Be Open, Be Brave, Be Strong (A Success Story)

Sometimes you can do everything right in your job-search (networking, shaking hands, kissing babies, etc) and still not have it lead to interviews and offers. Jonathan Wentworth, a fellow volunteer of the Monday night Career Transition Support Group in Brentwood, TN, went through those trials and tribulations but in the end was open to new ways of getting his name out there, brave enough to try new things to further his search, and figured out how to be strong enough to weather the storm.

Here is Jonathan’s story.

What could I have done differently?  What am I going to do now?  How am I going to find another job?  These questions haunted me in May of 2008, as I had lost my job of almost seven years.  My former employer was beginning a massive workforce reduction and thus began my journey towards new employment.

As I began to assess my situation, the realization was stark.  I had not looked for work in a long times, and my résumé was in significant need of updating.  Although I knew the adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” I had little in the way of contacts.  My professional wardrobe needed updating and emotionally, I was a wreck.  I counted my blessings of a severance package, several weeks of unused vacation time, an adequate emergency fund, and most importantly, the love and support of my family.

The first week, I felt lost and clearly lacked purpose and direction.  My wife sensed this and together we formulated a strategy.  Utilizing her experience and contacts, we outlined what a typical day would entail.  The scheduled included exercise, hours in our home office developing a list of targeted companies, a quick lunch, more hours working on my resume, researching the online job boards such as CareerBuilder and Indeed, and applying to jobs that I felt I was an adequate match. I worked intensively for a couple weeks to prepare for the actual job search.

Though initially nervous about networking, the Monday night Career Transition Support Group (CTSG) at the Brentwood United Methodist Church gave me a sense of strength. I talked with others who understood what it was like to be unemployed and I felt valued.  The speakers presented on topics such as how to network, how to negotiate, interview tips, how to dress, and other topics that would help me in my job search efforts.  This experience gave me confidence to continue networking and the volunteers were willing to help guide me in this journey. 

As I began to take action a sense of accomplishment developed.  I exercised daily, prayed for direction, and slowly built a foundation from which I would work to build a new career.  Although I was still scared, I tried to focus this energy into positive efforts.

All the career counselors urged me to use my network. This was scary, because I didn’t want my network to know “I failed” and needed their help. However, I began to reach out to my church family and former coworkers.  I made lunch appointments and took notes, advice, & pointers that were offered. I found they were willing to help and wanted to see me succeed.

My wife encouraged me to reach out to John McLallen, whom she had met through her networking and recruiting efforts at the Nashville Career Advancement Center (NCAC).  After a placing a nervous call to John, I learned that the NCAC was a state funded program that provided support and guidance to professionals in career transition. The NCAC was a blessing to me by providing a place to go everyday and a valuable program to participate.

Weekly speakers from many different industries, enrichment activities focusing on résumé writing, business cards, and how to interview were available free of charge. I learned to network and present an “elevator speech” highlighting my goals and experience. Additionally, there were industry forums where a panel of industry resources gave insight to various job markets.  The NCAC had the resources to be an office away from home. I continued to search out key industries that I was interested, as well as use Internet resources such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, and LinkedIn.

Two months into my journey and despite my hard work I had yet to have my first interview.  I had my business cards, cell phone, and jump drive on me at all times.  I continued the Monday night CTSG meetings as well as the Tuesday and Wednesday NCAC sessions. 

Additionally, I joined a small group of 3 job-seekers who met on Monday mornings at a local coffee shop to discuss search tactics, what was and wasn’t working, interview successes, and generally tried to uplift each other.  As the initial coffee group began to find jobs and graduate, we recruited additional job-seekers to fill the open slots.  The Monday morning meetings were paramount to getting and staying motivated, and I found that helping other job-seekers was helpful to me.

Another two months passed and though I had confidence that I was networking and doing the necessary steps that would eventually pay off,  I had no idea when.  I kept praying that the right opportunity would come my way, but I knew that my unemployment was a problem bigger than me, and I would have to have God’s help.

With only one interview in three months, I was anticipating that it was going to be hard to find a position at the same level I was before my journey began.  My family was counting on me and so I began brainstorming alternate strategies. Temporary work, sales, a new industry?  I didn’t know it, but my job search was about to take a positive turn.

One day while at the NCAC, one of the counselors asked me if I would be willing to give an interview to a reporter from the Nashville City Paper who was doing an article on unemployment in Nashville. And so the story begins.

I met with the reporter, detailed my story, and even did a photo shoot on a cool rainy morning. When the story ran, I was startled to see my picture on the front page of the Nashville City Paper.  Phone calls and emails from friends and employers began and three interviews developed.

A NBC producer picked up the article and asked if I would be willing to interview on camera. Believing that coverage of my search couldn’t hurt my situation, I agreed.  After the airing of my two minutes of fame, I received more calls from friends. Everyone knew Jonathan Wentworth was a top candidate and was looking for work!

About this time, a friend referred me to Cardinal Health. He suggested I put in an application and a few weeks later an interviewed was scheduled.  I accepted an offer after a seemingly long wait and have been at Cardinal Health for almost five months now.

My unemployment journey lasted over five months.  Looking back, this was an extremely tough life experience, but I endured.  During this time, I experienced a whole range of emotions from initial shock to relief as I found a position.  I wish I had been able to see how my five months of unemployment would play out in advance, but this was not possible.

The experience increased my faith in God, and has made my marriage stronger.  I’ve learned the importance of a network and of being prepared for the “what-ifs” of life, and am trying to make sure I do not forget these valuable lessons. 

I hope you enjoyed Jonathan’s testimony as much as I did. One of the recurring themes in his search was support from job-search groups, whether it be one organized at a Church, at a career center, or one he developed on his own. I encourage you to try to find a group in your area and if there is not one, start one to help others who are searching while helping yourself.

If you are interested in learning more about Jonathan and what he did to successfully navigate into his current position he can be contacted at jonlwentworth@gmail.com.

Good hunting and good luck!

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13 responses to “Be Open, Be Brave, Be Strong (A Success Story)

  1. Hi, Matt

    Thank you for sharing real peoples’ stories about job search. I think this is a wonderful, meaningful tool that will help many others.
    Blessings,
    Barbara

  2. Thanks for the encouraging and enlightening post.

  3. Great story!
    Regarding starting a group, I wrote a guide:
    http://learningvoyager.blogspot.com/2009/03/everybody-get-together.html
    If anybody wants a free copy, let me know.
    Terry

  4. That was a great article, thank you for sharing and continued blessings.

  5. It is a great story. But it all comes down to supply and demand. The demand is high for job, the supply is on the low side. Bottom line, there are not enough jobs to go around at the present time, plain and simple.

    Jonathon had the good fortune of getting his story on television. Most of us will not get that opportunity.

    I want to end on positive note about Jonathon’s story. We are all in G-d’s hands. Peace and Blessings to all.

  6. I’ve found myself struggling for 13 months after a lay-off to find a new job. Countless applications and very few interviews later and still no offers. Within the past week finally have gotten two job offers. Thank God!… Both offers came from past colleagues that I have not seen in years but recently contacted and networked with. It’s an employers market and the amount of top talent out there is unbeliaveble. It helps to have an edge and the internal referral is what makes the difference. My recommendation would be, continue to contact any and all acquaintances possible that know the value of your work and build a strong network of referrals. Just applying for a job doesn’t cut it anymore.

  7. I’ve been searching for a job since graduating from graduate business school last May (almost 10 months) and I feel much the way Jonathan did. I have squeezed my network dry and have had very few interviews. Of the few interviews I have had, 4 have ended abruptly because of hiring freezes. I’m looking for my first full-time position with only a few internship experiences under my belt. Is there a group that for young, less experienced job-seekers?

  8. This story was encouraging but its very hard out there right now. I have been looking for a job for two and a half months and so far have gotten one interview. They selected someone else by the way. I thought the interview went well. I don’t even know what I did wrong. Anyways, I am frustrated due to I have no savings and my bills are past due. The employment agencies are not even helpful. I just need some prayer.

    • Hi Mary: I read your story and said a prayer for you. It is my hope that by now you’ve found a job. If not, I pray that God’s grace will continue to sustain you in the midst of this difficult time.

  9. What a story that I could relate to. I was let go from a job after 25 years the end of July and just finally received a job offer that will start for me in January. I never dreamed it would take this long. My job search has taught me a lot including to appreciate what you have and what you had, but most importantly to get over it and move on. I am starting all over but have a lot to look forward to. I hope to make this job even better than my last. I think the most important thing is to keep the faith as well as keeping a positive attitude. Thank you Jonathan for such a great story!

  10. Pingback: Catching Lightning in a Bottle (THREE Job-Search Success Stories) « A Recruiters Guide to the Universe

  11. Pingback: It’s all about the journey… | iWork in Between Careers Ministry

  12. Johnathon, Awesome, you overcame those fears that most of us still have not overcome. I live in CA. and all I hear on the news is how bad the economy is, and the thousands unemployed. I stop watching an negative news or movies, or anyone for that matter. I have 20+ yr in H.R. and I was the person interviewing. And I cannot find a position. I am like devastated on there can be “a plumber in the house” and have plumbing problems. Thats an old saying. I used to create titles, jobs, recruit, dismiss, dicipline employees, and yet I am having difficulties with my own line of work, and thats gettting hired. I am going to take some of your tactics and apply them, some I have done as you know looking for a job is a “fulltime” job. and I hope that an employer can see my integrity,my smart and hard way of working, and all that I offer to employees to boost their morale so they are productive, and just give my all, because that is what I am made of. I dont like wasting any companies time, and I am on the up and up, to save them money. So hope to write this column and keep others in the loop. I certainly pray that this economy takes a turn for the better. Too many people are losing their homes, and losing family members due to the pressures of uncertainty. Thank God my spouse is understanding, get this my spouse is unemployed too!! we have been going through this together, and its scary.

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