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Professionals in Transition

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Professionals In Transition has been covered extensively by the media including:

America's long-term jobless still struggling

Generation Jobless

Outplacement Firms Struggle to Do Job

Job Counselor Revises Advice for Unemployed After His Own Layoff

Always the Runner-Up For Jobs? Learn Why, Then Tweak Your Pitch

CNN Crew tapes segment at Professionals In Transition® at the American Cross in Winston-Salem, NC,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=935a0bef009a2890&biw=1067&bih=450&bs=1

Example of Hearst Network Weekly Syndication with simultaneous posting tto Yahoo News, Google and You Tube



Kevin Davis and his father John, both PIT attendees, are high lighted in this Wall Street Journal article by Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Joann Lublin. The article is centered on college graduates who have not been able to find employment since graduation and the effects on them and their parents when they are forced to return home due to unemployment.  Click the link to read the entire article: 
The Toll on Parents When Kids Return Home


PIT Attendee Melissa Decosta Smith profiled in Wall Street Journal

PIT meeting attendee Melissa Decosta Smith was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. The article was written by Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Joann Lublin and details many of the difficulties individuals go through when they are  downsized.   

Upon hearing layoff rumors, confronting your boss about talk that your name is on a list isn't the best approach. If the scuttlebutt proves false, you risk appearing insecure. If it's true, you may hasten your exit. Instead, be prepared...

Click the link to read the entire article:  What to Do When Layoff Rumors Fly 




 WXII Profile On Professionals In Transition 12.11.08
 Getting Back to Work  

 WXII Project EconomyMarch 7, 2010 
 New Technology - A Must For Local Job Seekers


 Fox News 12.14.08
 Stay Upbeat 
Unemployed During Holidays? Keep Upbeat and Network
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) It may be hard to have a happy holiday season for the many unemployed people living in the Piedmont. "It's degrading, It's lonely, It's scary," said Damian Birkel, the founder of Professionals in Transition, a non-profit ...


 More Job Searchers Quit Looking USA Today

 Survival Jobs USA Today

 The Discouraged Worker - The New York Times

•·                  - Winston-Salem Journal


 Sunday, December 14, 2008


 Jobs are scarce…competition stiff



Journal Photo by Jennifer Rotenizer

Judy Robertson (left) was first in line at the N.C. Employment Commission one morning last week By Richard Craver | Journal Reporter

Published: December 14, 2008


For the first time in her life, a few weeks shy of her 62nd birthday, Judy Robertson is without a job.

Robertson was let go on Nov. 14 by her employer, whom she declined to identify and whom she had   worked for in accounting and finance for about 29 years.

Even though Robertson, who lives in

Winston-Salem, knew that her job status was tenuous because her employer was consolidating operations to cut costs, "I still ended up with a deer-in-the-headlights look when it happened."

She's not alone.

The pain from the recession is widespread in the Triad.

Nearly 7,800 Triad residents have had their jobs eliminated this year, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission. When Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties are included, the number rises to nearly 8,300.

It seems that every week, if not two or three times a week, another plant is being shut down or a business says that it's cutting jobs to trim expenses or balance production with consumer demand.

Talking about being unemployed is hard for Robertson. She never thought she would ever have to. Robertson's husband is retired and has health problems. Robertson said she feels "stuck between a rock and a hard place," particularly since the couple need health insurance.

Robertson is not alone in "hoping that there is a job out there for me."

But the local job outlook is bleak for 2009, employment officials say, with little hint of a light at the end of the tunnel until summertime at the earliest.

The Triad's unemployment rate was 7 percent in October, according to the commission. It is projected to exceed at least 8 percent by mid-2009, considering that the region hasn't fully absorbed the blows from at least 11 major layoffs affecting more than 3,300 workers.

No industry sector appears immune to the downturn.

Jobs are being eliminated across the board -- whether manufacturers such as Furniture Brands International Inc., Hanesbrands Inc. and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. Inc., white-collar layoffs at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Triad Guaranty Inc., or cuts made by small businesses, government agencies and nonprofits.

Questions remain about how many of Wachovia Corp.'s 2,900 local jobs will be cut or transferred as Wells Fargo & Co. merges bank operations over the next two years. And much like furniture and textile jobs earlier in the decade, there are fewer local job options for white-collar workers, particularly in the financial-services sector.

Archie Hicks, the manager of the employment commission's office in

Winston-Salem, said that about 90 percent of the office's clients are searching for work as opposed to trying to land better jobs.

"This was echoed by an employer I spoke with who related that his turnover has been drastically reduced due to people's hesitancy to leave a job in this environment," Hicks said.

"What's different this time is that the layoffs are so widespread in time that you don't have a lot of people from the same layoff coming in at the same time and commiserating about their situation.

"Most people don't know the others in the office, so it can get pretty quiet in here," Hicks said.

Even in the health-care sector, which is facing a major nursing shortage, officials say that the training pipeline is clogging in the community-college system because of too few classes and too little money available, particularly for market-rate salaries to attract registered nurses as instructors.

That's why some economists and employment officials are concerned about the Triad's losing droves of households next year as people dependent on white-collar jobs go outside the region in search of comparable income.

"This is as complex a job market as I've ever seen, especially for those college-educated clients between 40 and their mid-50s," said Damian Birkel, the founder of Professionals in Transition and a multiple-layoff victim himself. "The job opportunities aren't there in

Winston-Salemas they were even a decade ago.

"Many of our clients want to pursue jobs where the best opportunities are, but at the same time cause the least disruption to their household. Fewer employers are willing to pay moving expenses anyway.

"That's a big reason why you're seeing more people widening their commuting radius to include

Charlotteand the Triangle," Birkel said.

The frustration of coming up empty in his job search was evident in John Hodges' voice and face during a visit last week to the local employment-commission office.

"It's ridiculous how tight things are and how tight employers are with their pay," Hodges said, looking over a screen of job vacancies that listed pay between $7.50 and $11 an hour.

Hodges said he moved to the Triad from

Floridato help take care of a sick father who recently passed away. He said he's living on food stamps and doesn't have the money or the option of going back to Florida.

A painter, cook or forklift operator by trade, Hodges said he recently tried knocking on doors of potential employers in the area.”None of them were hiring, and 90 percent of them wouldn't even take an application," he said.

The gloomy local and state job market should not be surprising, said John Quinterno, a research assistant with the

N.C. Justice Center."Since 2000, North Carolinahas not created enough jobs to keep pace with the growth of the work force," Quinterno said.

That includes people and families transferring their unemployment to the state.

"People continue to move to

North Carolinabecause they believe the economy is better here than it is in other parts of the country," said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wachovia Securities.

"While this is generally true, we are clearly being impacted by the recession, and our unemployment rate is actually well above the national average."

As a result, Quinterno said, "proportionally fewer prime-age adults ages 20 to 64 are employed now than in 1990."

"Sluggish job growth has contributed to the economic hardships facing the state's households," Quinterno said. "The failure to create adequate numbers of jobs has resulted in relatively high levels of unemployment and underemployment, which have held down wages and incomes."

Some economists have said that if the underemployed -- those working in jobs below their skill level for the sake of earning a paycheck -- the stay-at-home parent, the retiree and the discouraged are factored into the jobless rate, it could be as much as 2.5 percentage points higher.

"Even if the recession proves brief, North Carolina's labor market likely will limp through 2012 and perhaps even longer if the rebound is a jobless recovery marked by relatively high unemployment and stagnant wages,' Quinterno said.

Hicks said he expects more Triad residents will have to work up to retirement age or beyond.

"You'll see more people die still on the job rather than dying in retirement," Hicks said. "They can't afford to give up their health insurance."

It's hard for even those people willing to take a pay cut to put food on the table, said Matt Stadler, the manager of the

Winston-Salemoffice for Manpower Inc.

"It's a Catch-22 situation for them, particularly for middle managers," Stadler said. "They need the money and they want to get started again.

"Yet, employers are leery of hiring them and going to the expense of training them if they believe the person is a flight risk for a better job."

Rick Beliz is gaining a crash course in the local job market as a marketing assistant at the Winston-Salem Urban League. The organization recently opened a

JobLink Career Centersatellite office of the employment commission since it moved to 450 W. Hanes Mill Road.

"We've had hundreds of people using the access point for job searches, training, resumes, particularly housing-authority residents," Beliz said."We're giving them a leg up on their search, assessing their interviewing skills, giving them proper clothing if they need it."It's a tough job market for our clients.

"If you're tied to the area, either by family or lacking transportation, it's getting next to impossible for those who don't have the skills employers want."

Birkel said he encourages people whose jobs have been cut recently to venture out during the holidays, not only for the social festivities, but the networking aspects as well.

"During the holiday season, over 90 percent of a person's job search should be spent on networking," Birkel said. "I recommend that people bring business cards -- not resumes-- to holiday events, hand them out two at a time, and ask the person to pass one on."

Robertson, the first-time layoff victim, says she wants to work at least another six years, which is why she's being proactive about her situation. She has enrolled at

Forsyth Technical Community Collegeto upgrade her software skills.

She's also filling in at her former employer for those on vacation during the holidays."We've been careful with our money, not being in debt outside the house," Robertson said."That's why I'm networking as much as possible and leaning on family and friends to keep this from getting overwhelming on me."It's critical for me to stay positive and not let being laid off become personal," Robertson said."I know the value I bring to an employer.

■ Richard Craver can be reached at 727-7376 or at




Outplacement Firms Struggle to Do Job


The Wall Street Journal

When PepsiCo Inc. laid off administrative assistant Sonia Service in February 2008, she thought she'd have a leg up on her next job. Pepsi referred Ms. Service to an "outplacement" firm that specializes in helping laid-off employees get new work.

View Full Image

Dennis Kale for The Wall Street Journal

Damian Birkel, a former outplacement counselor, teaches at Professionals in Transition, a nonprofit self-help group he founded for the unemployed.

Eighteen months later, Ms. Service says outplacement was a waste of time. She says the job-search training was rushed. During a practice lunch interview, a coach chided her for ordering cranberry juice, saying it could be interpreted as a sign of a urinary-tract infection, she recalls. Her résumé was sent to a prospective employer with a cover letter that included a typo and bore her signature -- which she says she never saw.

"I am embarrassed," says Ms. Service. She still hasn't landed a job.

As demand rises in the $4 billion-a-year outplacement business, providers increasingly offer standardized services, which some workers say offer little value. Businesses anxious to shed former employees quickly and cheaply impose time limits that hamper effectiveness. Few employers track whether outplacement works.

Skeptical employees are voting with their feet: Executives estimate about 40% of workers offered outplacement services don't show up; some ask for cash instead.

Look-Alike Letters

View Interactive

Compare cover letters for two job-seekers.

Some industry participants, too, are troubled by reports of mass-produced résumés, canned job advice and slipshod counseling. "It breaks my heart when I hear about stuff like that happening," says Celeste Calfe, North American board president of the Association of Career Firms, a trade group. "And I know it's happening."

Outplacement firms say some frustration with their services reflects the stress of trying to find work during the downturn. "We understand that clients get angry; angry at their former employer, angry at us, angry at the prospective employers that don't seem to be calling back," John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., wrote in response to questions.

Outplacement services arose in the 1960s to provide out-of-work managers with the trappings of a job, such as an office, a phone and a secretary. Layoffs were less common and participants needed to battle the stigma of losing a job.

By the 1990s, outplacement firms expanded to serve everyone from CEOs to hourly workers. Providers competed by lowering prices, offering volume discounts to corporate clients for an increasingly standardized menu of workshops and referral services.

Now, outplacement is a standard feature of corporate layoffs. More than two-thirds of 265 U.S. employers with layoffs during the past two years offered outplacement, at an average cost of $3,589 an employee, according to a June survey for The Wall Street Journal by the American Management Association and Institute for Corporate Productivity.

Recipients typically get access to an office and a coach, either in one-on-one or group sessions. They also usually get help with résumé writing, interviewing and job leads.

Business is booming amid the recession. Right Management, the Manpower Inc. unit that's the nation's largest outplacement firm, posted a 36% increase in second-quarter revenue, to $158 million. Right expects to serve 200,000 people world-wide this year, twice as many as last year; it says revenue is rising more slowly because companies are opting for cheaper group services. Second-quarter revenue at Lee Hecht Harrison, another big provider that is a unit of Switzerland's Adecco SA, jumped 57% to $119 million.

Discuss: Are career-service centers helpful in a job search? Have you ever used one?

Outplacement firms say their services are effective. Right Management says 95% of the people who used its services in 2008 were satisfied. The company says clients who report back to them about getting jobs do so in an average of 16 weeks. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which says it pioneered outplacement, says its clients find jobs in a median of 14 weeks.

Yet both companies say they don't track the percentage of total clients who find work before their outplacement programs end. Challenger says it's now writing software to do so; Right Management says it's hard to get accurate data since some clients leave midprogram and others don't notify the firm when they land jobs.

Employers say they offer outplacement to protect their reputations, forestall lawsuits and minimize unemployment-insurance payments.

It's "a good thing to do from a PR perspective," says Manny Avramidis, the American Management Association's senior vice president for global human resources. Mr. Avramidis says he isn't sure if outplacement is effective, but he offered the service to 60 workers the AMA laid off in October.

Outplacement typically begins the day an employee is laid off. Providers often send staff members to each work site to explain their services. The process helps companies efficiently show employees the door, and gives the outplacement firms -- which are often paid only for the workers who use them -- a chance to market themselves.

Employees usually gain access to online seminars, group workshops and individual time with a coach, for periods ranging from a month to more than a year. Programs for executives, priced around $10,000 and up, generally provide a private office and more coaching time; those for midlevel managers or clerical workers, priced $5,000 or below, may offer a chair and phone at a shared table. Workers can also tap job-search boards.

Some activities appear to follow routines. Two Challenger clients, executives from different companies and different parts of the country, describe mock job interviews over lunch with their coaches.

One man says he was scolded for not following his coach to the restroom to continue the conversation. The other says he was chided for ordering diet soda because it suggested immaturity. Both executives asked not to be identified.

Cigdem Oktem, a management consultant, was laid off by Corporate Executive Board, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, in February, along with a few hundred colleagues. Ms. Oktem says she got six months of outplacement counseling at Lee Hecht Harrison's Washington offices. When a family emergency demanded her attention for a few months, Lee Hecht let her pause and restart the service.

Lee Hecht provided a clear, 10-step process for finding a job, including a spreadsheet for tracking calls, leads and interviews, Ms. Oktem says. The firm organized weekly meetings where she could trade tips and contacts. And it gave her unlimited one-on-one access to a coach, with whom she still meets every two weeks for advice and moral support. She hasn't found a job yet, but has interviews lined up. Overall, she says, outplacement has been a boon.

One challenge for the industry is that laid-off workers have different needs. Some like going to an office; others are happy to connect online. Many like career counseling but don't want help with their résumés.

By contrast, John Farmer, a 61-year-old executive in Dallas who was laid off from a financial company in February, hadn't written a résumé in 20 years and wanted help. But he found coaching sessions to be "almost like grief counseling," he says.

"One size doesn't fit all," says Harry J. Martin, a management professor at Cleveland State University and one of the few academics to study outplacement. Mr. Martin was co-author of a paper last year decrying "commodity outplacement" and urging more individual attention.

Some employers are experimenting with cheaper approaches. Lora Villarreal, chief personnel officer at Affiliated Computer Services Inc., last year hired RiseSmart Inc., an online provider, to offer outplacement to 4,200 workers. RiseSmart culls job boards and social-networking sites, then sends weekly alerts to users. It also provides individual phone counseling and online group seminars.

Ms. Villareal was unhappy with ACS's prior, more expensive outplacement firm; she says former staffers complained they didn't get individual attention. RiseSmart CEO Sanjay Sathe says a standard six-month package costs an employer about $2,500 a person.

Chet Shubert, 53, arranged outplacement as a human-resource executive at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and National Starch & Chemical Co. Last year, it was his turn, when he was laid off following a merger. He says he was offered several months of outplacement at Right's Management's Philadelphia office. In his first group meeting, he was surprised when a staff member said the firm didn't track how many clients get jobs.

Mr. Shubert says he got access to job-posting sites and group workshops on topics like preparing a résumé or closing a deal; equivalent material can be found online, he says. He says his coach didn't offer useful advice.

Mr. Shubert's verdict: "truly boilerplate" and "lacking for middle and upper management." He says he stopped going after about a month; he later found a job on his own, from which he was recently laid off.

Right President Doug Matthews, in a written response, says each participant works with a coach to develop a job-search plan tailored to his or her "unique learning style, needs, skill level, and desired outcome."

Damian Birkel, a career coach, joined Right in June 2007, initially as a contract counselor and later as a full-time employee. He primarily worked from home, but spent at least one day a week in Right's office in High Point, N.C.

Mr. Birkel says Right assigned him 60 people, a minimum of 15 a day, to coach by phone or online. One month of outplacement included no more than four hours of counseling, he says, a limited number of online seminars and access to a portion of Right's Web site. Most users received one to three months of services, which often ended before they found work, he says.

Mr. Birkel says Right fired him in August 2008, after he extended counseling time for people whose outplacement had expired. One was a single mother who'd missed appointments while trying to retain her foreclosed home. "I wasn't cut out for over-the-phone, fast-food outplacement," says Mr. Birkel.

Right's Mr. Matthews confirmed Mr. Birkel's employment dates but declined to comment further, citing privacy laws. He says Right is committed to "individualized counseling."

Ms. Service, the former administrative assistant at Pepsi, was offered outplacement with Challenger, Pepsi's main provider for about the past decade. She was invited to a two-day individual workshop in a suburban New York hotel near her former office, where a coach reviewed skills such as crafting résumés and cover letters.

The coach said Challenger would check online regularly for relevant vacancies, then send Ms. Service's résumé and cover letter to prospective employers.

Ms. Service didn't like Challenger's rewrite of her résumé because it contained too many dates she thought would reveal her age; she says she asked Challenger not to use it. Ms. Service says she never saw the finished cover letter. Ms. Service was later surprised to find that the résumé and a cover letter -- which contained a double comma and the date written as "February 05" -- had been sent to a New York public-relations firm on her behalf earlier this year.

Documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal showed the materials resemble those of another ex-Pepsi job seeker sent to the same firm -- including the same typo and quirky date style. The firm's president says he eliminated both women from consideration as his executive assistant. "We didn't take the letters seriously because they did not reflect an understanding of our company -- and they looked alike,'' he says. (Click here to see the letters.)

Ms. Service says she learned about the mailed letter and résumé from the Journal. Pepsi spokesman David DeCecco says the issues raised about Challenger's service "are news to us." He says the company is working with Challenger "to improve this service."

In a written response, Mr. Challenger says his firm tells clients it will automatically send materials to prospective employers. Mr. Challenger says clients are told someone else will sign letters on their behalf, in the roughly 3% of cases where the firm sends materials out by mail.

The firm says it crafts standard cover letters with its clients and asks them to approve the final version. "While the introductory and closing paragraphs are similar across many cover letters, the meat of the cover letter is individualized by the client," Mr. Challenger writes.

Though pieces of advice may seem "silly," he said they are part of an overall message to always think about perceptions of the interviewer. "Ordering ice tea, water or coffee, doesn't stand out. Ordering cranberry juice might."

Write to Phred Dvorak at and Joann S. Lublin at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.




Out of Work, and Too Down to Search On

Steve Hebert for The New York Times

“You send out so much, and you don’t get responses. Then when you get called in, you’re treated like you’re too old.” RAY RUCKER, a 62-year-old former facilities manager from Overland Park, Kan. More Photos >


Published: September 7, 2009

The New York Times

They were left out of the latest unemployment rate, as they are every month: millions of hidden casualties of the Great Recession who are not counted in the rate because they have stopped looking for work.

Slide Show

Faces of the Uncounted Unemployed

Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times

“There are thousands of people applying for every job I’m looking at.” RICK ALEXANDER, a master carpenter living in Florida More Photos »

But that does not mean these discouraged Americans do not want to be employed. As interviews with several of them demonstrate, many desperately long for a job, but their inability to find one has made them perhaps the ultimate embodiment of pessimism as this recession wears on.

Some have halted their job searches out of sheer frustration. Others have decided it makes more sense to become stay-at-home fathers or mothers, or to go back to school, until the job market improves. Still others have chosen to retire for now and have begun collecting Social Security or disability benefits, for which claims have surged.

Rick Alexander, a master carpenter in Florida who has given up searching after months of effort, said the disappointment eventually became unbearable.

“When you were in high school and kept asking the head cheerleader out for a date and she kept saying no, at some point you stopped asking her,” he said. “It becomes a ‘why bother?’ scenario.”

The official jobless rate, which garners the bulk of attention from politicians and the public, was reported on Friday to have risen to 9.7 percent in August. But to be included in that measure, which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from a monthly nationwide survey, a worker must have actively looked for a job at some point in the preceding four weeks.

For an increasing number of people in this country who would prefer to be working, that is not the case.

It is difficult to assign an exact figure, because of limitations in the data collected by the bureau, but various measures that capture discouragement have swelled in this recession.

In the most direct measure of job market hopelessness, the bureau has a narrow definition of a group it classifies as “discouraged workers.” These are people who have looked for work at some point in the past year but have not looked in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available or that they would not qualify, among other reasons. In August, there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began.

The bureau also has a broader category of jobless it calls “marginally attached to the labor force,” which includes discouraged workers as well as those who have stopped looking because of other reasons, like school, family responsibilities or health issues. But economists agree that many of these workers probably would have found a way to work in a good economy.

There were roughly 2.3 million people in this group in August, up from 1.4 million in November 2007. If the unemployment rate were expanded to include all marginally attached workers, it would have been 11 percent in August.

But even this figure is probably an undercount of the extent of the jobless problem in this country. There are about 1.4 million more people who are not in the labor force than when the recession began. Some of these are retirees, stay-at-home parents, people on disability and students. But it is also rather likely that many of these people have given up looking for work at least partly because of economic reasons as well.

Here are four people’s stories:

Rick Alexander: A Builder by Trade, With Too Much Time

In the worst case, Rick Alexander figured, he could scrounge up a job at Home Depot.

He was a master carpenter, after all. He had skills. He had run his own successful home-restoration business for 28 years.

In early 2008, however, he moved to Florida to take care of his ailing parents, leaving his business in Connecticut to his daughter.

After helping his parents into an assisted-living facility, he began applying for jobs. He devoted eight hours a day to the task, sometimes sending out three or four applications a day.

“It was a full-time job,” he said.

At first, he focused on jobs in construction, applying to be a site supervisor. He looked for anything within an hour’s commute of where he was living in Jensen Beach.

But the real estate industry had fallen off precipitously, bringing building to a near standstill. Mr. Alexander, 58, began branching out to suppliers, applying at lumberyards and other wholesalers. Eventually, he expanded his search to Home Depot, Lowe’s and mom-and-pop hardware stores. Finally, he began applying for “everything under the sun,” even the overnight shift at convenience stores.

By that summer, he had still received no callbacks for interviews. He went back to Connecticut for several weeks to do a renovation for an old client to earn some cash. When he returned to Florida in August 2008, he tried to start his own business, selling advertising on video displays mounted in coffee shops and other places.

He networked furiously with local businesses, but by then the economy had nose-dived. Mr.

(Page 2 of 3)

“There are thousands of people applying for every job I’m looking at, and potential employers won’t even give me the courtesy of acknowledging I applied,” he said. “The entirety of that causes me not to bother. It’s a waste of my time and theirs.”

Michael Stravato for The New York Times

“I was just discouraged, fed up and angry, feeling like my career had betrayed me.” JENNY SALINAS, a manager turned stay-at-home mother in Houston More Photos >

The Recession’s Impact

Faces, numbers and stories from behind the downturn.

Slide Show

Faces of the Uncounted Unemployed

He has applied to just two jobs this year, both several months ago. The unemployment rate in his area, Martin County, now exceeds 11 percent. After prodding from his companion, Dona Olinger, he went down to Home Depot a little over a month ago to re-activate his application there.

His savings are gone. He lives with Ms. Olinger, who makes $10 an hour as a volunteer coordinator at a food pantry, Harvest Food and Outreach Center, where they also get groceries every week. It is her salary that pays their rent.

Mr. Alexander’s parents have since moved out of the assisted-living facility and back into their home, so he tends to them most days. He reads Robert Ludlum novels. He sleeps. To fill his time, he is looking into volunteer work. The other day, he cut the grass on his small lawn using just a pair of clippers.

Ray Rucker: Feeling Counted Out With Years Still Left

Ray Rucker came home from a job interview several months ago, sat down in his living room with his suit still on and wept.

The meeting with the interviewer had lasted 10 minutes. The man did not even open a folder in front of him to study Mr. Rucker’s résumé. It was just “jibber jabber,” Mr. Rucker said later.

Mr. Rucker, who lives in Overland Park, Kan., had little doubt about what had happened. He is 62 years old and, as he puts it, “I look 62.”

He lost his job as a facilities manager for Starbucks in Kansas City and Wichita, Kan., last November, when the company closed hundreds of stores across the country. He had done similar work for years for other national restaurant chains and retail outlets.

He landed his first interview within a month, with a retail chain. He was invited back to talk to the vice president of operations and to the director of operations. He was also invited to meet with the company’s chief executive.

But as Mr. Rucker was finishing with the director of operations, she asked him straight out whether he was retiring soon. Shocked, Mr. Rucker answered, truthfully, that he planned to work at least 10 more years.

The meeting with the chief executive never came. Mr. Rucker said he thinks his interviewer simply did not believe he planned to continue working.

A month ago, he found a job posting that seemed tailored for him, a facilities manager for a national restaurant chain. He sent in his résumé and three days later got called for an interview. The company official said he was in a hurry to fill the position. But Mr. Rucker soon learned that this one, too, had slipped from his grasp.

“That’s the one when I kind of threw in the towel,” he said.

Mr. Rucker said he was done looking. His wife, who works at a small nonprofit organization, protested, saying there was more he could do to look.

“You don’t know what I’m going through,” Mr. Rucker said he told her.

“You send out so much, and you don’t get responses,” he said. “Then when you get called in, you’re treated like you’re too old. Why am I doing this?”

So he made an appointment with the local Social Security office to begin claiming benefits. He might try to get some kind of hourly job to help make ends meet. He has mapped out some home renovation projects he wants to do.

The Social Security checks will not equal even a third of what he used to make. But he is now preparing for semiretirement.

Jenny Salinas: From a Nonstop Career to a Focus on the Home

Jenny Salinas never envisioned being a stay-at-home mother, taking care of the children and keeping house. She was the one with the high-powered career, the six-figure salary, always jetting off to Russia or China.

She put her 5-year-old daughter, Mia, in day care when she was three months old. Mia got so used to her mother going away she would simply say, “Mommy’s on a trip,” and blow her kisses when she left.

But after searching unsuccessfully since January for a job, Mrs. Salinas, 37, said her priorities had shifted. She is now content to stay home and focus on her family. She and her husband are even talking about having more children.

“It’s just amazing how it changes your perspective on what’s important,” she said.

Mrs. Salinas had been a manager of corporate marketing and media relations at an oil and gas company in Houston, where she lives. She was so focused on her career, she said, that she never noticed her daughter had a lazy eye. Mrs. Salinas’s mother mentioned something to her, but only after Mrs. Salinas was laid off did she realize that her daughter needed to see an ophthalmologist.

Faces, numbers and stories from behind the downturn.

Slide Show

Faces of the Uncounted Unemployed

“That’s how much I was on my BlackBerry,” Mrs. Salinas said.

Mrs. Salinas was initially confident that she would land somewhere quickly. She seemed to be doing well, too, scoring interview after interview for senior-level corporate marketing positions. But each of those prospects dried up, usually because of a hiring freeze or some other obstacle.

So, for the last two months, she has not looked at all. Partly, she has been busy, selling their old house, moving into a new one they are renting at half the monthly expense, seeing her daughter off to kindergarten.

She is helped by the fact that her husband, a vice president at an advertising agency, still has his job. After the couple realized that her job search might take time, they decided to cut back on their spending.

She has in mind a specific set of companies, but they are all still not hiring. Unwilling to settle for just any job, she said, she would rather bide her time.

But the process of searching for work and coming up empty has also left her feeling spent.

“I was just discouraged, fed up and angry, feeling like my career had betrayed me,” she said.

Her daughter used to be in day care or preschool from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Mrs. Salinas began dropping her off later and picking her up earlier. Some days, they skip day care completely and while away the day together.

Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove: Moving From Serbia, Scraping By Online

Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove now occupies her days with arts and crafts projects. She makes a little money selling them online undefined $10 here, $50 there undefined but mostly it beats the sense of futility that used to envelop her each day during her quest to find a job.

“I stopped looking because that feeling of being rejected again and again is hard,” she said. “It’s just like somebody punching you in the face.”

Ms. Jovanovic-Grove, 41, has struggled to find work since she immigrated in late 2005 to the United States from her native Serbia, where she was a biology researcher at a prestigious research institute in Belgrade.

She had married an American, Doug Grove, 42, a Wal-Mart mechanic she met over the Internet. The couple initially lived in Glendale, Ariz., with their three children from previous marriages, but they moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., in late 2007.

They were attracted by the weather and the low crime rate. They also thought Ms. Jovanovic-Grove, who earned a master’s degree in Serbia in environmental protection and zoology, would have an easier time finding a job in an area rich with universities.

“I was really thinking I would have no problem,” she said.

The need for her to find work became more urgent after the couple took on thousands of dollars in additional debt after they turned their Arizona home over to a bank in lieu of a foreclosure settlement. They had been unable to sell it amid the state’s collapsing real estate market.

But aside from a few temporary jobs, Ms. Jovanovic-Grove has come up empty on everything from research assistant positions to retail jobs. Meanwhile, her husband’s hours at Wal-Mart, where he is paid a little more than $14 an hour, have been cut back.

In May, she stopped looking completely, concluding that the job market was saturated. Winston-Salem’s unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent.

“You figure out it’s just like when you toss a piece of meat at a pack of hungry cats,” she said. “I just gave up because I could not compete.”

Instead, she has turned to making wood handicrafts and selling them on, an online marketplace. The small payments she gets often mean she earns less than fifty cents an hour for her effort. But she reasoned it is better than wasting gas driving around applying for jobs she believes she cannot get.



Additional links to media stories about PIT

Click below for:

Wall Street Journal

Generally speaking, generalists are dead meat.

That's what Liz Wachsler discovered when she began seeking a full-time position as a strategic-marketing manager  15 months ago. Despite her impressive 11-year record with big-name businesses such as NBC, the marketing consultant lacked the highly specific experience that picky employers increasingly prefer.

One recruiter ignored her because she...      Click the link below to read the complete story. link 1




Job-Search Expert Revises His Advice for the Unemployed   by Joann S. Lublin


After his own layoff, an outplacement counselor gleaned powerful insights into how to cope and get back in the workforce, says Joann Lublin. (08/08/2007)





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