Desperate times: Job seeker hopes creativity pays off

Published: Friday, April 10, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

After nearly a year of unemployment, Pasha Stocking was out of ideas for continuing her job search.

“I had tried everything,” said Stocking, who was laid off from her job in sales and marketing in June 2008. “I had been submitting tons of resumes and going to job fairs and signing up with temp agencies, and it wasn’t getting me anywhere.”

Then Stocking’s mother mentioned a news story she had seen about a man in Milwaukee who put up a billboard advertising himself as a job candidate. The same evening, Stocking was e-mailing the man, Mark Heuer, and decided to pursue a similar strategy.

This week, she unveiled a billboard on the side of Interstate 95 in Bridgeport that says “Hire Me!” and directs people to her Web site, Stocking, 37, said she used money she had saved for a down payment on a house to pay for the billboard, which will be up for four weeks.

“My face is splashed on this billboard and it doesn’t get much clearer than ‘hire me,’” she said. “Everyone looks at billboards, pretty much — I just can’t think of a better way to get yourself out there if you want to take that risk.”

She declined to specify how much she paid for the billboard, which is owned by Lamar Advertising. A single-panel 14-foot-by-48-foot billboard for four weeks in the Bridgeport area costs $7,000, according to Lamar’s Web site.

Stocking, who lives in East Hampton, chose the spot for its heavy traffic and proximity to New York City. She said she is looking for work in marketing and design, and is also interested in positions as an executive assistant.

Before working for PMT Associates, a company that provides crisis intervention training, from September 2007 to June 2008, she worked for New England Residential Services for nearly 17 years and was a residential manager at the company’s facility in Guilford.

She designed the billboard and created a Web site to go along with it that includes her resume and contact information.

As a single mother to Alijah, 16, Kobe, 6, and Taylor, 4, Stocking said she was willing to take a risk on the billboard, and would relocate, if necessary, for the job.

While not all job seekers can spring for a billboard, many are looking for creative ways to distinguish themselves.

Robert Fort, marketing director for New Haven’s Workforce Alliance, which offers job training and helps connect employees and employers, said he would encourage people looking for jobs to think of interesting means to connect with potential employers.

“Anything that someone can do to make themselves stand out is important,” Fort said. “People use billboards for all sorts of things — to propose to each other — and I think she’s smart, if she can afford it. Especially if she’s involved in promotion and marketing, I’d admire that.”

Fort said his organization has seen a 30 percent to 40 percent rise in people looking for jobs in recent months, although the number of companies looking for employees has dropped 75 percent. Connecticut’s unemployment rate is at 7.4 percent, while nationwide the rate reached 8.5 percent in March.

Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace can be useful for connecting with potential employers, Fort said. He also advised job seekers to send resumes both by e-mail and regular mail and to follow up with phone calls at companies that are hiring.

“Squeaky wheels definitely get greased, and I think that in a job market like this, any advantage you can create by your aggressive pursuit of a job is going to get rewarded,” he said.

Stocking said that she hoped her gamble would help her find a job that will allow her to support her family.

Similar ploys have paid off for others: Heuer, who gave her the billboard idea, found several job opportunities through his ad. Joshua Persky, a former investment banker who walked the streets of Manhattan last year with a sandwich board sign reading “MIT Grad for Hire,” found a position at an accounting firm, according to the New York Post.

As of Thursday, Stocking said she had already received a few responses from potential employers as well as inquiries from local news media and The New York Times.

“It was a huge risk financially for me and my family, so if it doesn’t work, that’s going to be a problem, but hopefully it will,” she said. “I just want to work — I’ve never not worked, so this for me is freaking me out right now.”

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