Sunday, April 4, 2004

Job rounds: Can't beat face-to-face

Daily Grind

John Eckberg

It may be an apocryphal story, but I don't think so.

My older brother, Dale, decided three decades back that since everybody or nearly everybody we knew was getting laid off, seemed to be getting laid off or flat out had a lousy job, it was time to leave our hometown of Akron and head west.

He would chisel out a work future somewhere near the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

It was the mid-1970s and there was a traffic jam of workers leaving Akron. Brother Dale had no real clue where he would actually get a job when he got to Denver, but he soon figured it out: He wanted to be a meter reader.

So every week on Monday morning, he put on a tie and sports coat, ironed his trousers, shined his shoes and trudged down to the utility company to apply for work as a meter reader.

One week soon turned into too many weeks to count. Still Dale showed up. He found temporary work elsewhere, but he never missed his weekly appointment-of-sorts at the utility.

Then one day, miracle of miracles, there was an opening. Who was the first person who came to mind for the human resources staff? Brother Dale.

His perseverance paid off, and he has had a long career at the utility.

His story is important for this reason: Answering help-wanted ads is nice, resumes are nice and networking is nice, too, but nothing beats face-to-face contact for anybody who wants a new job.

Unemployment in 2004 does not have a whole lot in common with unemployment in 1974, says Kimberly Anderson, an unemployed 34-year-old Hyde Park resident.

Anderson is a laid-off television program executive who is now about to lose her temporary secretarial job, too.

"I called (the temporary employee agency) on Feb. 12 and since then I've worked only eight days," Anderson says.

"I would go in and annoy the heck out of them, but the only positions available were part-time secretarial positions that would turn into full-time positions."

Because those jobs did not pay enough to support her, Anderson balked at accepting positions on a semi-permanent basis. She knows she would only quit as soon as a non-minimum wage offer came along.

That would not be fair to the company or to the temporary employment service that found her work.

In the meantime, her unemployment compensation has run out, and the rent on her apartment is due.

How is she going to get by? "Maybe with a little help from my friends," Anderson says.

"The irony of all this is that here I am, a Gen-Xer, and I'm at the age when I wanted to be thinking about how I could help out my parents. Instead, they're having to still help me out."

How many other parents are out there doing the same thing for their Gen-X-aged children, she wonders.

One other question also occupies her on the afternoons when she returns home from the temp job: When will this jobless recovery end?


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