NSCN Member Success Story: Rich

Read this Q & A with job seeker Rich to hear which strategies he utilized to help him land a job.

Success Story: A Q & A with Rich

What is your new job?

New Job Title: Site Director at a Staffing Agency in Southern New Jersey,,The organization that I will be working for is a staffing agency for individuals with disabilities. I will be supervising the office that services Southern New Jersey. Job duties include training staff, establishing relationships with other community organizations and businesses, screening candidates for jobs, and performing general office administration tasks.

Is this new job in a different occupation or industry for you? If so, how did you position yourself to make the change?

Yes, this job is in an entirely new industry for me.

Previously I was a technical expert and sales manager in a Fortune 500 corporation that sold products to television and motion picture customers. I was on the technical side of the business, but in sales and marketing. Much of my background was in managing projects and people. When applying to positions in other industries, I promoted my management and sales background putting particular emphasis on my success in developing close relationships with customers and my effectiveness in building strong teams and developing people.

What type of career/job did you have before you were unemployed?

Prior to being downsized in 2010, I had a 37-year career in the photographic film industry. The last 25 years were in the regional offices of the motion picture sales & marketing organization. During that time I was a sales representative, a sales manager and a technical manager. In my last job, I was the technical expert in the region, advising and assisting customers with the use of our products and services.

How long were you unemployed before finding a new job?

Immediately after being downsized, I explored new career paths. The first was in the insurance industry where I became a licensed agent. However, insurance sales was not a good fit for me and with the help of the New Jersey Department of Labor, I became a licensed mortgage agent and was hired by a local mortgage agency. Unfortunately that agency went out of business three months later. My next adventure was in the annuities business. Once again I trained and became licensed to sell annuities, but this was too similar to the insurance industry and I realized I just was not interested in building my own financial business. Finally I landed a technical job with a local manufacturing company where I directed quality operations. After a year, I was offered a technical writing job with the U.S. government. I saw this as an excellent fit for my background, and I was excited about the possibilities, although it was 250 miles from home. After seven months, the contract under which I was engaged expired and was not renewed. I returned home and spent the next 11 months searching for a new job.

What was most challenging about your job search?

I came from an industry that was in serious decline. I was a technical person and   technology changed the industry in very dramatic ways. There were no job opportunities for my skills and background, so I needed to convince employers that my basic technical, sales, and management skills were transitional to their industries/businesses. I networked endlessly and I subscribed to multiple job boards. I posted to over 350 jobs that I felt I was qualified for. I included cover letters explaining my background and highlighting my particular skills/background. For each application, I researched the company website as well as LinkedIn looking for company contacts. If I found a key individual, I sent them a personal email or snail mail letter expressing my interest in the posted job. Several times, I also got in my car and drove to local businesses and companies who I had applied to and dropped off my resume. I would ask to see an HR person but was usually told, “they don't see anyone without an appointment.” Many of the positions I applied to were basic administrative type or entry-level jobs for which I was easily qualified. I rarely heard back from anyone except to say “thanks for your application.” I became convinced that either 1) no one wanted to hire an older worker; and/or 2) since I had held high-level management positions previously, no one wanted to hire me into a more entry-level job.

What strategies or tools helped you get this job?

After completing a career transition program at Lee Hecht Harrison, I continued my “job search” education by taking advantage of seminars focusing on resume writing, job interviewing, networking, and job searching. These were programs offered by job search groups and presented by a variety of career counselors (Alex Freund, Abby Kohut, etc.). Besides job searching on the internet, I attended job fairs and I joined industry organizations such as ChemPharma and the American Chemical Society. Networking with members of these organizations became a big part of my job search effort. I also attended many different job search group meetings and I connected with people that shared a similar background to me. I added to my LinkedIn connections and I joined a small job search group that met weekly to review each other’s plans and progress. The members of the group provided encouragement and support to each other that was invaluable. I also joined the New Start Career Network where I asked for, and was assigned, a career coach. My coach met with me regularly and helped guide me to the industries and positions that were best suited for my background and experience.

How did you learn about the New Start Career Network (NSCN)?

One of the job search groups that I regularly attended is the Professional Services Group in Princeton. At their weekly meeting on Friday morning, they present a program targeted at assisting job seekers. Maria Heidkamp was the featured speaker at one of these meetings and after listening to her presentation, I learned that the particular focus of the New Start Career Network was assisting older workers. When I came home I accessed the NSCN website and registered.

In what ways did NSCN assist you in your job search?

After registering with NSCN I regularly accessed their job board searching for local opportunities and was assigned a career coach who met regularly with me to review my job search activities. My Coach also forwarded me information concerning specific job postings that she thought might be of interest. In fact the posting for my current job was one that she alerted me to. I sent her my resume, which was forwarded to Maria Heidkamp. Maria submitted my resume to GoodTemps along with her recommendation.

How did working with a NSCN Career Coach help you professionally and/or personally?

Meeting with my career coach was an uplifting experience. Searching for a job is a lonely and demoralizing process and having someone listen to my frustrations and offer advice was a lifesaver in many ways. During our meetings we would review my job postings and my Coach would advise me concerning positions which were the most promising. She was straightforward about jobs that were really “long shots” and was able to focus me in a more meaningful career search.

What advice would you give to other NSCN members?

Take advantage of the opportunity to work with a career coach. Utilize the job board on NSCN's website. Career Builder, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, etc. are all good resources but they do not produce much success. Get out from behind the computer screen and out of the house. Join community and industry organizations and Network! Network! Network!  Find others who share a similar background. Join local job search groups such as PSG. And if possible join a small search group that supports each other. Persevere – sooner or later the right opportunity will come along and the person will contact you. And always remember you are loved by family, friends, and God.

What recommendations would you make to NSCN to better help job seekers?

Absolutely continue providing career coaches to those who ask! This was my lifeline and kept me going when I was ready to give up. Continue promoting this and your other services to job seekers.

On the technical side, the job board is very useful but a bit difficult to use. Jobs are searchable by location but other features should be implemented. For instance, the jobs should be searchable by date, title, etc.

Finally, NSCN has been an advocate for the older worker. Employers need to appreciate the value that older workers can bring to their workforce. Continue these efforts and develop other creative ways to connect with New Jersey companies who can benefit from hiring “experienced” job seekers.