Workzone: Job search is hardest for the unemployed


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The economic recovery is not unlike many athletic achievements -- it carries an asterisk. (See: unemployment.)

The national unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6.6 percent with most economists noting it would be even higher if millions of people hadn't left the labor force.

"Welcome to the brave new world of job insecurity," Dwain Schenck wrote in his book, "Reset: How to Beat the Job-Loss Blues and Get Ready for Your Next Act," published last year by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

The former TV reporter turned entrepreneur, turned corporate communications director, turned desperately unemployed knows his subject intimately.

"Denial is the biggest thing" facing someone who has just been laid off, Mr. Schenck said in a phone interview. Until a person comes to grips with the reality of being without a paycheck, finding a new job will be nearly impossible.

"The emotional side of unemployment is something few people discuss," Mr. Schenck writes.

The emotional paralysis is even stronger for the long-term unemployed.

Acknowledging that "the unemployed candidate is always the underdog in any job market," Mr. Schenck said a person who has been out of work for an extended period needs to redouble the effort to find work.

"You start to feel better if you start to see movement," he said, recommending the goal of talking to five people a day and finding five job opportunities.

The three secrets to finding a job, he said, start with "becoming a student of the process of looking for a job. Searching for a job is a full-time job."

Secondly, job seekers need to have realistic expectations. "It will take a while to find a job in this market, six months or more."

Finally, don't go it alone, Mr. Schenck said. "Isolating yourself kills your chances to find a new job," as you become depressed and lose confidence. He urged people to join a job search team for support.

But if you do land an interview, pray it isn't like one of the many disastrous interviews outlined in "Reset" -- from the person who decided that the job description no longer applied to the position, to the interviewer who talked for 28 minutes about himself "when he wasn't taking phone calls," finally to the woman who in the middle of the interview started eating pistachios and checking her Twitter feed on her smartphone.

"The No. 1 thing [interviewers] have to do is put themselves in the shoes of the people they are interviewing," Mr. Schenck said. "They lose sight that they are talking to another human being ... The entire country has become uncivil toward job seekers."

Maybe not the entire country.

"Reset" includes a passage where Stephen Shearman from Walmart interviews Mr. Schenck for a job he ultimately does not get, but the process is in stark contrast to the others.

"It was the most refreshing hourlong conversation I had ever had with an HR professional," he wrote. "He was upfront and transparent about the interview process and explained in satisfactory detail what the expectations were for the job."

Mr. Schenck wanted to share the experience. "I called him to ask if I could use the example in the book," he recalled. "He is the poster child of all recruiters.

"Can you imagine how much good talent walks in and walks out without the head of the company knowing what they are missing" because the interview process is so poor?

"The biggest mistake a lot of companies make is turning their HR people into recruiters as well."

Brian Hyslop: bhyslop@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1936.


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