When The Job Hunt Becomes A Job In Itself As more people join the nation's unemployment rolls, Farai Chideya talks about the finer points of job hunting with Marshawn Evans — co-founder of an African-American-focused employment search Web site — and job seeker Toni Rice.
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When The Job Hunt Becomes A Job In Itself

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When The Job Hunt Becomes A Job In Itself

When The Job Hunt Becomes A Job In Itself

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From NPR News, this is News and Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.

We've been looking at America's growing unemployment crisis from a lot of angles, including the personal ones. On Monday, we caught up with News & Notes listener James Smith about his job search struggle.

Mr. JAMES SMITH: The work I find here, they're saying I'm overqualified - what work there is being offered. And other people just not responding at all. So I'm finding it's almost impossible to find a job. So I'm kind of gearing up to leave.

CHIDEYA: He's talking about trying to find work overseas. But we're going to dig today into what works when it comes to finding work. Joining us now, we've got Marshawn Evans. She's a founding member of the African-American job search website, amightyriver.com. Welcome.

Ms. MARSHAWN EVANS (Co-founder, Amightyriver.com): Thank you, Farai. Great to be here.

CHIDEYA: So, we just heard a little bit of our interview with James Smith. There are a lot of people out there looking. So what are the main issues that you're finding as you from a professional standpoint look at the issues facing job seekers?

Ms. EVANS: Well, James Smith's situation is actually very common right now. I think one of the biggest challenges in the - one of the most common trends that we're seeing first and foremost when someone loses a job or is in transition is emotional despair. There's a lot of anxiety about being able to secure alternative employment and just dealing with the shock of being laid off.

And so what's really important is that individuals have access to quality resources to reenter the job search arena and really accessing pockets of growth because there is hiring taking place. We really just have to connect people like James to the places where opportunity is happening.

And sites like amightyriver.com are wonderful resources for African-Americans. We're finding that over 200 to 300 jobs a day are being landed on our site. And just this morning, we found that there were over 40,000 jobs available in the top 15 categories being searched. So there are opportunities out there.

CHIDEYA: So why would you target a search site specifically for African-Americans? Why do you think that it's important to be specific about that?

Ms. EVANS: Well, there is - there's a certain affinity that's created when it comes to community-based networking. And when I say community-based networking, we're talking about giving something before you look to receive. And the common approach to networking is looking to receive something before you get it.

And so when you look at a community of African-Americans who are there to support and help each other, you're creating an authentic network. And what people have today, I think, are primarily unauthentic networks or just mere associations.

And so having a site like A Mighty River, where you've got a community of African-American professionals there for one common purpose, to share resources, to share information, is critical, and it's also more effective because if you find out about a job opportunity through word of mouth, you're more likely to be considered for that job, more likely to have a greater rate of return. And so that's a resource that African-Americans have not been using in terms of being online doing that, but it's critical if we're going to stay competitive in this economy.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, we've got someone who definitely wants to stay competitive. Toni Rice is based in New Orleans, works in hospitality and tourism, but looking to relocate to Houston. How are you?

Ms. TONI RICE: I'm great. How are you?

CHIDEYA: Great. So tell me a little bit about your situation. What are you looking for? When are you moving? Why are you moving?

Ms. RICE: I am looking to relocate to Houston. My husband was transferred, and I'm looking to stay within the hospitality and tourism industry and hopefully find something in Houston within the next two to three months. So I've started my job search just kind of getting out leads, networking, and talking to people in the industry, trying to find out what's available in that area.

CHIDEYA: Are you in Houston already, or you're still in New Orleans?

Ms. RICE: No.


Ms. RICE: I'm still in New Orleans.

CHIDEYA: So you're facing the issue of trying to do a remote job search, where you are looking for jobs in a city where you're not living. And let me go back and ask Marshawn about this. When you're not living in the same city that you want to find a job in, what are the special challenges, and how do you try to bridge those?

Ms. EVANS: Well, the first thing is, a lot of times people think it's a disadvantage not to be local. And I don't think that's a challenge as much so as people might think given the advent of the Internet and the advances that we have with Web 2.0 technology because what you can do now is essentially create a virtual network before you're ever even in your new city, and you can start to create very meaningful relationships before you get there. As an entrepreneur, I'm constantly looking to establish new opportunities in different cities, and I usually try to figure out my marketplace before I enter.

And so what I would suggest for Toni is to connect with the hospitality associations in the Houston area. Meet with their - try to meet virtually online or via phone calls with the leadership of those associations. They're going to have access to some of the top jobs in that area within your industry, and you can start to create a very, very solid network that way.

And the second thing that I would suggest is to interview some of the top professionals in your industry in that market. Say, you know what? I would like to schedule maybe 10 to 15 minutes of your time. I'll send you two to three questions via e-mail so you know what I'm interested in talking about. And just say, you know, I'm trying to learn about the industry in this market and what the opportunities are, and you're starting to establish yourself in a different capacity.

CHIDEYA: Toni, you're in an industry that has taken some hits. Hospitality and tourism are down, and in some cases very significantly, like Las Vegas. So why are you choosing to stay in this field, and would you consider other ones?

Ms. RICE: First of all, I really enjoy tourism and hospitality. It's what I've done for the past 15 to 20 years, and I have a lot of experience. So my first choice would be to stay in the industry. Of course, I would consider another industry if I'm not able - if I'm not successful in the hospitality industry.

But yes, a lot of cities, they've taken huge hits. New Orleans is no different. People are going to - they're moving more to online conferencing and more regional conferencing. So the industry has taken the huge hit. But there are a lot of opportunities in that industry as well.

What I find in this industry, in particular, it's a very closed industry. Meaning that a lot of times, the opportunities are not posted online, or they're not - they're only circulated in-house. That's where networking comes in and why it's so important because there may be a position available that will not be put out to the general public, but it's just a word of mouth, and people can tell you about positions that are actually in that industry or in that particular hotel.

So my first thing is to get out and to network. I'm finding that one of the particular websites, A Mighty River, is very helpful in allowing me to do that because you're going to have people on that that are necessarily - that could be in that industry and just pass on a lead to me that may not be available to the general public.

CHIDEYA: Marshawn, you know, your site is heavily focused on not just job listings, but also social networking. But social networking on the biggest scale, something like Facebook, is not necessarily something that monetizes well. From your own standpoint as a business owner, are you afraid that the business you're in itself is unstable, creating a Web-based site like the one you have?

Ms. EVANS: I actually think Web-based businesses are going to be the areas that continue to grow and continue to thrive. And that's where jobs are secure, that's where employers go to hire, and that's where people need to be to find the best jobs. At A Mighty River, there are several - there are hundreds of thousands of six-figure jobs that are available as of even today. There are, as I mentioned earlier, two to 300 jobs that we're seeing landed per day. There were over - approximately 40,000 that were available.

And people aren't necessarily aware of sites like A Mighty River. It's key to understand that this is a site targeted towards African-American professionals. So there are top companies that are looking to hire top African-American talent, which makes it very different from the other social networking websites that are out there.

A Mighty River is a professional networking website. It is more than just a job board, and the job board is dynamic. It's powered by Monster, who has one of the most dynamic technologies in the world for matching employers with qualified talent.

But it also has a community basis as well, where people can informally post job opportunities, informally talk about opportunities that they're looking for. So if you're looking for something in hospitality or in marketing, you can post - you say, you know what? I just lost my job, or I'm transitioning to a new industry. Here's what I'm looking to do. And instantly, and I mean instantly, you will have a community of people who will come to support you at A Mighty River.

CHIDEYA: Toni, when you think about the best things that you have on your side, it sounds like experience is one of them, that you have a long history of experience in this industry. Do you think that experience is what it used to be? And the reason I'm asking that is because a lot of people are facing moments now where they've put in, say - you know, in one case, someone I know, 24 years in a company, and now having to face a change. Are you worried that even with your experience that may not be enough?

Ms. RICE: Yeah, at times I am. Experience, you're absolutely right, it doesn't carry as much weight as it used to. But in certain industries, experience is crucial. And luckily, I mean, tourism and hospitality is one of those industries, to kind of know your product and how to sell your product, how to cater to your client. So that is - it's going to be important. But no, I'm finding that experience doesn't carry as much weight as it used to.

CHIDEYA: What does your husband think about your situation where, you know, he's already had to move on, and you are trying your best to find the job that will allow you to move? Is he concerned?

Ms. RICE: He's not necessarily concerned. But, of course, he's keeping his ears open and his eyes open and building his network along with my network and just getting - putting feelers out there to see what's available in the community.

CHIDEYA: Marshawn, do you have tools that help people market themselves online if they don't necessarily know how to craft the right resume? Just briefly.

Ms. EVANS: Yes. There are resources available for that. If you have a resume that's not up to date, or you're not necessarily sure how to present yourself best with your resume, you can post that, and you will have - we do have resources to help you tailor and make your resume as strong as it can be.

And just real quickly on this point of experience, being different or having experience is not enough today. You have to establish what value you're adding. And what I would suggest for Toni is to take a look at her experiences and how they add value in this economy, in this marketplace.

CHIDEYA: Well, it was great talking to both of you. Thank you.

Ms. RICE: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: We were speaking with Marshawn Evans, she's the co-founder of the job search website, amightyriver.com. Also, speaking with Toni Rice, a job seeker currently in New Orleans, but relocating to Houston, Texas.

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