Job seekers share their stories

January 30, 2012 

All three job seekers have stories to tell.

They’ve been fired, laid off and one simply quit, thinking a new job wouldn’t be that hard to find.

But the one thing all three Manatee County residents have found is the local job market is tough, really tough. And it can be daunting even for people with good skills and work history.

For Marty Vela, he often felt like he was banging his head against the wall after he left his $90,000-plus job in June 2010 as a senior implementation manager for a major health insurance company when his job was restructured.

“I thought I would be happy to take something that pays less,” Vela said. “But I didn’t do my due diligence.”

What he found was a job market where youth and education are paramount for employers who have their pick of among the reported 29,341 locally seeking work.

He only had an associate’s degree and soon found he had to tap into his savings and 401k to cover his living expenses.

“It’s been humbling going from buying whatever you want, when you want it to watching every penny,” he said. “It makes you appreciate what you have.”

Vela is now going back to school at SCF and then USF to get his bachelor’s degree in accounting, something he thinks will give him the ability to find a good, stable job.

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Chuck Annalore boarded a Greyhound bus this week for Seattle -- giving up his job search that started in 2009 when he was laid off managing a stock crew at Albertsons. He hopes to find a fresh start in an area with a lower unemployment rate -- 7.9 percent -- and with the help of a friend to support him until he had get on his feet.

“I applied for anything and everything, even jobs I knew I couldn’t get,” Annalore said.

In the two and a half years after he lost his full-time job, Annalore had two temporary jobs -- one as a driver for Flowers Baking Co. for a few months and a six-week seasonal retail position with Men’s Warehouse. He liked his delivery job but his poor credit rating kept him from being able to finance his own truck.

His chronic health problems including several heart attacks and diabetes also hasn’t helped. He became depressed and at one point considered suicide until doctors at Manatee Glens were able to get him stabilized with medication.

He has the promise of a job with Lowe’s and he’s hoping that his friend’s pronouncement that “everybody can get a job out here” is right.

He gave away most of his possessions before embarking on this three-day trip across country, even his trusty Murphy bike that was his only mode of transportation during his job hunt.

Despite his past troubles, Annalore is upbeat. “I can’t wait to embrace what life has to give,” he said.

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A bright spot among those braving the rough unemployment market is Lucinda Scott, who lost her job as a vet tech in October with Manatee County Animal Services -- one of only two she’s held in the past 22 years.

With the help of Suncoast Workforce, Scott went on several interviews for a veterinary assistant, but what she found was that her lack of certification and age -- over 50 -- made her not as desirable as other candidates.

Yet after three months she found a part-time position with Faneuil, the nationwide company that hires toll collectors for places like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The pay was considerably less than her previous job, but she was determined to make a go of it and show off her customer service skills.

“I’ve made it lively. I greet everybody with a ‘Good morning’ or a ‘Good afternoon’ with a smile,” Scott said. “I also picked up shifts when other people couldn’t work. I’m making the best of it and enjoying it.”

Her strategy paid off. Scott has been promoted to a higher-paying full-time position, one with benefits.

All three job seekers, despite their frustrations, say along the way they’ve been able to find the silver lining in their job search.

Vela volunteered at the Salvation Army and his experiences there have given him perspective.

“I knew every person there, in a minute, would trade their situation for mine,” he said.

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