A Job Hunter Survives Layoffs on Both Coasts

Job-hunting requires investigating every opportunity, giving Oscar-winning performances and not taking rejection personally. I was laid off twice in 11 months and looking for work, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, was harder than my toughest job. For the record, that was working on the canning line in a salmon cannery for three summers during college.

When all this started in 2001, I began referring to myself as “Unemployed Girl” to my friends and the name seemed to stick. So how did Unemployed Girl and her dog Bandit, who both love to sleep late, get out of bed every day before a.m. turned to p.m.? Where did we get the strength to turn on the computer, cell phone and Palm Pilot and work full time at the infamous unemployment gig?

Our day started with the unemployment breakfast of champions: “The Today Show” and hot chocolate. Then came mental ammunition that involved believing in myself and knowing I was the only one who could make things happen. In this department, I was fortunate to have incredible support and encouragement from family, friends and former and new business contacts.

Focused on Career

Like so many other people, I had made my career the center of my life. I followed the rules, worked hard and ascended the ladder of success in responsibility and pay. My climb included print and online sales jobs in Los Angeles at E! Online, Citysearch, Working Woman and Los Angeles magazines.

In 2001, I was at the height of my career as vice president of ad sales at E! Online. My job included managing a team of 18, overseeing revenue and budgets and working closely with the TV sales team. I loved the job, along with the E! Online family and other great people at E!.

But when company-wide layoffs at E! took place in November 2001, this so-called family of 4 1/2 years kicked me out of the house. Within an hour of receiving my notice, I tearfully packed my belongings, left my corner office and said my good-byes.

I remember arriving home, numb and exhausted, but happily greeted by Bandit (there’s something to be said for woman’s best friend). I then proceeded to do one of the most important things after getting the ax — drink, and heavily. A bottle of fine Chardonnay comforted the newest member of the unemployed team.

Beginning the Adventure

The next morning, in a state of shock that prevented me from having a nasty hangover, the unemployment adventure began. I’ll spare you all the details that everyone checks off as soon as possible — signing up for unemployment benefits, updating the resume, registering at online job sites and sending e-mails to everyone you’ve ever worked with, called on, dated or met.

Every day was a mental and physical roller coaster. On some days, I wouldn’t receive any calls or go on any interviews. On others, I would meet everyone at a company (including the janitor) and still not get an offer. I had rejections galore for every possible reason — “The job is on hold,” “It’s a tough market,” “We’ve seen so many good people.” The list was endless.

Staying positive, having faith and maintaining a sense of humor kept me sane (relatively, that is) and able to take the rejection. I also knew that when I had a really bad day, tomorrow had to be a better one.

The persistence, creativity and people skills I learned from being in sales helped immensely. Job hunters forget the basics, which is to treat others the way you want to be treated. How would you like it if someone called you several times a week to see if you received her resume, request a meeting or to “network” in the worst way — with a poor attitude, no manners or grating personality? The stories employers, human-resources professionals and recruiters have told me about how candidates behave are appalling.

Not to seem biased, those on the hiring side also should remember the golden rule. You, too, could be on the other side of the desk someday!

After nearly a year of job hunting, everything came together. I accepted an offer as consumer-advertising director with Variety magazine last July and happily closed my chapter on unemployment. This led me to relocate from Los Angeles to New York, but the depressed advertising climate struck again three months later. Once more, I was out on the streets. This time, it was in a new city — one that moves a million miles a minute, 24 hours a day, except on Fridays in the summer.

Back On the Streets

Round two of unemployment was no more fun than the first, but I still saw the glass as half full. I was a job-hunting veteran now, more confident about getting interviews as well as putting on that award-winning performance. I also shared my vast knowledge about the job market and suggestions with potential employers.

In addition, I again helped other job hunters, whom I met through friends, former colleagues and such networking groups as Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and mediabistro.com. I became their coach, giving them my favorite “stay positive, have faith and keep your sense of humor” pep talk.

Employed or not, I know how to handle challenges and try to turn them into opportunities. It’s during the tough moments that you demonstrate your true colors and what you are made of. Your abilities and strengths should be measured at times like these, not when everything is going well.

Back On the Payroll

Eight months after starting my second job hunt, my efforts again paid off. I recently accepted an offer as an account manager with MTV Networks Online. Now I can exchange the title “Unemployed Girl” for “Working Girl.” It feels good to have a job, a paycheck and the other benefits that come from working again (hopefully for a long time, too). Now, if only it were easier for Bandit and me to get out of bed in the morning when the alarm clock goes off!

If I could keep smiling after being jobless in New York City during the worst winter in years, a horrible economy and a war, you can, too — no matter what city you’re in. Tell yourself and believe that your offer is coming, and “the fat lady will be singing soon.”

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