Sweet ran into a problem faced by many of the recently unemployed: even if they’re willing to take low-paying jobs, employers may be looking for someone else.
“We’re constantly hiring,’’ said Marissa McLean, recruiting manager for the Check Cashing Store, which offered candy bars, can insulators and mint trays at its Job News table. “It’s harder than you might think.”
For $9.50-an-hour jobs as Check Cashing clerks, McLean looks for past cashier experience and an ability to up-sell customers to the chain’s credit cards and other offerings. “I’m seeing teachers. I’m seeing truckers. I’m seeing plumbers,’’ she said of the chain’s applicants during the downturn. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”
For Price, 29, the job fairs she manages roughly every month throughout South Florida show that work is available, even if the paychecks aren’t ideal. The married mother of a 2-year-old is brutally optimistic about the hiring market, saying she can find a position for anyone willing to pursue it. And she sees people getting discouraged too quickly, especially when they strike out at a Job News fair.
“People get so exasperated,’’ she said. Asked what advice she would give to someone out of work for an extended period of time, Price responds: “Everyone has a friend of a friend of a friend. You need to network and use the resources you have. Even if it’s a cashier at Publix. Ask, ‘Are you guys hiring here?’ ’’
“Be nice to everybody,’’ she added. “You never know who might be able help you. You never know where the conversation might lead.”
Price came to Job News in 2005 from her old position managing a telemarketing operation in Davie, selling solar-powered pool heaters to homeowners over the phone. Price would run ads in the Job News circulars for staff rather than turning to local newspapers — despite their larger circulation.
It was the start of the housing boom in the early 2000s, when unemployment was around 5 percent. “If you were picking up anything but the paper to find a job at that time, it meant you were hungry,’’ Price recalled. “Because all you had to do was pick up the newspaper to find a job.”
Eventually, she jumped ship to Job News itself as a sales representative, meaning she cold-called businesses in hopes of selling help-wanted ads. Sales were good until the recession hit in 2008. By 2009, Price wasn’t making enough so she quit and went to culinary school. After a brief stint as a personal chef, Price headed back to Job News in 2010, just as hiring was rebounding in the region.
Despite record unemployment, Price said demand for job fairs has been strong enough that she’s constantly looking for venues with more space for tables. A July federal report found employers actually should be finding it harder to fill positions than at any time during the downturn and recovery, with 3.5 unemployed people for every job opening nationwide, down from 6.2 unemployed people for every opening in June 2009.
Price said she only seeing demand increase from her clients. A fair set for Oct. 17 in Davie’s Signature Grand is on track to rent a record 60 tables, Price said, without much push from the Job News sales staff.
“If you’re willing to take something out of your field, you’re going to find a job,’’ she said. “They might not be able to find what they’re looking for. But there are opportunities.”