He goes to work for those who are laid off

Doug Hearn sees a lot of people at a low point – when they've just been laid off.

Hearn is the president of career development services for Williams, Roberts, Young Inc., a talent-management company based in Winston-Salem with offices in Charlotte. Hearn and his staff are busy now helping laid-off workers find new jobs. In stronger economies, they stay busy helping businesses recruit new executives.

Hearn's mantra for job seekers is to be bold – and to get out of the house. Networking is a much more important tool than your resume, he said this month, speaking to job-seekers at a free seminar that his company held for laid-off financial workers.

He even acknowledged the inherent awkwardness of chamber-sponsored cocktails and trade-group happy hours.

“The first couple of times, you feel like you're going to die,” he said to one person, who nodded and replied, “That is true.”

Hearn spoke to the Observer this week, expounding on more tips for job searchers. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Q. Based on what you're seeing, which industries here are laying off workers?

I think only a quarter of it has been in financial services. The rest has been ripple effects into other industries, like residential housing construction, law firms, some bread-and-butter retail businesses – the dry cleaners, the barbershops, the hardware stores. (And) a lot of the niche businesses that provide services to large (banks), like cleaning services.

If the bank's layoffs are a really large magnitude, that's a lot of empty space all of a sudden and the bank will say, “Well, we don't need those cleaners.”

Two areas here in Charlotte that have remained strong are commercial construction and manufacturing. There's hiring in those industries. And even in an industry like financial services, there's still hiring, but the jobs may not be published. You're going to have to work a little harder at finding them.

Q. Do you see people resistant to switching industries?

Some people start out like that. They say, “How can I work for a smaller company? I work for one of the biggest banks in the U.S.”

And I say, “Look, where's that got you?”

Financial services may be the major game in town, but there are also some very, very good manufacturing companies here that I think anyone would be proud to work for. Finances, (information technology) and service transfer to any industry.

Q. What's a big mistake that people make when they're laid off?

People think they can successfully limit their job-search efforts to jobs listed online. But those might be old posts, and you're also competing against everybody in the world who has access to the Internet. What you want to do is develop a network and use that network to discover the job that isn't in the public domain quite yet – somebody's retiring, somebody's getting promoted, it's a new position.

People have a tendency to pull in when they go through something like this, and that's the last thing you should do. The more people you can talk to (about your job search), the better.

When you approach them, and you approach them the right way, you're enlisting another team member to help you find the job you want: your doctor, your dentist, your tax accountant, your minister, the people you are in a book club with, the people you go bowling with.

Join the groups that you've always wanted to join but haven't had time to because you were working.

Q. What's an interviewing mistake that people make?

Not being able to answer the question “Why should I hire you?”

Some people are hit pretty hard by a layoff, and if they haven't worked through that emotional piece, they don't come through very well on that question – “Help me, help me, I need a job” (seems like their answer).

I would like everyone to be able to come up with an answer that is like, “I've looked through the job description, I've come up with the four key areas that it entails, let me give you an example of the ways I have been able to do those things.”

Q. Does your business pick up in an economic downturn?

The career transition part of it does. Executive recruiting tends to fall off a bit.