July 2, 2006
Looking for work can be big job, even in good times
Seattle Times business reporter
ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The Seattle-area economy might be running strong, but nervous faces weren't hard to find in a crowd of well-dressed job seekers in Bellevue.
They were waiting for the doors to open at a recent job fair at Meydenbauer Center.
Many gathered near the entrance, saying not a word, while others buried their attention in the newspaper classifieds. Some had been waiting for nearly an hour.
But once the doors opened, everyone focused on one thing: the chance to finally put an end to their job search. Job-seekers were old and young. Some were longtime residents, and others had just moved to the area.
Many said that The Seattle Times-Seattle Post-Intelligencer Job Expo was the first job fair they had attended, while others were job-fair veterans. There were a few who casually dropped by on their lunch breaks.
The Seattle area has an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. There are about 1.4 million people employed in the area, according to the state Employment Security Department, but also about 63,200 people looking for work.
Here are the stories shared at the job fair by several of them.
The returning war veteran
Kevin Kittel, 24, is a veteran of the war in Iraq. He went there twice with the Army, but is now a civilian.
Though he had been looking for a job for only two weeks, he was already feeling some pressure.
"It's getting harder and harder to pay the bills."
He said he'd been able to find jobs that he was qualified for, but waiting to be called back for interviews made the job-search process tiresome.
"Patience is the key," he stressed.
Kittel worked in human resources while in the military, in addition to being a gunner.
Kittel, who lives in Tacoma, wants to keep working in human resources but said that serving in the military hadn't completely prepared him for the job he seeks.
"The civilian way of doing things is different," he said. "I will have to learn that."
Kittel is now in the National Guard, which requires monthly meetings and annual training sessions that last about two weeks.
He suspects that employers take that into account when deciding whether to hire him. "They're not supposed to pass judgment," he said, but added: "Some employers do."
Lawrence Plummer, 54, moved here recently from Sacramento.
He said that he would like to stay in Seattle, partly because of its milder weather.
"I just got tired of 114-degree temperatures," Plummer said. Plummer worked for Hewlett-Packard, the maker of computers and printers, in California as a business-product manager.
At the Job Expo, he was looking for a position in management.
"My only concern is my age," said Plummer, 54. But there are a "volume of opportunities," he said about the Seattle area.
Disabled, but not discouraged
Gordon Morrow, 47, said that he had been job hunting for years, but he seemed relaxed and optimistic.
"I used to get frustrated, but not anymore. ... You just can't let it get to you."
To make ends meet, Morrow lives with his mother and stepfather in Kirkland.
He has worked in the broadcast industry and was seeking a job as a production technician at a radio station or audio-production studio.
The last job listed on his bright yellow three-page résumé ended in 1995.
He said he has had jobs since then, but they haven't lasted long.
Morrow has partial eyesight, which he believes plays a role in his difficulty in finding the job he wants.
He said he tells potential employers about his disability because he fears that he will get fired when they find out.
"What I do doesn't require fully sighted people, I can learn by feeling and [partial] sight," he said. "I just can't get anybody to even try."
But Morrow seemed upbeat, noting that there were plenty of other job seekers out there.
"I'm not going to quit looking," he said. "I'm not alone."
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