Job hunting: ‘Frustrating’

Published 1:11 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

While many area residents will enjoy a day off from work Monday, which is Labor Day, other residents wish they had a job to go to — even on Labor Day.
“I would love to be going to work Monday,” said Lisa Cutler Respess, 48, who’s been without a job since October 2010.
“I worked in wireless-telephone sales,” Respess said. “I had been there two years.”
Respess was one of five full-time employees eventually let go in favor of part-time employees. By using only part-time employees, the employer did not have to pay for benefits the full-time employees received, she said.
Since nearly a year ago, Respess has been looking for work — without success. Her unemployment benefits are scheduled to end in October. Her search for a job has been challenging.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Respess said about her effort to find a job. “I had not had to look for a job in years.”
During those years, the preferred method of applying for a job changed, Respess said.
“Before, you would get in your car, drive to a prospective employer and hand them your application,” Respess said. “Now, it’s different. Everything is online.”
So, she continues to submit applications online, a process she describes as frustrating and impersonal.
“I have probably emailed out — my goal is two or three a day if I can find the jobs to apply for,” Respess said. “The most frustrating part is that it’s all on online. God bless these people who don’t know how to use a computer.”
How efficient is submitting applications online?
“You don’t event get a reply from 75 percent of them,” Respess said.
Respess isn’t picky when it comes to finding a job.
“At this point, I am looking for anything that will pay my bills,” Respess said. “Anything that comes up.”
Finding a job that provides benefits and health insurance would be a major coup, she said. Respess is willing to “start at the bottom of the ladder” and work herself up to a job she would prefer to have.
“I began working — the first job I could drive to — when I was 16. I was a waitress,” Respess said. “This is the longest I have not been working in my life. I don’t like not working.”
Respess wants to work.
“It gives you purpose. It makes you feel liking you are accomplishing something,” she said.
Finally, a job
After searching for a job from March to August, Crystal Holman found a job as an administrative assistant last month. Holman wasn’t terminated from her last job with an area radio station, she left it voluntarily. Holman said she was spending the majority of her paycheck on gasoline to drive to and from work.
“It was extremely frustrating. It seemed like it was a task that would never end and never have a ray of light at the end of the tunnel,” Holman said. “All together, I probably sent out — and this is a conservative estimate — 200 to 300 resumés.”
Although she had several interviews that gave her hope of landing a job, those didn’t work out for several reasons, Holman said. She talked about some of those reasons.
“‘Well, we can’t hire you because you’re not bilingual,’” Holman said, “which they didn’t advertise for one job. Another time was, ‘Well, you’re not bonded,’ which they didn’t advertise for — which could have been told to you before they even interviewed you. You know, it’s like that setup for failure.”
Situations like that are difficult to deal with, she said.
“Strong people can handle it for a couple of months … especially if you are out there every day striving to get a job, but even for the strongest people it starts getting depressing after a while,” Holman said. “Then you get desperate and start looking at places like McDonald’s … where you know you are not going to make enough money to survive, but it’s some money coming in, at least. And even those places were very selective when I was looking for a job.”
“It was extremely frustrating, depressing, but always just that little kernel inside of you, knowing you needed to work, you need to go out there, kept you going,” Holman said.
“I looked hard-core day after day, even weekends, from March until August,” she said. “Until finally I was able to luck up and catch the right job at the right time. I made a good impression. … Finally, a yes after a million (rejections).”
Holman said most of her job searches were online because “that’s what a lot of them (employers) seem to prefer nowadays.”
“That’s convenient if you’re at home, but it leaves this huge X factor because if you’re sending out 20, 30 resumés a day sometimes, and you’re not hearing anything back, not getting any input … you feel vague, like you’re in this void in space where nobody even knows you exist,” Holman said.
Holman said relying and family and friends to help her pay her bills added stress to her job-search efforts. Holman lives with her sister, who supported her as she looked for work. That relationship became stressed, Holman acknowledges.
“I can only imagine with the desperation I felt, how someone who doesn’t have that to rely on, how they feel,” Holman said.
Holman offered advice to people who are looking for jobs.
“My advice is just stay with it. It will happen. It may seem like it never will, but it will,” said Holman, who found her new job online.
Job prospects
The prospects for those unemployed people finding work are not good, according to unemployment data and those who try to find work for the jobless.
In July, 2,381 people in the county’s 21,070-member work force did not have jobs. That made for an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission. But those figures don’t include people whose unemployment benefits have run out. People who have stopped looking for work are not included in the work force.
In August, Business Insider listed North Carolina (10.1 percent unemployment) as No. 8 on its list of the top-10 states with the largest employment problems. Nevada, with 12.1 percent unemployment, topped the list. Alabama, with 10 percent unemployment, was No. 10 on the list. The jobless rates are for July.
In North Carolina, the state’s 10.3-percent jobless rate includes government workers who lost jobs because of reductions in the state’s budget, said Patrick Oswalt, supervisor of the ESC office in Washington. Most of those job losses came in one employment category he said.
“Statewide and county by county, it was predominantly education,” Oswalt said.
When it comes to reducing the jobless rate — at the county, area and state levels — Oswalt seeks ways to do that.
Asked how the recently announced plans for expansion of P & G Manufacturing in Beaufort County or other job opportunities at manufacturers such as Fountain Powerboats near Chocowinity could influence the unemployment situation in Beaufort County, Oswalt said, “Fountain has been calling a lot of their folks back. So, those folks who were filing Fountain claims, I’d say more than half of those folks are already back to work at Fountain.”
As for the P & G Manufacturing expansion, “I have not heard any announcement on P & G or had any contact with P & G, so I really don’t know how to answer that,” Oswalt said. “If they will contact us if they have employment needs, I’m sure we have some skilled workers that will be glad to go to work.”
If someone has a job to fill, Oswalt wants to know about it.
“I would be glad to expose any employer in Beaufort County, or any surrounding county for that matter, who have job openings, I would encourage them to call and let us know and let’s get those job openings exposed to unemployment-insurance claimants,” Oswalt said. “If the jobs are exposed to them, then we can positively affect our unemployment rate and get some folks back to work. But if we don’t know the openings are there, there’s not much we can do there.”
Asked which work-force component in Beaufort County has been hit the hardest by unemployment, Oswalt replied immediately: “Manufacturing.”
Does he see anything replacing manufacturing as a key part of the county’s economy? “Not yet,” he said. “There’s always hope, though.”
Oswalt said he sees the potential to grow jobs in the medical/health-care field, but not necessarily because of the recent management change at the local hospital.
“I would say yes, but traditionally there’s always growth in the medical field, regardless of a takeover or buyout. There are always increases in health-care jobs, whether it be with private placement agencies, hospitals and doctors’ offices,” Oswalt said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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