(Working Stories is a recurring series of pieces in which we collect stories of how and why people work. This has been lightly edited for clarity.)
Joe Ryan, 79, volunteer job coach:
It’s hard for people who have been out of work the longest. In interviews, the question is: Why have you been looking for so long? That question really is: What’s wrong with you?
In this day, there’s little wrong with them and there’s a lot wrong with the job market. So, I say, you’re in control of your story. Come up with a story that answers the question. Explain who you are and what you can do.
I run the Job Club at Holy Trinity Church and at the Georgetown library. It’s basically a support group. We meet weekly for two hour sessions. I’ve been a job coach here for 12 years. I do this as a volunteer.
The way it works is we go around the table. Everyone introduces themselves and says what they’re looking for. We work on networking, interviewing and negotiating. We make resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
The technology is always changing. Way back, we didn’t even have cell phones. There wasn’t that great big Internet thing. All of this has grown and we have to grow with it.
At Job Club, you kind of learn from each other. People discuss the progress they’re making on their job search. Everyone has a problem to solve. We help each other. The key to success, I’ve found, is a concerted effort on an ongoing basis and taking advantage of the tools available to you. Come to Job Club and get your weekly dose of encouragement.
A passive job search — just emailing and sending out resumes — works only about 25 percent of the time. An active job search, when you meet people and leverage your relationships, works 75 percent of the time. Develop relationships and follow up — that’s what does the trick.
There are success stories. They bring satisfaction for me but also for the group. We see people who have gone out and done it. We know it’s possible. One woman was shy about going out and meeting people when she first started coming here. Now, she’s a big proponent. She tells everyone they have to do it.
A friend of mine used to have a big easel holding a board with blue squares. He put a “no” in every box, except for the lower right hand box. He put a “yes” in there. The point of that is to show: You have to get through the “no”s before you get to the “yes.” You can’t stop until you get to the “yes.”