Ohioans Job Search Lengthens.

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The average length of time for a person to be jobless in the U-S has risen to nearly seven month, the longest average unemployment since the government began keeping track half a century ago.

In Ohio, the average time without a job is closer to four months, but that number is expected to increase. WOSU’s Christina Morgan profiles three Columbus residents whose time without full time work has stretched beyond four months and well beyond their expectations.

At a recent job fair on the east side of Columbus, ten people per minute arrived to talk with fewer than two dozen prospective employers. Many of the companies represented offered more jobs than careers, more part-time than full time employment.

53-year-old Elsie Stiger of Columbus has seen it all before.

“There’s maybe 20 to 25 companies there including the Arm and National Guard, and you’re automatically eliminated from those because of your age. Then there’s Avon and Two Men with a Truck, things you really don’t want to do.”

Stiger has worked in graphic design and advertising. She was laid off one year ago by the city of Columbus, “walked out” as she describes it on the same day with 140 other city workers. During the past year, Stiger says, she has picked up web skills, learned to write grants, taken every low-cost or no-cost workshop she can find and done a great deal of volunteer work.

But she admits, there are days when she wants to stay in bed just a little longer and talks herself out of following up on possible job leads.

“You feel depressed, like part of you is missing.”

56-year-old Mary McLaughlin knows the feeling. Her job in strategic sourcing was eliminated more than two years ago. McLaughlin says she had tenure when she was let go from a Columbus area company, and she received a good severance package. Soon though, the economy started going downhill, and the road to a new job stretched longer.

“You can get caught sitting at the computer in your bunny slippers, banging out resumes and sending them into a black hole.”

Former Information Technology Manager Tom Coyle of Dublin was downsized about 18 months ago along with 20 percent of the staff of his old company.

“One of the things important to overcome in early stages of a job search is feeling you’ve lost part of your identity. It’s important to realize the you in you hasn’t changed just because the title you’ve been attached to is no longer yours for the time being.”

Coyle has not worked full time since being downsized, but he is interviewing soon for a job as a contract worker in Buffalo. Hoping that temporary position will come through, Coyle is handing off his position as a chapter leader with the Scioto Ridge Job Networking Group. He says the group began with a handful of members at the Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church in Hilliard. Three and a half years later, there are 1100 members and seven chapters in the Columbus area.

A few years ago, “networking” amounted to an exchange of conversation and business cards at a cocktail party. Today, Coyle says, networking includes weekly, face-to-face meetings and online contacts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s really not just about collecting business cards but building a “know-like-trust” relationship that will allow you to offer or be provided help by those who are in a position of influence.”

McLaughlin and Stiger describe times when they arrived for job interviews, and no one expected them, and times when they checked back after interviewing, and no one remembered them.

“After a while you begin to wonder what’s wrong with you,” says Stiger. “And you run into people and they say, Oh, you still don’t have a job yet?’”

McLaughlin adds her view on the challenges facing job seekers.

“You can’t lose faith, and you have career coaches and an organization like New Directions to come to. So, when you feel like, Ok is this gonna work out,’ she sends you the email that says, “It is,” and then you have the energy to move forward.”

And Tom Coyle, who worked for three decades in his field before spending months looking for full time work, looks for a chance to help others in a similar situation.

“Even those who are job seekers are able to provide opportunities and provide that sort of hand of help and measure of encouragement to others in that same predicament.”

Elsie Stiger and Mary McLaughlin had never met before they arrived at New Directions Career Center in Columbus and sat down to share their experiences with WOSU. Before going to their cars, they exchanged contact information, each telling the other she had a possible job lead to share.

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