A year-plus out of work. Finally, a job

Dale Petrie lost his accounting job in the recession and struggled to stay ahead of his debts. But something good’s happened. He’s found a job.

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His story — together with today’s national data showing private sector job growth in April was the strongest in four years — should give us all reason for a little hope.

Petrie, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network, let us document his uphill climb in the downturn. The St. Paulite saw his job end in February 2009 when the the company he worked for shut down.

We wanted to share his story for a couple reasons. He was kind enough to share the bad stuff so we wanted to make sure we highlighted something good!

Beyond that, his story tells us a little about how to get a job right now and that the changes people have made to cut back their spending may be permanent.

Over the winter, Petrie told us of being whacked by credit card companies and frustration competing with lots of qualified people for too few jobs.

“Basically it’s a buyer’s market right now, and the job search makes me feel like damaged goods,” he said then. “I’m finding it harder than ever to land a job, or even an interview in this market, and every lead ends up being a dead end.

In March, he said he and his wife had slashed their budgets but were still taking on debt and exhausting credit lines. With jobless benefits running out, he worried he’d have to take a low-wage job outside his field.

It didn’t happen. He dropped us a line a few days ago to tell us he’d be hired as an accountant by a local office of a major national financial company with total compensation better than his old job.

Petrie believes his success had less to do with the improving economy and more to do with the people who interviewed him. The interview, he said,

… had little to do with my qualifications in fact, most of that came through on my resume, but a lot of it was more to see if I’d be a good fit for the role and the environment, and I believe the first time I met with my new supervisor, he could see that my unusual career path was very similar to his.

We were often on the same wavelength about a number of things, and just as with other jobs where I clearly was just about as qualified as one could be, I was often passed over for another candidate, and I think a lot had to do with the other candidate, whether he/she fit the profile they were looking for more so than I did.

With a job secured, Petrie says his biggest concern is “digging out of the debt hole we have created.”

There will be changes in our lives…Today I think we feel fortunate and are intending to live more frugally, at least until we regain the financial security we once thought we had.

But instead of the difficult choice of whether to try to pay a credit card bill in full or let it ride, or not to have our leaking toilet repaired, we are now faced with good choices, like which of our health and dental plans should we opt into, etc.

In Minnesota, the employment picture for business and professional services is a lot better now than even six months ago.

In November, state officials reported that sector was down more than 20,000 jobs from the year before. By March, business and professional services returned to positive territory, although many of those were likely temp jobs.

We’ll know more on May 20 when the state releases Minnesota’s newest numbers.

And even though today’s national data showed an uptick in unemployment, there’s strong evidence companies are starting to be confident enough to hire.

Petrie’s seen a lot of the best and worst of the recessionary economy. In some ways things are better but “I think it’s still very stagnant and it is only by sheer luck that I managed to find a role that fit me so well.”

I guess what I take from that is that even when everybody seems to be downsizing, there are still some areas where things are growing, there is some new job creation happening, and maybe it’s happening with the larger companies first.

I’m not so sure things are going to start turning around for everyone just yet. This job I received was a newly created position which took the company 4 months from the time I first talked to them until they actually offered me the position, and I had actually already stopped expecting to ever hear back from them when I got the offer.

I still see a lot of suffering out there, a lot of turmoil, and it feels to me like maybe we’re not losing a bunch of jobs anymore, but the ones we lost haven’t really started to come back yet….These economic wounds won’t heal quickly for employees OR employers…

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Looking back, he says, “Were it not for my wife’s 1/2 time employment which she attained shortly before I lost my job, I don’t know where my family and I (self, wife, 8 1/2 year old son) would be. I had been laid off many times before, but had never experienced a stint of unemployment anywhere near this duration.”

His wife, a part-time librarian, also found new work in her field that will allow her to work nearly full-time hours.

Petrie and his wife start their new positions on Monday.

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