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Each Monday, the New York Daily News has a series called "Hire Me!" in the "Your Money" section of the newspaper. "Hire Me!" focuses on a New Yorker who just lost their job, what they're doing while unemployed, and what they can do to find work again. Keep visiting to see more of New York Daily News' "Hire Me!"

Hire Me Profile Week 1 - Thelma Baker
Hire Me Profile Week 2 - Michelle Smith
Hire Me Profile Week 3 - Ricky Fenner
Hire Me Profile Week 4 - Christopher Deignan
Hire Me Profile Week 5 - Karen Spiak
Hire Me Profile Week 6 - Carlos Ramirez
Hire Me Profile Week 7 - Nivia Prescod
Hire Me Profile Week 8 - Andre Davis
Hire Me Profile Week 9 - Lonette Hopewell
Hire Me Profile Week 10 - Carol Vitkay




Hire Me! Secretary Keeps Job-Hunting, Says She's Not the Type to Give up
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

The first time the company Carol Vitkay worked for was sold, she survived with her job intact. The second time, 30 years later, she wasn’t so lucky.

After four decades as a secretary at Manhattan investment bank White Weld, and then at the giant firm that bought it, Merrill Lynch, Vitkay longs to get back to work. She lost her job in December 2008 when her boss left Merrill after it was sold to Bank of America.

She can’t afford to retire because during her final decade at Merrill, Vitkay was a temp worker, meaning she didn’t have health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave, 401(k) contributions or bonuses.

“Budgeting is the only reason I have been able to survive without a job,” she said.

She’s faced tough times before.

Eleven years ago, amid staff cutbacks at Merrill, Vitkay’s boss of 20 years volunteered to retire, so her job was eliminated. She spent six months trying to land another position at the firm, but there was stiff competition from other former co-workers who were jobless.

When a friend who was still at Merrill called and asked Vitkay if she’d be interested in subbing for her during a four-month leave, Vitkay said she was eager to return, even as a temp. “Merrill was like home,” she said.

After that, former colleagues would suggest her as their stand-in during honeymoons or long vacations. Her assignments ranged in duration from a single week to a year and a half. “I’m a loyal person,” she said. “I’m conscientious. I’m a hard worker. I take pride in my work.”

But since the Merrill takeover by BofA, she hasn’t been able to get any new temp gigs.

Vitkay grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Her dad owned a nearby restaurant on Atlantic Ave. and she often helped out.

At Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in Prospect Heights, she did two years of secretarial training. Two weeks after graduation, she started work as a secretary at Allied Chemical in lower Manhattan. She stayed for a year and a half before moving to White Weld.

During part of her full-time stint at Merrill, she was the lead secretary of the department her boss headed. She kept time sheets and personnel records for a dozen co-workers, including one who still calls her by the nickname, “L.S.”

To keep her spirits up while job-hunting, she’s started to crochet again, which she hadn’t done since her mom died 13 years ago.

“It’s mindless,” she said. “You decompress.”

Vitkay ventures to a neighborhood library to search for jobs because she doesn’t own a computer. There’s no money in her budget to buy one.

Computer use at the library is limited to two half-hour sessions per day because of the crowds that come in. When the doors open on Tuesday afternoons, patrons often line up outside, waiting to rush to the machines.

That doesn’t deter Vitkay — she really wants to get a job.

“It would give me a sense of worth,” she said. “I wouldn’t have the worries about my money running out.”

Brooklyn Heights
Positions Sought: Administrative or Executive assistant
Experience: 40 years as secretary or administrative assistant at investment firms
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:


Florescu for News


Hire Me! Ex Mortgage Worker Job Hunts While Pursuing Degree
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

When Lonette Hopewell went on maternity leave around Thanksgiving 2008, she thought she’d have a job when she returned. She wasn’t even out of the hospital before a co-worker called with bad news: their office was closing.

“There’d been layoffs in September, but I was hoping for the best,” said Hopewell, 31, who lost her job as an administrative assistant at mortgage lender Northern Funding in midtown.

The East Harlem mom had to try to find a new job while caring for two kids and a baby. Her husband works part-time in an after-school program at the Union Settlement Association, a social services agency in their neighborhood.

Hopewell needs to earn a salary to help support their family. In the meantime, she has taught herself to stick to a strict budget.

"Thank God the kids wear [public school] uniforms," she said.

She has cut spending for clothes they wear outside school and stopped taking them out to eat or to the movies. She and her husband can't afford a baby-sitter, and they share one monthly MetroCard, so they plan their schedules carefully, with child care a top priority.

Hopewell has been hunting for a job as an administrative assistant or office manager since her baby was six weeks old.

Sometimes she holds him on her lap while she's at her computer poring over employment Web sites. She puts out an old keyboard to keep his tiny hands off the one she uses.

When she was a mortgage portfolio coordinator at Northern Funding, a short-term lender to real estate investors and developers, she had to be sure all loan documents were in order for a mortgage to close.

In a previous job, she did administrative work at another short-term mortgage lender, Gala Resources, in midtown. As a receptionist and assistant, she paid bills, sent checks to investors and processed loan payments.

Hopewell has also been an administrative assistant at three Manhattan nonprofits. At one of them, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, she created a system for tracking employees' sick days and time off.

"I have impeccable organizational and creative skills," she said. "I learn at a fast pace. I multitask."

She registered recently with a temp agency in hopes of landing an assignment that might lead to full-time work. And in December, she started getting help from the Morris Heights, Bronx, branch of Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides women with suits to wear for job interviews.

She got involved with the group when a friend invited her to one of its Breakfast Club meetings, where participants sharpen job-interview skills and set goals for themselves.

One of her goals is to finish college, which she started right after finishing high school but postponed. She's enrolled in evening classes at the Harlem campus of the College of New Rochelle, aiming for a bachelor's degree in May 2011.

It lifts her spirits to spend time at Dress for Success, where she also volunteers.

"Though I loved being a stay-at-home mom, I was just that," Hopewell said. "I need somewhere to go to sharpen my skills and be with adults. I don't want to get rusty."

East Harlem
Positions Sought: Administrative Assistant, Office Manager
Experience: Eight years as administrative staffer at mortgage lenders, three years as administrative assistant at nonprofits, one and a half years of temp work as an administrative assistant
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:


Adams for News


Hire Me! Former Marine now homeless after being laid off as building superintendent
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

Andre Davis has seen better times.

He traveled around the globe as a member of the Marine Corps and also worked at an East Harlem apartment building as the superintendent.

But when Davis lost that job in January 2008, he lost the apartment that came with it, too. His safety net soon collapsed, and Davis now lives in a homeless shelter in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

"I have experience - I'm ready to work," he insisted. "I can't wait to get back on the job." Because of his military service, Davis, 49, has been getting help since last fall from America Works, a job-placement organization that assists homeless veterans.

The group goes beyond the usual advice about résumé writing and mock job interviews. Staffers work with employers with job openings to interview veterans with skills that are a good fit.

Davis made a plea for himself and others in his situation.

"If anyone out there is looking for employees, hire a homeless veteran," he said. "It's not that we're lazy. We have bills to pay. We need to earn a living."

Davis grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and signed up for the Marines in 1978 after graduating from All Hallows High School, a South Bronx Catholic school.

"It was time to get out of the house and see what it was like to be on my own," he said.

He served for more than three years at bases in the U.S. and in Japan. He was trained to install telephone wires and cables, and also served as a switchboard operator.

Though he didn't work for a phone company after returning to civilian life, some skills he learned in the military are useful to this day.

"Being a Marine teaches you to be calm under pressure - especially in this economy, when a lot of people are looking for work," he said.

After his discharge, Davis returned to New York and worked as a security guard. He later operated an incinerator and did other maintenance work at Dewitt Rehabilitation & Nursing Center on the Upper East Side.

Other jobs followed: In addition to working as a licensed street vendor selling an array of items from sunglasses to socks, Davis spent seven years as a porter or building super for a nonprofit housing group founded by Robert Lott, a priest at the East Harlem church Davis attended.

As a super, Davis painted and plastered. He was Mr. Fix-It with leaks and locks. He kept the boiler running.

When he lost his super's job, he had to give up the apartment that came with it. For a while, he managed to rent a room.

Nearly a year ago, Davis - who's been separated for 15 years and has no kids - had to turn to the shelter system.

He's determined to keep at his job search until he finds work.

"I wake up every day and say, 'Try over.'

"I picture getting my own apartment," he said. "I picture starting my life over."

East Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Positions Sought: Building superintendent, maintenance supervisor or porter
Experience: Seven years as building superintendent or porter; five years as incinerator operator and building maintenace worker; nine years as licensed street vendor
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:




Hire Me! Nivia Prescod Seeks Job as Publicist
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

Nivia Prescod is a marketing professional who now spends her days trying to market herself.  The Crown Heights, Brooklyn, resident lost her job last April when a wave of layoffs swept the SoHo PR firm where she was an account executive. She’s looking for work.

Her hook for selling her skills to prospective employers is her knack for placing products on TV shows.

When the honchos at Southpole, a fashion brand, wanted their clothes to appear on the HBO hit “Entourage,” Prescod made it happen.

Salvatore (Turtle) Assante, played by Bensonhurst-born actor Jerry Ferrara, sported one of their light-blue 

polo shirts on the show’s September 2008 season premiere because of her. As a bonus, a cast photo of him wearing the shirt was used in ads for the season opener. The shirt was in print ads and on billboards and the sides of buses.

“I’m definitely, absolutely a go-getter; I don’t take ‘No’ for an answer,” is Prescod’s message to potential employers.

She wants to work in lifestyle PR, which means repping fashion, accessories, beauty or food products. However, clients have been cutting their budgets amid the weak economy, and the job market for publicists is painfully tight.

“PR is one of those fields that is sometimes considered a luxury by clients,” she said.

Increasingly, PR firms are looking to staff up for free. For every posting about a full-time job opening, she sees 30 for unpaid intern positions. Still, she’s determined to stick with the business.

“I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “It’s second nature — it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

Prescod, 32, grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and got a degree in psychology from SUNY New Paltz.

She tried a couple of jobs in the medical field before deciding to make a career of her fascination with fashion. A friend gave her a heads-up about an entry-level job as an office assistant at a Manhattan fashion house. She spent three years working her way up to office manager, then marketing and sales administrator, to learn the nuts and bolts of the industry before doing PR for it.

While she job hunts, she does freelance assignments to keep herself in the loop. She peddles her services under the business name Vidori, which she made up by combining her grandmothers’ middle names, Victoria and Isadora. She also takes courses in event planning at the Fashion Institute of Technology to keep up with trends.

Prescod is a single mom with two young sons. Some employers assume that means she’d be less devoted than childless applicants. She insists that’s not true, but has found there’s no good way to bring up the subject.

“In a job interview, you don’t want to mention your kids,” she said. “You fear there’s a stereotype. Employers want people at their desks from dawn to dusk.”

Her mom and dad, who are retired and live in East Flatbush, provide thoroughly dependable child care. They’re old hands at after-school pickups and babysitting whenever needed — even when Prescod must be out the door by 4 a.m. to handle Fashion Week duties.

“I have an awesome support system,” she said. “I’m blessed and lucky to have parents to assist me above and beyond.”

Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Positions Sought: Publicist, in-house or at an agency, for fashion, accessories, beauty or food products
Experience: Public relations account executive with a focus on product placement
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:


Hermann for News


Hire Me!  Carlos Ramirez connected with job leads
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

He’s finding his network.

Unemployed computer technician Carlos Ramirez has had a tough time finding work because he’s a newcomer to the city. After spending much of his life in Las Vegas, he felt like a stranger here.

But his life has started to turn around since he was formally introduced to New Yorkers last Monday in the Daily News’ Hire Me! series. Readers reached out to him with three solid job leads he’s pursuing.


“It has boosted my job search immensely,” said Ramirez, 21, who moved last July to the Fish Bay section of the Bronx, where he lives with his mom, sister and stepfather.
An IT manager who’s trying to hire a help desk coordinator told him to call for a job interview.

Ramirez got an e-mail from another company asking for his résumé so he can be considered for a job as a hardware technician.

And the owner of a computer repair business urged him to get in touch about a job opening.

“This has given my job search a second wind,” Ramirez said.

Readers who want to rev up their job-hunt efforts should call the Hire Me! Help Line at (212) 330-6505 tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 50 career experts will dispense free advice during the one-day event, which The News is sponsoring to help put unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers to work.
“There’s a whole new way of thinking about your job search,” said career coach Donna Sweidan, who will be among the experts at tomorrow’s phone bank.

These days, an effective job hunt involves researching places you’d like to work, figuring out how you can be a good match for them and marketing yourself, Sweidan said.

You need an arsenal of stories to tell prospective bosses about what you accomplished at past jobs that would make you a valuable hire.

“I call it the value proposition,” she said.

Hire Me! Computer Technician Carlos Ramirez Finds Freelance Hard to Come by in Big Apple
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
In Las Vegas, Carlos Ramirez could make a living fixing computers with just a high school education and friends who did word-of-mouth marketing.

In New York, it's a different ballgame.

Last July, the 21-year-old moved in with his mom, sister and stepfather in the Fish Bay section of the Bronx. Without a network of friends to make referrals, freelancing hasn't worked.

"I'm a stranger in the city," Ramirez said.
Instead, he's looking for an entry-level job as a computer technician or help desk staffer. He's also hunting for positions as a data-entry clerk, or as a secretary, work that also helped pay the bills in Las Vegas. He wishes New York employers would give him a chance.

"If I could tell them just one sentence, I would say they won't be disappointed if they hire me," he said. "I am very determined. I am extremely adaptable."

One day when his father wasn't home, the middle-schooler took the machine apart and put it back together. He read everything he could find about computers. Whenever there was a problem with the machine, he'd figure out how to fix it.

Because of his fascination, he attended the Advanced Technologies Academy, a Las Vegas public high school, where he studied technology support.

Ramirez started doing freelance computer repair while still in high school. After he graduated, he sometimes got so busy he had to send a friend to cover some of his appointments.

For part of 2007, he took a hiatus from computer repair to work as a secretary and bookkeeper. His dad, with whom Ramirez was living, needed money to help keep his house out of foreclosure.

Later, Ramirez took another break from freelance work to study for two semesters at the College of Southern Nevada. Then he moved to New York to follow his girlfriend, whom he met in his first-semester philosophy class. She wanted to return home to Brooklyn.

These days, Ramirez gets job-search help from the Henry Street Settlement, a Lower East Side social services agency. He found out about the organization's Workforce Development Center from a flyer his mom brought home for him.

In a work-readiness course, he learned how to handle job interviews without becoming anxious and to write an easy-to-read résumé.

"Before that, my résumé was in shambles," he said.

A counselor at the center helps him find job leads. To improve his employment credentials, she's sending him to a nonprofit called NPower NY for tech certification training.

While he's hunting for a tech job, Ramirez is doing an eight-week temp gig for the U.S. Census Bureau that ends this month. He visits Bronx businesses, asking them to donate space for training census-takers.

Someday, he'd like to combine full-time employment and part-time college studies. He thinks that would be at least two or three years down the road after he saves enough money for tuition.

"It's hard to do much of anything if you don't make money," Ramirez said. "Even the subway costs too much when you don't have a job."

Fish Bay, the Bronx
Positions Sought: Entry-level computer technician or help desk staffer, data-entry clerk, secretary
Experience: Three years as computer maintenance and repair technician, three months as secretary and bookkeeper
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:


Florescu for News


Hire Me!  Web designer Karen Spiak gets job leads
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

When you’ve been out of work for a long time, it feels good to know you’re not alone.

Daily News readers rallied around unemployed Bronx Internet designer Karen Spiak after her story appeared last Monday in the Hire Me! series.

Several e-mailed her about freelancing prospects in Web design. Two or three seemed like a good fit, so she’s following up.

A recruiter asked for her résumé to forward to colleagues who place job-hunters in Web design positions.

Those who couldn’t help with Spiak’s search sent their best wishes.

“New York needs more strong women, so keep it up,” one reader texted. Another offered his prayers.

“I think the show of support from people has been very encouraging,” said Spiak, who lost her job in December 2008.

A professional résumé writer, Greg Faherty, offered a free consultation. One piece of advice she found especially helpful was to include measurable achievements, such as cost savings she’d achieved for past employers.

Spiak also got an offer of free help from job coach Lucy Cherkasets, who appeared with her on an episode of “Job Hunt,” a series on NYC TV, which is partnering with The News to help put unemployed New Yorkers back to work.

Cherkasets, of Clarity Media Group, said she’d work with Spiak to sharpen her networking and job-interview skills.

Cherkasets is one of more than 50 experts who will work the phones at the Daily News Hire Me! Help Line, a free hotline set for March 16 that The News is sponsoring.

Callers will be able to get advice on how to shape up their search strategies and get help with career questions. Call-in details will be announced soon.

Some of the advice-givers are career coaches, others help job-hunters at libraries and 10 are coming from NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development.

“We really want to reach out and help New Yorkers who are struggling to get back on their feet,” said Trudy Steinfeld, the center’s executive director.

“We think many job-hunters do themselves a disservice because they don’t know how to look for a job in this economy. Having the right tools and the right strategies can make all the difference,” she added.

Hire Me! Jobless for more than a year, Karen Spiak stays current on skills, pinches pennies
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
Karen Spiak is passionate about Web design.

She's looking for a job as an interaction designer, user interface designer or information architect. If you're immersed in the world of the Web like she is, you know exactly what these job titles mean.

Spiak's career has taken her from New York to Seattle and back again.

For seven years, she worked as an art director and interface designer at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. After that, she returned to New York and took a job as creative director at a city cultural institution, where she was in charge of its Web design and graphic, photo and video production as well.

Both organizations won awards for Web design during her tenure.

"My creativity is a part of me; it's not just what I do for a living," said Spiak, who lives in Riverdale, the Bronx. "It makes me incredibly passionate about the work I do."

Spiak grew up near Albany then came to Manhattan to study at the School of Visual Arts, where she got a degree in graphic design. Before her stint at Microsoft, she worked for Vogue magazine and publishing giant Random House.

She lost her creative director's job, where she managed a staff of seven, in December 2008. She takes strict measures to keep long-term unemployment from getting her down.

"To keep your head in a good place, it's important to have a routine," she said.

Besides breaks for lunch and the gym on weekdays, she's busy until 7 p.m. with job searches, unpaid design projects and brushing up on design programs and Web languages. For moral support, she talks on the phone two or three times a week with a friend who's also job-hunting.

To keep the blues away, her desk is near a window with a panoramic view of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. On clear days, she can see the Chrysler Building, her favorite skyscraper.

She also spends a lot of time outdoors when she isn't job-hunting. She belongs to a mushroom-hunting group that takes weekend walks in Westchester and Connecticut.

To save gas money, last fall she went out on her own in Riverdale. At Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve near her home, she found hen of the woods mushrooms, a popular delicacy that isn't cheap if you're lucky enough to find it at the market. The foraging was good on the grounds of the College of Mount St. Vincent, too.

Spiak has whittled down her spending on food to about $1 per meal by using coupons, sticking mostly to macrobiotic vegetarian fare and shopping in nearby Yonkers, which is cheaper. At the Top Tomato produce market, she covets specials like kale for 33 cents a pound.

By scrimping and using her unemployment benefits and some savings, she's been able to stay current on her mortgage and co-op maintenance payments.

Spiak applies for at least 10 to 15 jobs each week. For the longest time, the responses were sparse, just automated e-mail acknowledgments here and there.

Recently, though, she's gotten some calls about her job applications.

"I'm starting to get nibbles," she said. "In my gut, I feel like my industry is starting to turn around a little."

Riverdale, the Bronx
Positions Sought: Web designer, including interaction designer, user interface designer or information architect; creative director
Experience: Print and Web designer for 15-plus years — seven of them as an art director and interface designer at Microsoft
Contact info:
Contact the reporter:


Photo Courtesy Pokress for News


Christopher Deignan, featured in Daily News' Hire Me! series, gets work at two nonprofits

He lived with the pain of joblessness for a year and a half. Finally, he's on the road to a new career.

Christopher Deignan worked for more than 15 years at catalogue production companies before losing his job at Hanover Direct in Weehawken, N.J.

He quickly found the job market was bleak. As he searched in vain, he decided to make a move he'd long wanted to pursue: Working for a nonprofit.

After the Daily News wrote about Deignan last month in its Hire Me! series, the Middle Village, Queens, resident caught a break.

The president of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition, George Stamatiades, read about him and told the coalition's executive director about him.

Deignan, 48, landed an 18-hour-a-week job with the neighborhood group. His first assignment is to line up local entertainers to perform at the Steinway Street Fair, set for April 25.

"It feels good, really good," said Deignan, who got few responses to his applications for nonprofit jobs before he was featured in the Hire Me! series. "It's a genuine challenge; I'm really enjoying it."

He and other Hire Me! subjects also appear on NYC TV's "Job Hunt," which was produced in collaboration with The News to help put unemployed New Yorkers back to work.

Deignan also has found work at a second nonprofit, the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, Queens, designing a souvenir journal for its May 21 dinner dance fund raiser.

"Chris is uniquely placed to take on the task I hired him for," said Paul Finnegan, the group's executive director. "There's graphic design involved. And he knows our community."

Another Hire Me! story, about Nivia Prescod, drew attention from two potential clients for the freelance public relations work she does while she job-hunts. One prospective client owns a SoHo shop, the other a Harlem boutique.

Prescod, 32, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was laid off from her account executive's job at a SoHo PR firm a year ago.

She was also asked to send her résumé to a PR agency to be considered for a full-time position. And a friend she hadn't heard from since junior high school surfaced - and sent a job lead.

"This definitely uplifted me and gave me momentum to keep on doing what I'm doing," Prescod said.

Queens Job Hunter Christopher Deignan lands grant for retraining class
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

Christopher Deignan got positive news last week about a training grant that could help him switch careers.

Deignan, who lost his job in catalogue production in November 2008, is looking to move into nonprofit work. The Middle Village, Queens, resident was featured last Monday in Hire Me! - the Daily News' series about job-hunters.

The city-run Workforce 1 Career Center in Jamaica said yes to his request for a $1,200 voucher for an advanced Web graphic design course at Compu21, a school in Flushing. He's an experienced designer of printed pages but a neophyte in Web design, which he needs to know better for job openings at nonprofits that want to improve their online presence.

"This will address a definite skills gap," said Deignan, 48, who also appeared on "Job Hunt," a series on NYC TV, which is partnering with The News in helping to put jobless New Yorkers back to work.

Deignan used The News' story to further his search. After adding the article to his Facebook profile, some Facebook friends promised to help hunt for job leads.

He also decided to alter his job-hunting strategies after hearing an expert on Brian Lehrer's WNYC radio show recommend informational interviews as an effective tactic.

There are several arts and cultural nonprofits Deignan plans to target for visits.

"It's about being proactive," he said.

If you've been looking for work for a long time, you need to revise your efforts, career coach Barbara Safani said.

Among her suggestions:

- Don't keep asking the same people for job leads. Broaden your network. And ask everyone you talk to about job-hunting, "Who else should I be talking to?"

- Court your contacts by asking, "What do you know about the industry I'm interested in?" instead of always saying, "Who's hiring?"

- Be sure your online job-hunter profiles have the right key words in them so they'll be found in computerized searches for candidates. The vocabulary in online job postings will clue you in to the right key words for your industry.

- Do volunteer projects that help you meet people who could boost your job search.

- Join professional organizations that could further your job search.

Switching gears: Christopher Deignan drops flailing catalogue business for nonprofit work
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
The printed page is Christopher Deignan's domain - in the Internet era, that makes him something of an endangered species.

He produces catalogues for mail-order companies - at least he did until he lost his job in November 2008 in a wave of layoffs at Hanover Direct in Weehawken, N.J.

"The industry is contracting," said Deignan, 48, of Middle Village, Queens. "Younger people don't read catalogues."

He thinks it may be time for him to look outside his industry.

While he hunts for a new job as a production artist,

Deignan also hunts for entry-level work in arts and cultural nonprofits. He's trying for event planner and administrative positions, anything to get his foot in the door.

Deignan, who was born and raised in Dublin, then settled in New York City in 1991, thinks skills he honed during more than 15 years of work could be useful at a nonprofit.

"In high-pressure situations, I'm a calming influence," he said. "I'm really good at thinking on my feet. I come up with solutions that work."

The catalogue production processes he managed required attention to countless details.

"The norm is the client calls at 4 p.m. to make a change, and it needs to be done by the next morning," he said.

At a midtown company where he worked before his last job, Deignan managed production for four clients at once. At one point, more than 900 catalogue or calendar pages were underway at the same time.

Deignan said he acquired a taste for nonprofit work through years of volunteering.

He organizes events for Irish in New York, an organization with more than 300 members, and the New York Golf Meetup Group, with more than 500 members. He produces an e-mail marketing campaign for a Manhattan nonprofit that offers music training to teens.

Deignan is thinking about getting a master's degree in business with a nonprofit concentration, a credential he believes he might need to break into a new field.

Though he frequently applies for nonprofit jobs, "I'm getting very little response," he said.

Deignan splits his time on weekdays scouring job-listing sites, like, for nonprofit positions, and tracking down leads for catalogue production work. He does freelance projects to keep his production skills fresh.

For a break from job-hunting, he tries out different golf courses when the weather's good and writes about his experiences for a golfing Web site. The pay is 1 cent per page view, bringing him $8 so far.

He quit acting classes, which he took for fun when he had a job. They're too time-consuming, and he doesn't want to spend the money.

Like so many other New Yorkers, he has also cut his spending by going out less and holding off on big purchases.

When it comes to surviving on unemployment benefits, until recently he had an advantage because of his former employer's location.

"Though I cursed that commute six ways to hell, it means I get New Jersey benefits, which are far better," he said.

The weekly benefit in New York is $405 a week - but in New Jersey, it's 44% more: $584 a week.

But his benefits ran out in mid-January, and his interview to reapply isn't scheduled until next month.

To bring in some income, Deignan has gotten temp work with the U.S. Census Bureau. He passes out flyers about the census to Queens businesses. He does it part-time - otherwise, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to hunt for a full-time job.

Middle Village, Queens
Positions Sought:  Event planner or administrative staffer for nonprofits; graphic artist in mail-order catalogue production
Experience: 15-plus years managing the production of mail order catalogues
Contact the reporter:


                                      Photo Courtesy Rosier/News

Job-hunter's story brings new lead about open position
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

Ricky Fenner has been waiting for a break in his job search. Last week, the Daily News put the wind in his sails.

After a story about him appeared in The News' Hire Me! series, Fenner, 45, got an e-mail asking him to apply for a warehouse position in Queens.

The unemployed Laurelton, Queens, resident is well qualified - he operated forklifts in warehouses and distribution centers for more than 20 years.

Fenner, who's been out of work since April 2008, also has been following up on earlier job leads. He did a group interview for a part-time restocking job at one Queens retailer, and filled out an application for a full-time position unloading trucks at another.

Fellow clients of the Hope Program, a Downtown Brooklyn nonprofit that helps low-income New Yorkers develop careers, gave him high-fives for his appearance in The News and on NYC TV's "Job Hunt," which is partnering with The News in helping jobless New Yorkers find work.

"It boosted my spirits," he said.

The Hope Program's executive director, Barbara Delsman, said she thinks the current job market is the worst she's seen in her 21 years with the organization.

Many clients are juggling two or three part-time jobs while they hunt for full-time work. To accommodate them, the program has added new computer classes in the early evenings.

In this tough economic environment, the city's job-hunters need to work all the angles. Delsman offered a to-do list:

- Expand your employment network. You never know who might have information about a job opportunity.

- Broaden your outlook. Your next job might not be so similar to your last.

- Research any organization where you'll be interviewing beyond only looking at its Web site.

- Practice interviewing with several different people. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be when the real sitdown comes.

- Send a thank you note after every interview.

- Proofread thoroughly. Your cover letter, résumé and thank you note must have no typos.

- Consider adding to your education and skills, even if it means volunteering.

"Be persistent," Delsman advised. "Remember that looking for a job is a full-time job."

Hire Me: Fork operator Ricky Fenner, out of work for 2 years now, needs a lift
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
Even when he was barely a teenager, Ricky Fenner would spend his summer working.

The heat was stifling. His hands would become covered with the tar that oozed out of tobacco plants he picked from fields near his North Carolina home. But he was really motivated.

“I had to make money for my school clothes,” said Fenner, 45, who now lives in Laurelton, Queens. “I had to help my parents.”

Since he finished high school, Fenner's life has centered on hard work. He operated forklifts for more than 20 years, including a stint at a PetSmart regional distribution center. Sometimes, the crates were filled with offbeat items like pet cologne or nail polish for dogs.

Fenner also worked as an inventory control clerk at a mobile-home manufacturer. And he drove front-end loaders for five years at an asphalt plant, hauling tons of rocks and sand.

His toughest work yet?

Job-hunting, which he's been doing since an April 2008 layoff.

To keep from getting discouraged, he musters the same can-do attitude that enabled him to ride a cherry picker three stories high to pluck products off PetSmart shelves.

“I'm not going to complain, because that doesn't help me,” Fenner said. “I'm a positive person. That's how I'm going to get through this stage of my life.”

He wants New York employers to know he means business.

“I'm a hard worker, no matter how tough the task,” he said. “I'm eager to learn. I'm easy to get along with. I'm a team player.”

The asphalt plant where Fenner lost his job was near Phoenix, where he lived for nine years. Plant owner FNC Construction used the asphalt to cover high because the money ran out.

His unemployment benefits from the state of Arizona were just $280 a week, but enough to support him while he searched for work.

After his benefits ended, Fenner decided Arizona - devastated by the nation's housing crisis - didn't make sense anymore. He headed across the country to live with a sister who'd settled in Queens. He expected it would still be tough to find a job, but his sister had a spare bedroom. He could live rent-free.

Fenner arrived in June 2009 and job-hunted for several months unsuccessfully. The frustration mounted.

The e-mails he got from job-search Web sites always seemed to be about going back to school to advance his career, not about job openings.

One day, someone handed him a flyer about the Hope Program, a Downtown Brooklyn nonprofit that helps low-income New Yorkers develop careers.

In November, he started the organization's three-month work-readiness training program, which allowed him to sharpen his computer skills, brush up on math and essay writing, and get an internship at the warehouse of Furnish a Future, which provides formerly homeless New Yorkers with free household goods.

The internships don't come with the promise of permanent work afterward, but they give job-hunters a chance to get references.

The Hope Program also has counselors who work one-on-one with participants to help them find job openings and write suitable résumés.

“I'm getting skills, I'm getting knowledge, I'm getting help to get on the right track,” Fenner said.

Laurelton, Queens
Positions Sought:  Operator of forklift or front-end loader
Experience: 20-plus years operating forklifts in warehouses, five years operating front-end loaders
Contact the reporter:

                                      Photo Courtesy Rosier/News
Michelle Smith's got a new gig - and her boss found her from reading the Daily News
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

Michelle Smith is back to doing the kind of work she loves - and her new boss at the National Urban League found her by reading her story in the Daily News.

After she was featured last month in Your Money's weekly Hire Me! series about job-hunting New Yorkers, Michael Thompson, a National Urban League vice president, contacted her about a full-time contract position as an event marketing planner at the civil rights organization's Lower Manhattan headquarters.

Smith had been hunting for work since April 2008, when she lost her job

as an event planner at JPMorgan Chase. She'd worked there for 32 years.

"Michelle's story really struck a chord for us at the National Urban League, where we've been keenly focused on the unemployment crisis," said Wanda Jackson, the group's senior vice president of human resources and talent management.

"It's actually rather poignant that we found Michelle right at the start of our centennial campaign, I Am Empowered, because she really represents what that initiative is all about - recognizing individual value and talent and reaching out to empower individuals and communities," Jackson said.

One of the campaign's goals is that every American have access to jobs with reasonable wages and benefits.

Smith, 54, is thankful for the support of family, friends and News readers during her job hunt, and thrilled with her new gig, which entails planning a series of events leading up to a conference in July in honor of the league's 100th anniversary.

"It feels like a dream to be working for such an iportant black organization," said the Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, resident, who's happy to put professional skills she honed in the corporate world to use for a nonprofit.

"I was told there were no jobs in event planning," Smith said. "I was told I would have to give it up."

Plenty of Support for Job Hunter Michelle Smith
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
We’ve got your back, Michelle.

Job-hunter Michelle Smith was inundated with messages of solidarity and commiseration from other unemployed New Yorkers after her story appeared last Monday in the Daily News’ Hire Me! series.

“I got so many e-mails I had to stop answering them,” said the Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, resident, who’s been out of work since April 2008. Among them were messages from nonprofits impressed by her experience but unable to offer a paying job.

The day Smith’s story was published, strangers who’d noticed her photograph in the paper stopped her in the street to wish her good luck in her job search. The

following night, she appeared on NYC TV’s “Job Hunt” show, which is partnering with the Daily News to help unemployed New Yorkers find work.

“It’s been positive feedback,” said Smith, 54, who lost her job as an event planner at JPMorgan Chase after 32 years at the firm.

Readers also posted messages of support on’s Hire Me! page.

“I applaud her and anyone who chooses to push forward rather than dwell on the ‘woe is me’ approach,” a reader using the name CrooklynNY wrote.

Smith’s tale of getting an e-mail brushoff that said she was “much too experienced” for a meeting coordinator’s job resonated with New Yorkers older than 50 who feel job-hunting is especially tough for their age group.

“You really need some iron in your spine, a sense of faith and a good sense of humor,” said Bobby Rivers, 51, a TV reporter who’s covered entertainment on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” and hosted the Food Network show “Top 5,” about baby boomers’ favorite foods.

The Chelsea resident, who e-mailed The News to say he found the Hire Me! series comforting, lost his job doing entertainment reporting on Whoopi Goldberg?a>??s morning radio show when her program went off the air in April 2008.

Aside from appearing in a couple of commercials, Rivers has been doing clerical temping while applying for broadcast jobs in numerous cities and communications jobs at nonprofits.

“I’ve been out of work for so long that getting regular employment is now on my ‘bucket list,’” he joked.

Hire Me: After 32 years at same employer, job hunt has been scary, tough for Michelle Smith
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
After being laid-off from JPMorgan Chase, where she’d worked for 32 years, Michelle Smith found a lot of emotions brought to the surface.

“It was my family,” she said of the company. “It was my home.”

Smith spent more than half of her life at the firm, starting at predecessor company Morgan Guaranty Trust while she was in college. In her first job, she boxed up account holders’ checks and tallied the amounts with an adding machine.

But the Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, resident worked her way up, eventually becoming a corporate event planner with control over a $1.5 million annual budget.

She staged 20 big shindigs a year, from employee holiday parties to investor conferences at elegant resorts.  She was one of the founders of JPMorgan Chase’s Women of Color Networking Group.  Not long before Smith left the firm in April 2008, her mother lost her part-time job as a school cafeteria aide. And Smith’s only sibling, her sister, was laid off from her job as a medical transcriptionist.

“It was scary,” Smith said.

Her sister has since found work. Smith wants prospective employers to know she, too, is ready for a new gig.

“I’m a leader. I’m a team player. I’m at my best under pressure,” she said. “My goal is to make the company look good.”

The job search has been tough: There were hiring freezes at four financial firms where she interviewed in fall 2008, and she believes many employers would rather hire younger applicants.

“They prefer someone just out of college they can mold,” she said.

In November, Smith applied for a meeting coordinator position at a lower Manhattan company. She got an e-mail reply saying, “Sorry, you are much too experienced.”
Smith, 54, said she’s proud of her age but fears revealing it could hurt her job search.

“Of course, age discrimination is against the law, but we feel it out there,” she said. “It’s there in the questions on the job applications.”

Smith has tried to reinvent herself, getting advice from a state Labor Department career counselor who helped choose the subject matter for a 12-week Stony Brook University course Smith took in project management. The class met five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Afterward, however, the job openings she was able to find in that field required five years’ experience, a master’s degree and a background in software.
Smith said the class wasn’t worthless. “I met 12 new friends,” she said. “We started a support group.”

She keeps her event-planning skills sharp with an unpaid internship finding concert venues for jazz musicians. She stays current on industry trends through workshops at Meeting Professionals International, which waived her membership dues because she’s unemployed.

With her severance payments ended, Smith has been living on unemployment benefits and money saved for what would have been a down payment on a first home. She said she stays upbeat through a combination of spirituality and frequent visits to the gym.

She joined the YMCA and works out four days a week, which helped her lower her blood pressure and lose weight. She slugs a punching bag to help get out her frustrations.

“When I get hired, I will be ready,” she said. “There will be no excuses with my weight or health or not being able to keep up.”

Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn
Positions Sought:  Event and meeting planner for corporations or nonprofits; event manager for artists or entertainment companies
Experience: Directed 20 high-profile events yearly and managed a $1.5 million annual events budget for an investment bank
Contact the reporter:


                          Photo Courtesy: Harbus for News

Excerpt from The Hire Me! Help line for job-seekers planned for March 16
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News

The Hire Me! series began last Monday with the story of Thelma Baker, a Morrisania, Bronx, resident with more than 15 years of experience as an administrative assistant or office manager. In December 2008, she lost her admin job at a management consulting firm in Manhattan after her employer assigned her workload to staffers in its Charlotte, N.C., office.

After reading Baker's story in The News, a human resources exec at a major Manhattan employer requested her résumé and said there might be an upcoming opening that would be a good fit.

"It's a promising nibble," Baker said.

She got e-mails about other possible job leads, as well. And experts at the New York Public Library stepped forward to help her rev up her job search.

Kristin McDonough, director of the city's Science, Industry and Business Library at 188 Madison Ave. near E. 34th St. in midtown, learned of Baker's situation when both appeared on "Job Hunt," a new show on NYC TV, which is partnering with The News in trying to help unemployed New Yorkers find work.

McDonough offered to set up a meeting for Baker with a career specialist at Job Search Central, a section of the library where patrons have free access to specialized job-seekers' databases that normally cost a bundle.

Baker said being part of The Hire Me! campaign has energized her.

Hire Me: Thelma Baker hopes experience counts
BY Lore Croghan, New York Daily News
Thelma Baker was confident her job wouldn’t be wiped out.

As the economy progressively worsened in 2008, Baker, an administrative assistant at a management consulting firm in Manhattan, and some co-workers were called into meetings and told about a pilot program. The company was going to see if it was practical and more cost effective to have employees in other cities do their jobs.

“I didn’t think it would work,” the Morrisania, Bronx, resident said.

After all, she thought, when there’s an urgent assignment, it’s dealt with more easily by someone who’s in the same building, not hundreds of miles away.

Perhaps true, but in 2008, right before the holidays, the company moved the jobs anyway.  Staffers at the firm’s Charlotte, N.C., office took on the work that Baker and other admins used to handle. She’s been job-hunting ever since.  At the firm, which she asked the Daily News not to name, Baker managed the schedules of seven executives and arranged their travel bookings. She set up their meetings with clients. There was no room for mistakes.

That didn’t faze her. She’d had more than 15 years of experience as an administrative assistant or office manager. She knew the drill.

Now, Baker’s eager to get back into it full-time for a new employer.

“I’m reliable. I’m loyal. I’m really good at what I do,” she said.

Though she’s a seasoned professional, Baker said she’s not set in her ways. She learns new routines fast.

“I’m tech-savvy and adaptable to change,” she said. “Each company is different, so if you want to keep your job, you’d better be.”

Baker, who grew up in the Soundview section of the Bronx, tried to find another position at the consulting firm when hers was eliminated, but couldn’t.

Her days are now dominated by rounds of checking in with headhunters and applying to online postings.

She’s found she’s bumping up against an obstacle she never encountered in the past.

Frequently, the listings for administrative assistant jobs say a bachelor’s degree is required or highly preferred. Occasionally, a master’s degree is required.
Baker has an associate’s degree from Berkeley College’s midtown campus.

“Employers are cherry-picking,” she said. “They have a Santa Claus wish-list of job requirements.”

In the current job market, many employers are in a position to be extremely demanding. With higher-level jobs scarce, hordes of jobless New Yorkers with college degrees are crowding the applicant pool for administrative assistants.

For months, Baker steered clear of temping assignments. She didn’t want to wind up doing a temp gig and hoping the position would become permanent, only to have the assignment end and leave her back at square one. Some temp offerings require three-month commitments, meaning she couldn’t easily leave if she found a full-time job.

But recently, she took a month-long assignment at a Manhattan ad agency. The headhunters told her she should to stay competitive.

“You’ve been out of work for so long,” they warned her. “Other job applicants have less time out.”

Of course, Baker’s finances have taken a hit, as well. Her severance was small. Unemployment benefits and savings have enabled her to cover her mortgage and the common charges on the condo where she lives.

“I’ve been careful with my money,” she said. If she had kids to support, she’d be really worried.

Baker hopes the job market will improve in the coming months and vows to be patient until it does.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “You have to have faith. Otherwise, you’d go crazy.”

Morrisania, the Bronx
Positions sought: Administrative assistant, executive assistant or office manager
Experience: 15+ years as an administrative assistant or office manager

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