Hire That Jobless Redhead!

jobless redheadOn the East and West coasts, there are two enterprising redheads, each with their own online presence, each determinedly pounding pavements -- both virtual and actual -- for honest work.

While the creators of JoblessRedhead and HireThatRedhead -- Michael Williams, 28, and Chase Porter, 26, respectively -- may share a hair color and even certain job experiences, they're employing different methods to get themselves noticed ... and those methods seem to be paying off. We spoke to both of them recently to get the tricks of their job-search trades.

Michael, you've gotten a lot of attention in the media (and from possible employers) by standing out on the street holding a sign with your website address on it. How did you come up with that?

On the radio I heard about a guy in a suit handing out his resume, I think in New York. I thought that sounded like a good idea. Standing out there, I had resumes with me and people were handing me business cards; those were some of the best leads. I had a couple different recruiters getting me interviews as well.

I've gotten close to 1,000 emails since going out there. The Orange County Register showed up within a couple hours, and I had my photo with an article in the paper the following week. I got about 500 hits a day standing out there. I was also on NBC Channel 4 news during the Olympics; that led to a lot of traffic.

Why and when did you start your websites?

Michael: Mine has been up for about a month, since mid-February. I designed it on Monday, built signs on Tuesday (they cost about $40), and went out on Wednesday -- that was the idea all along. I stood outside from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first day, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second day, and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the third day. Then I had one day that I stood there while NBC interviewed me.

jobless redheadChase: My website has been up since August, and I also have a blog as part of my online strategy. My hit counter currently says 1,280. I'm actually generating leads in traditional ways, by networking and searching job boards, but using the website to show that I know the tools to effectively communicate.

Any good job leads come through?

Michael: Some people just wanted to say, "I know what you're going through." Some of the emails have been good; I've followed up and interviewed. I've been going on about five interviews a week.

Chase: I've had several interviews since launching (I got one of them by hand-delivering a Christmas ornament, which I wrote about in a blog post). I think it's important to do personalized things for the companies you're interested in. For another interview I wrote a custom press release for their firm -- they loved it, but the job turned out to be a contract position with no benefits. I need benefits, so I've kept looking. And people have been contacting me out of the blue, too. The website has been a help, but I think it's because it speaks to my personal skill set and the type of job I'm looking for.

How did you become unemployed?

Michael: I was working for an independent contractor and things started to get slow in May of '08. I got work with another contractor, but that dropped off too. I have been looking pretty seriously since the first of the year. Thankfully I have a bit of a savings that's not really much of anything any more. I finally found the 99-cent store; I didn't know they had food! I've been eating a lot of Top Ramen. It's not fun to spend down your savings, but a lot of people are worse off and don't have savings.

Chase: I just graduated with a masters in integrated marketing communication from Florida State University, so I've been looking for a job that's in line with that -- either at an advertising or PR agency, or in the office of a corporation or government body. Part-time, I'm a book pool coordinator for Goodwill, which is about 30 hours a week at minimum wage. It helps me keep sane and active, and gives me a regular schedule. It's actually helped energize me for my job search.

What have you learned from your unemployment experiences?

Michael: Somebody told me that if the grass is always looking greener on the other side, you should start watering your grass. I've been going out of my way to do so: 40 applications a day, talking to everyone I can. It's a full time job looking for a job! The community has been very supportive and kind. I've also been expanding my network on LinkedIn, calling people from my alumni group. ... I'm not trying to become famous, I just want a job.

Chase: I've found that job searching is a process of continual improvement. You're always revising your resume, showing it to more people to get their insights. And on the website as well -- just this morning I corrected a punctuation error in a blog post from two months ago. I'm constantly worried that one period or comma out of place is going to ruin my chance for a job; but I can't let that fear stop me from generating content. Fortunately, my wife reads pretty much everything I post. (I'm a very lucky man!)

And the question on everyone's minds: How did you two find out about each other?

Michael: Chase emailed me that a teacher from Orange County had emailed him and told him about a job opening; he emailed back and said, "I'm not who you think I am."

Chase: I got this email from a high school teacher/guidance counselor in Chino, CA. She said she'd seen me on the news, and that she was going to use me as an example for her students of marketing oneself in a community. I couldn't remember being in the news! I did a Google search and found Michael. Two redheads on opposite coasts, both looking for work, both marketing ourselves! It was quite a coincidence. I emailed Michael and explained the story, and he thought it was funny too. We have a similar sense of humor and similar past work experiences -- we've both done ministry work. I'll definitely stay in touch with him.

Michael: He says he's not quite ready to stand out on a street corner, but maybe if it works for me he will!

* As of this post, Michael Williams (JoblessRedhead) is now employed as a marketing rep for Dr. Jeffrey Lee, an oral surgeon in Orange County. He posts that his website "is now available to other jobless redheads who would like to rent it ... but I would prefer to give it to someone in need." Chase Porter (HireThatRedhead) is still working part-time and looking for a job in advertising/PR or marketing/communications.

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