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Starting from scratch

As Santa Clarita's unemployment rate rises, workers look for new ways to find work

Posted: March 7, 2009 8:30 p.m.
Updated: March 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Sue Emerson of Valencia is a self-described "hope-aholic," but she admits that losing her job in January has taken a toll on her emotions and psyche.

"You have to be really honest about the facts of it, that you’re not alone," Emerson said. "But I have had the gambit. I have highs, I have lows. Some days, it’s just really hard to get out of bed because you don’t have a plan."

Emerson, in fact, isn’t even close to being alone: The city of Santa Clarita’s January unemployment rate stood at 6.6 percent, according to the Employment Development Department.

But that number was considerably better than Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, or the state rate of 10.6 percent.

"I think just pushing yourself out to network is a challenge when you really don’t feel like it — you want to just curl up in bed and not wake up," said Emerson, who is 64.

She’s been through all the questions: Who will want me, and who will hire me? The key is to take each day as if it’s your own and expect surprises, she said.

"You can’t give up," said Emerson. "You have to keep all the options open."

Dealing with job loss is a common situation at College of the Canyons’ Career Center. Counselors there are used to clients who feel panicked.

"There’s grief as if you’ve lost something when you’ve lost your job," said Anthony Michaelides, director of Career Services. "These people are not only losing their jobs, they’re losing their identities."

About 15 to 20 job seekers, which include College of the Canyons students and Santa Clarita Valley residents, visit the center each week, which is open to the public.

Career advisers meet on a one-on-one basis with the clients, who can use the center’s computers to job search.

The newly unemployed should immediately visit a career center, a WorkSource Center or a state unemployment office, Michaelides said.

Some choose to send their resume to every opening they can find, he said. But a plan could work better.

"My job is to get them focused and try to come up with a plan of action," Michaelides said.

He encourages job seekers who come to the community college’s Career Center to accept their loss of a job as soon as possible.

"They have these roadblocks in their minds," he said. "They have to start from scratch to get going again. We’re getting a lot of that here."

It’s a thought shared by Sue Reynolds of NewMarket Careers.

"You have to have a strategy, you have to think, you have to plan, you have to strategize and then you better work like crazy," Reynolds said. "But sitting at the computer pressing the ‘send’ key is not the way to do it."

Places like the WorkSource Center offer networking and job groups that allow job seekers to meet, network and share similar experiences, Michaelides said.

Job seekers should choose an industry they are interested in and figure out what skills they have that could transfer to their next jobs, Michaelides said.

"It’s a lot of customizing," Michaelides said. "What do you have that can be good and profitable to this company?"

Despite the recession, jobs are still available, Michaelides said, and he encourages job seekers to come up with creative ways to conduct their job searches.

One idea is to visit company Web sites directly instead of searching on traditional job-search Web sites, he said.

Many companies are cutting back on their job postings at sites like Monster.com because they charge companies for postings.

Looking for open jobs in the local community can give applicants an advantage.

"They’re looking for local residents in most cases," he said.

Retooling and updating the resume is another key step toward landing the next job.

"We would sit down with them and look for transferable skills," Michaelides said.

Reynolds knows of two people who recently acquired six-figure jobs after being laid off from six-figure jobs.

"Case A" was an individual who participated a great deal in community philanthropic activities. Networking through those philanthropic activities won the individual a new job.

Reynolds said she worked with "Case B" to target companies and types of industries that fit the individual’s strengths and capabilities.

"They were (both) very prepared to talk about themselves if the opportunity arose," Reynolds said.

"Neither of these are examples of somebody submitting a resume, getting an interview and then getting a job offer," she said. "These were multi-layered, several conversations, several meetings and really hard work and careful thinking."

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