Sarah Szczebak never dreamed that partial unemployment could lead her to a better place, professionally speaking. Employed full-time at a small non-profit in Massachusetts, Sarah loved her job and co-workers. Her work was rewarding, using her master’s degree in regional planning to assist low-income households with financial support for essential home repairs. But, in June 2012, the grant that funded this non-profit service was not renewed for the first time in 17 years. Ugh. Management made the decision to cut every employee’s hours and pay by 25% and apply for partial unemployment benefits for all.
Sarah was now in no-mans land—she was somewhat employed, collecting a tiny unemployment stipend and looking for a job. That last point was hard to swallow but as the only person with a single-income household, Sarah knew she had to cover her bases. With the blessing of her firm (with whom she was transparent), she began her job search in earnest.
Job boards of all kinds were her go-to places on Sundays. Any job that she seemed modestly qualified for she applied to, interviewing for four different positions over the summer. Then she got the call. A young woman who had done some contract work for Sarah’s organization was job hunting and phoned her to say that someone was retiring from where the municipality where she worked and asked if Sarah would like to be considered for the position.
These types of opportunities are often referred to as the “hidden job market.” The positions have not been posted yet, and in many cases never will. If they are lucky and well connected, candidates can get an early mover advantage, being seen ahead of anyone else. Sarah was that person. Her experience was a dead ringer for the job and, even once posted, the municipality could see she was the best candidate.
The ironic part about this job opening is that Sarah wasn’t sure she was interested based on the job title: Administrative Assistant. The title left her deflated given her education and years of experience. But she kept an open mind and went to the interview—“keeping the lights on at home was very motivating,” Sarah said.
October 22nd was Sarah’s first day at her new job, after receiving an offer and accepting the job. That title turned out to be a misnomer. She has the same responsibilities as her former job, has cut her commute down from 60 minutes to 12 minutes, loves her new co-workers as much as her former ones, has more opportunities for advancement, and increased job security. And, she has been working part time as a consultant to her former employer helping to write this year’s grant proposal.
Sometimes things do happen for a reason. For Sarah it is “all good” and she can’t believe that she ended up in a better place. In fact, Sarah did her 2012 taxes last week and finished up with more income than she did in 2011.
Her advice is to be sure and tell everyone you know that you are job searching, be persistent and keep an open mind about job opportunities. A job title can be wrong or misleading. Mickey Mouse’s job title might have read mascot, but we all know him to be entertainer and Disney brand ambassador. Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t let the handcuffs normally associated with the position of First Lady stop her from being incredibly influential advancing civil, human and women’s’ rights while at the White House and until her death. Look past the title and focus more on the job possibilities.
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