappy?” – I decided I could choose to be happy or sad, and from that moment on I chose happiness.
S-R: What brought you to WorkSource?
Pogue: I came here in 2009 after I’d been unemployed almost 11 months and needed help with government paperwork. By coincidence, someone here who I’d worked with several years before recognized me and mentioned that WorkSource was hiring. Everything I’d done up until then had prepared me for this job, and I started here a couple of weeks later.
S-R: You joined WorkSource Spokane in your late 60s, when most people are thinking about retirement.
Pogue: Sitting back has never appealed to me.
S-R: Let’s talk about technology. Were you an early adopter?
Pogue: I purchased my first computer in 1981. It was a network with four terminals, and cost $38,000. I remember one of my friends saying, “I am not touching that thing. That’s why I have a secretary.” I had a secretary, too, but I decided I was not going to let technology get ahead of me. And if you give me any software today, I can run it. I’m really good at LinkedIn, and have more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. I teach teenagers classes on social media, and they give me a standing ovation when I’m done.
S-R: You work mostly with the long-term unemployed, which includes many older workers. How do you motivate them?
Pogue: I tell them there’s a secret to getting a job when you’re older – you must believe you have something of value to offer an employer. I also teach them how to make a 60-second commercial about themselves, emphasizing their years of experience.
S-R: What else do you recommend?
Pogue: No. 1, you have to be coachable. No. 2, you have to be willing to try a new approach to job-hunting, such as changing your résumé. And No. 3, I remind them they’re not alone – that I’m here to help them.
S-R: You call yourself a career coach rather than career counselor or adviser. Why?
Pogue: Because the main focus of a coach is to win, and I want to help these people – my team – win.
S-R: Why so many exclamation points in your emails?
Pogue: Part of motivating people is letting them know it’s OK to get excited about life, and that unemployment is just another experience to draw from. Exclamation points reflect that positive attitude.
S-R: What do you like most about your job?
Pogue: Helping people.
S-R: What do you like least?
Pogue: The paperwork.
S-R: What are you most proud of?
Pogue: That I give people hope. Recently I helped a software engineer land a job that pays $123,000, and she wrote back, “When I went into that interview, Beverly, I could hear you on my shoulder telling me exactly the words to say.”
S-R: Do you occasionally see job openings that appeal to you?
Pogue: Yes, and I’ve had five job offers in the past eight weeks from people who saw my LinkedIn profile and wrote saying I’d be perfect for their company. I tell them, “Right now I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, thank you, but if I ever need a job, I’ll certainly get in touch with you.”
S-R: Do you ever wish you had more formal education?
Pogue: Yes, I’ve thought about getting my B.A., just so I could say I did. But most employers are more impressed by experience than they are with academic credentials.
S-R: What jobs are available now?
Pogue: Our website lists 2,600 in Spokane County alone. You could probably get a job tomorrow in home health care or at a call center. We call those “survival jobs” – something to do until your dream job comes along. But the list also includes openings for project managers and professors.
S-R: Some people don’t realize your services are free. What other misconceptions are there?
Pogue: People come here thinking we’re going to find them a job. I tell them, “I won’t find you a job, but I’ll give you the tools you’ll need to find one yourself.” The protocols of job hunting have changed, and what worked 20 years ago – even five years ago – doesn’t necessarily work today.
S-R: What’s the right attitude and wrong attitude when seeking employment?
Pogue: The wrong attitude is “the world owes me something” or “I won’t work for less than this.” The right attitude is realizing your value, and not making promises unless you’ll keep them.
S-R: Do you have a motto?
Pogue: Some people live by the Golden Rule. I recommend job hunters follow the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would do unto themselves.”
Treat others with value and respect, and success will come to both of you.
This interview was edited and condensed.
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