The Road Back To Work: Randy Howland

Randy Howland, 51, of St. Louis, lost his job in September 2009.  He found new work in February 2011, only to lose that job about six months later.
Whitney Curtis for NPR

Status: Hired January 9, 2012 (after 4 months searching, he had previously been unemployed 17 months)

Position: Customer service/collections

Resumes sent out since job loss: More than 600 the first time around.

Age: 51

Education: Master's in telecommunications management

When not searching for jobs, I enjoy... Mardi Gras in St. Louis, music, spicy fun ethnic food, swimming, baseball and garage sales.

Randy Howland, 51, is glad to be working again. He spent four months at the end of 2011 searching for work, again, the second time in one calendar year.

He's working in collections for a financial institution, working with people who are behind on their mortgages. He gathers information and figures out what opportunities there might be for a loan modification or refinance.

"There's not as much pressure on me to close the deal necessarily," says Howland, who feels he lost his last job in part because he didn't push hard enough to sell products to clients. "[I'll] figure things out and then make a recommendation and then let somebody else take over at that point."

This new job hits close to home for Howland, who faced foreclosure himself at the depths of his job search.

Even as Howland was working in the spring and summer of 2011, his wife, Lisa, had to take a second job working at a beauty supply store to help pay the mortgage.

"I am happy for her, but at the same time, I should be the one that's got the good job," says Howland on the morning Lisa is set to start her new job.

Howland has a master's degree in telecommunications management. He had a six-figure salary back in 2002. But that job and income level are distant memories. Since then, he has held a series of much lower-paying jobs.

Howland's problem is his expertise was valuable in a telecom industry that doesn't exist anymore, at least as he knew it.

"I've had people look at my resume that said, 'Hey, no, no, no. You've got to remove that — that's technology from the, you know, '20s or something,'" Howland says. "It makes me look out of touch."

Howland and his wife used to love traveling. They also liked to explore all the hot new restaurants in St. Louis. But they haven't been on a vacation in nine years and almost never go out.

Audio Diary

The six people in our series The Road Back To Work are chronicling the ups and downs of their job searches by keeping audio diaries this year. Updates will be posted here regularly.

Audio diary, Aug. 31, 2011: "Maybe go out to dinner again, once a month, twice a month. "

Audio diary, June 4, 2011: "I've had my $10-an-hour job for four months."

Audio diary, Mar. 31, 2011: "Our mortgage was due today."

Audio diary, Feb. 25, 2011: "I think there's 17 of us left."

Audio diary, Feb. 16, 2011: "I'm supposed to get a 90 or above on every test."

Audio diary, Jan. 6, 2011: "…I better be making some bacon."

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