Coke Whitworth/Aurora Photos for NPR
Carol Hull, who was laid off from Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C., is on the hunt for a job "from 8 a.m. to 6 at night." The 55-year-old former executive says she's not looking for a job, but
Carol Hull, who was laid off from Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C., is on the hunt for a job "from 8 a.m. to 6 at night." The 55-year-old former executive says she's not looking for a job, but the job. Coke Whitworth/Aurora Photos for NPR
About This Series
As the U.S. struggles with a deepening recession on track to become the worst in more than two generations, the impact is being felt across all states, industries and income levels. Meet some of the faces behind America's unemployment numbers. NPR will be checking back with them periodically as they hunt for that increasingly hard-to-find commodity: a job.
Carol Hull has been out of work since the middle of February, when she was laid off from her vice president position at Bank of America's headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. But Hull stays almost as busy looking for a new job as she was when she had one.
"I do this from 8 a.m. to 6 at night," Hull said as she looked over her schedule on a recent Thursday morning. There were 26 items on her electronic calendar for the day, most of them related to her job search. She had lunch and dinner appointments with business contacts, several job applications she intended to complete, and some companies she planned to research.
"Most days, I have part of the day when I'm out of the house to do networking," she says.
At Bank of America, Hull worked in what businesspeople call "Q-and-P," or the quality and productivity division, where she took on projects such as improving the bank's e-commerce operation. She had a generous salary and an office in an uptown Charlotte skyscraper.
Now her workspace is her dining room, where she points to a large table covered with files and job-hunting supplies.
"I've got a folder with 'no's,' where I applied for some job and I was told no," Hull says. "I've got another one for what's in process. I've got a clock. I've got a Post-it here to remind me when I'm on telephone interviews to smile."
She also has a pet cockatiel named Jack, who chirps nearby and sometimes bursts into song while Hull is on the phone with recruiters.
"That's not too good, but I talk about the bird," Hull says. "We stop talking about the job, and the person may have a bird themselves."
Better Off Than Many Unemployed
Like a lot of unemployed people, Hull hadn't been planning to undertake this job search. When she landed her bank job two years ago, after more than a decade in manufacturing, she thought she'd stay there the rest of her career. Indeed, Bank of America has been a stable pillar of the Charlotte business community for more than a century. But last month, Hull's job became one of more than 30,000 the now-troubled company is eliminating.
"I was told at 10 in the morning, and I was gone by the end of the day," she says.
The layoff will have a major impact on Hull's finances. She's the family's main breadwinner because the business her husband owns — a gear and bearings company — isn't making money.
Still, Hull realizes she's better off than many unemployed people. Bank of America gave two months' severance pay, and she and her husband have saved enough to get by for several more months. Hull calls the bank an excellent employer and says she left with no bitterness.
"I just know that due to business situation changes that these things come up, and it's not personal," she says.
At 55 years old, Hull is on the job market for the fourth time in her life. She spends her days looking at Web sites, e-mailing resumes and networking with employers and other job seekers.
Emotional Benefits From Face Time
At a Charlotte coffee house, Hull recently caught up with five other people who also used to work at the bank. From one of them, she learned of a possible marketing job at a local retailer. She also gave some contact names to a former co-worker who's looking for a finance position.
"There are fewer jobs that I see posted, so I'm stepping up the networking," she says.
Aside from the practical information exchanged at the networking meetings, Hull and her colleagues say they benefit emotionally. In an era when employment searches often are carried out online and interviews are conducted over the phone, job seekers say they simply need some face time.
"There were some people that just went home and they've been sitting on the couch for a week watching TV, and those folks seem very sad, very negative," says Barbara Morrow, who's been keeping up with several of her laid-off co-workers. "The people who are out doing what Carol is doing, those people feel good, really positive about the future and about what's going to come from this."
Morrow, Hull, and the others vow to retain that positive outlook as they seek employment, though they have no illusions the search will be easy. Hull says she expects to remain unemployed for at least six months, but adds that she has no plans to ease up on her busy schedule until she lands a position.
"I'm not looking for a job, I'm looking for the job," Hull says.