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THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA JOB MARKET: LOOKING FOR LIGHT : They Looked for New Jobs and Found Them : Once-Unhappy and Unemployed Workers Share Their Stories of Some Successful Searches

September 20, 1993


I'm legally blind, have no hearing in my left ear and about one-fourth hearing in my right ear. I became homeless late last year when I lost a 10-year job as a mechanic because the owner of the business died.

I went to Goodwill Industries and took their retail sales management course. I then spent two months looking for work in sales, but I didn't have much luck. I've got no teeth and a deformed left ear, so I didn't think I had the right look. And, even more important, I started out with pretty low self-esteem that got even lower during two months of unsuccessful job interviews.

A Goodwill counselor helped me feel better about myself, and then All Services, an electronics repair shop in Pasadena, heard that Goodwill had job candidates and called to set up an interview. I tried to go in with a positive attitude and said to myself, "This job is mine," over and over. They gave me a key to the office 15 minutes after the interview started and didn't talk to any other candidates, even though I was the first one they interviewed.

I started as assistant manager of the store in early July and was promoted to manager after six weeks. With the money I've been making, I just moved into my own apartment.

--HARRY COHEN, Store manager



It's been a tough couple of years. After 13 years at the Broadway and Carter Hawley Hale Information Services, I was laid off in April, 1991--thanks to Carter Hawley's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing--along with more than 100 other people. Four months later, I went to work for May Co., only to be laid off again last January as a result of the Robinsons-May merger.

In reality, I had not stopped looking for a job since Carter Hawley laid me off. We all received out-placement assistance, so I learned all the techniques: Call everyone you know, order personal business cards, use "power words" in your resume. I've even gone to a few job fairs. I religiously circled interesting newspaper ads every Sunday, answered them and followed up with a phone call when appropriate.

I feel very lucky. There was a small ad in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, June 27, for a "training writer." It sounded as though it had been written for me. I responded with a faxed resume and a hard copy--I was taking no chances with this one.

After two interviews, I started work Aug. 2 as a staff writer with the Friedman Group, a retail training consulting firm in Culver City. With my retailing experience and my journalism degree from CSU Long Beach, this is almost too perfect a fit. But I'll take it.

--BARBARA SOSA, Training writer



The turning point in my job hunt was getting laid off.

For a long time, I had been unhappy at my job as a specialist in software quality assurance, and downsizing was rumored. I was looking, but the inevitable layoff turned my casual job search into the full-time effort it needed to be.

The very next day, I started a company-sponsored "career continuation program" (a euphemism for training in how to beat the system and land another job). I was taught the rules of the game, and I was determined to play my cards right.

One of my strategies was to clip classified ads of companies that were hiring software professionals of any sort. I'd find out the name of the hiring manager, send a letter and follow up with a phone call. Getting around the human resources department was critical; I had been told their job is to screen you out.

One day, I was in the locker room of my health club when I overheard someone talking enthusiastically about where he worked, a San Diego company called Pyxis Corp. My ears perked up because I had just clipped their ad for software engineers. This chance meeting yielded the name of the vice president of software development. My letter and resume reached him just as he was considering the need for someone to launch a software quality assurance program. Several interviews followed.

The final interview was delayed several weeks, so I took a previously planned bike trip from Eugene, Ore., to Missoula, Mont. At a Chinese restaurant along the way, I opened a fortune cookie to find: "A comfortable salary and a good position will be yours."

I had good fortune, indeed. Two weeks later, I started as software quality assurance supervisor.

--HAL SCHWARTZ, Software developer



A few years ago, I was unemployed, and I applied for a secretarial position at an engineering firm. The manager said he had interviewed another person and was trying to decide between the two of us.

I made him a deal: I asked him to let me work for him for a few days with no pay. If he liked my work, he could hire me. If he didn't, he could easily say it wouldn't work out.

This also gave me a chance to see if I liked the job.

I had nothing to lose.

The manager showed me the phone system and I went to work. The office was a shambles, but I completely straightened it out.

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