Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 26, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Tips for the Unemployed
Unemployed? Don’t spend your days sending out resumes.
In fact, maybe you should not E-mail, snail mail, post online, or
hand deliver even one. And don’t rise in the morning, put on a suit,
and spend the day working from a desk in an outplacement center cold
calling employers. Both activities will soon plunge you into a despair
so deep that after 12 or 14 weeks you will have become a different
This advice comes from a man who sees more unemployed professionals
in one week than most people encounter in a lifetime.
is an unemployment counselor for the state, and he is also an entrepreneur.
Raw with empathy for the increasingly desperate out-of-work people
he speaks with every day, he is developing a business to help them
find jobs faster — and with a lot less pain. He has a website
(www.tombrophy.com), is planning a series of audio tapes, and gives
Brophy speaks on "Transitional Layoff Counseling" on Thursday,
June 27, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Hyatt. Cost: $25. Call 609-259-9539.
Brophy’s empathy for those who find themselves suddenly out of work
springs, at least in part, from his own experience. Beginning in 1896,
his family owned and ran a shoe store under the family name in Palmer
Square, first where PNC Bank is now located, and then across the street
in the storefront now occupied by Bucks County Coffee. "I started
to work in that store when I was nine years old," Brophy says.
He was the third generation in his family to sell shoes to Princetonians.
"Have you seen the Images of America book?" he asks. "On
the cover there is a man sitting in a doorway." The year is 1901,
and the doorway is that of his family’s shoe store.
In the early 1980s, says Brophy, "Collins [the development company
that then owned Palmer Square] evicted us."
It was the beginning of a bleak period for him. "I went into real
estate," he says. He found a world where he considered no one
to be loyal, a world very different from the small town retail world
he was used to. "It was two-and-a-half-years of hell," he
Someone suggested he apply to the department of labor. "I was
not enthused," he recalls. "I remember the frustration and
fear of becoming a state employee."
Now, some eight years later, he is exquisitely tuned into the emotional
turmoil unemployed people suffer, and has developed programs —
some implemented, some in the proposal stage — to help them. In
short, Brophy appears to have found his niche. It is easy to see the
entrepreneur under the skin of a state worker. His mind is constantly
working, constantly devising strategies to let the unemployed know
what he knows.
Here is the crux of what Brophy knows.
"Do you have children?" he asks. When the reply is affirmative,
he says "okay," and settles into a routine he obviously has
gone through many times before. "Your oldest is 29 now," he
says, setting the stage. "Go back. It’s 28 1/2 years ago. You
just got back from the pediatrician. Are you married? Okay, you’re
married. So, you get home, and you tell your husband `the doctor says
our son has a rare disease. It has to be addressed quickly, and there
are only three specialists in the world who can treat it.’
"That’s all he tells you. That’s it," says Brophy. "Is
there any doubt in your mind that you’re going to find one of those
The answer, he knows, requires no thought whatsoever from any parent.
"You’ll go through walls," he says. And that is what job hunters
need to do. Forget the formulas; forget the standard advice. "There’s
no formula for this deal," he declares.
Here is Brophy’s description of what job hunters go through, and his
advice on getting back to work before their self-esteem is too tattered
to put back together.
full of enthusiasm," says Brophy. Shoved out the door by an employer,
and worried about how to pay the bills, he says, "adrenalin takes
over." The newly-unemployed send out resumes and make phone calls
like crazy. "Reflexes take over," he says. "You do everything
you’re told to do. But it doesn’t work. Your in the new neighborhood
By the 10th or 11th week, says Brophy, who has spoken to tens of thousands
of unemployed people at every stage of their job search, "symptoms
begin to manifest." Within another two to three weeks, he says,
"you’re so weighed down from rejection that you’re a different
human being. Your world is full of employed people; it’s all you can
By this point, personal relationships very likely have deteriorated.
"If your husband or wife has never been unemployed, and says `I
understand how you’re feeling,’" says Brophy, you want to scream
— or worse. You are living a lie, not telling friends and family
how afraid and depressed you feel.
And it gets worse, by 26 weeks, says Brophy, the $32,000-a-year secretary
and the $750,000-a-year CEO are indistinguishable in their agony.
"They talk on the phone the same way," he says. "They
construct sentences the same way." Constant rejection rules their
lives, and forms their every waking minute.
be laid at the feet of that job-hunting staple, the resume. Standard
advice is to spiff up and send out as many resumes as possible. Big,
big mistake, says Brophy.
"The average person sends out 112 resumes in the first three months,"
he says. "They get 4.3 responses." For the unemployed, he
says, those numbers quickly translate into "108 people think I
"Ninety-two percent of resumes are not read," says Brophy.
"A $70,000 job advertised in The Wall Street Journal draws 3,600
resumes a week. That’s more than 600 a day. What happens to the person
who gets the resumes?"
What happens, he says, is that this person finds a way to make them
go away, perhaps by instructing his staff to pick out two or three
a day and get rid of the rest. Hovering near the phone, scanning the
mail for responses, the job hunter, unaware that his resume most likely
was not even read, feels more marginalized, more invisible, and more
but a lot more uncomfortable, cold calls to employers depress job
hunters’ spirits further, and rarely result in a job offer, says Brophy.
He reels off a typical phone call opening: "`I’m calling about
the job in the paper for an ad sales regional manager. I’d like to
speak to the HR manager.’" The reaction, says Brophy, is no different
from the one a homeowner feels when he races to catch a ringing phone
only to hear a polite voice ask "may I speak to the lady of the
If you don’t know the decision maker, if you don’t know exactly what
it is you can offer to solve a need the company has, the person answering
the phone will think, says Brophy, "you’re a pain in my neck."
Job hunters have a fantasy about these calls, he says. It goes something
like this. The HR guy will come on the phone and say, "I have
this job. It pays $62,000, and it’s waiting just for you."
As time goes on, and the fantasy does not come true, job hunters make
matters worse, adopting a phone monotone that signals an ever-more-off-putting
lack of hope. They’re just going through the motions, and they know
a months-long bout of unemployment, Brophy says it is that a keenness
of perception kicks in. The unemployed, exhibiting behaviors not unlike
those of abused children, are able to read volumes into the merest
change in tone, expression, and shift in body language.
This skill can bag the prize.
Most job hunters blow their interviews. They use their precious hour,
says Brophy, reciting the facts on their resumes, information the
interviewer has already seen. Up against seven or eight other candidates,
they end up sounding like all of the rest.
Stop, says Brophy. Analyze the interviewer. Scan his desk and his
walls. Notice what he is wearing. Read his body language. And then
take one minute of your interview time to connect with the thing that
matters most to him, whether it be religion, his new baby, or his
This has to be done subtly, says Brophy, and the reading of the interviewer
has to be right on target. If it is, he says the candidate who makes
that vital connection will get the job — every time.
spend a single minute on a job hunting task that is an odds-on favorite
to lead to another rejection. Look for the back doors into the good
jobs. Find out the names of the decision makers — and their business
philosophies, hobbies, and favorite shore towns and restaurants. Take
on consulting jobs or freelance work that will get you into the mainstream
fast. Mine your contacts. Make new contacts. And count every scrap
of information as a victory.
thinking like the parent of a sick child who needs the help of an
elusive doctor — and needs it right away.
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