Local News

Laid-off workers need flexibility, persistence

Posted November 14, 2008 6:43 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2008 7:18 p.m. EST

— Laid-off workers need flexibility and persistence to find new jobs in this tight labor market, experts say.

In the five Triangle counties, at least 20 companies have reported layoffs and 18 more have closed since the nationwide financial crisis began in mid September.

"It's difficult, because you know what you can do ... but right now, you're just a name with about 500 candidates applying for the same job," said Steve Tovish, who said he was let go after 15 years with a mortgage-banking firm.

For the last few months, an average of 17,000 job-seekers have hit the Raleigh offices of the state Employment Security Commission – double from the first half of the year.

Stacey Jackson, a laid-off regional-sales manager, said he understands that finding a new job might be the toughest one he's had.

"I'm talking to a lot of people right now, but there's an extremely lot of people unemployed right now," Jackson said.

Jackson said he's been "beating the pavement every day" and had 15 to 20 interviews – for jobs as far away as Wisconsin and Ohio –  in the past month but no offers. "More people are in the mode of cutting back than looking to hire," he said.

Being open to new career paths is key to finding new employment, said Gene Norton, manager of the ESC office in Raleigh.

The majority of unemployed workers who visited the ESC in Raleigh identified themselves as members of the professional, technical and managerial field. The second-highest category was clerical.

Tovish said he has been looking for ways to transfer his skills as a mortgage banker into another industry. He lost his job three months ago as part of a wave of layoffs.

"They said, 'Thank you for your services, and good-bye,'" Tovish said. Since, he has been working on his resume and plans to attend a workshop on polishing his job interview skills.

Jackson became a victim of the building slump when his employer, distributor Atlantic Plywood Corporation, did layoffs a month ago. He said he is looking outside the building industry for his next job.

"It may not necessarily be what you want, but it may something you can work into what you want," Jackson said.

Patience and persistence will also be necessary for job-seekers, Norton said: In Wake County, the average job search has stretched out to 15 weeks.

"There are jobs out there," Norton said. "It's a matter of putting yourself in a position so that you know about it when it happens, to get one step ahead of other job seekers."

Jackson said he learned those lessons when he was laid off from a telecommunications company in the 1980s.

"They had 2,400 people laid off in one day," he said. "If I can survive that, I can survive this."