How a Two-Year Job Search Ended in Success

Eight hundred and eighty-nine days after Joe Cardinale lost his Fortune 500 job he finally landed another. It took this former revenue analyst two-and-one-half years -- 127 weeks -- to replace the job he held for 23 years. And yes; he said he counted every day.

His experience offers a window into the plight of millions of workers who lost their jobs after the 2008 economic downturn. Although the job he landed pays much less than the one he lost, he says it does not matter. “I learned to value a walk in the park and a meal with good friends,” the 50-year-old recently told fellow job searchers at a Catholic Charities career counseling program in Yonkers that he credits for pulling him through this.

Cardinale worked most of his adult life for a large cell phone corporation. But in December 2008, he was told “thank you, but your position is being eliminated,” said Cardinale. It didn’t help, he added, to learn that 16,000 fellow employees were also losing their jobs. And it didn’t help to learn that millions were losing their jobs across the nation. It just meant, as he said, that he was competing with more people for fewer jobs. He called friends. He sent resumes. He got nowhere. Employment agencies told him he had been out of work too long. He ran through all his savings and was about to lose his home.

Cardinale said his lowest point came when he visited his father’s grave at Gates of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne New York, where he worked cutting grass as a teen. He bumped into his former boss during the visit. “If you have a job cutting grass or digging graves, think of me,” Cardinale, he told his former boss. “It doesn’t matter that it’s something I did 30 years ago; I’m not proud.”

Fortunately, Cardinale’s priest told him about Catholic Charities’ free career counseling and employment transition support sessions geared for people who lost jobs because of the economic downturn. At these sessions, Ann Ruecker, a career coach, taught Cardinale how to “brand” himself and network with friends and strangers. She offered him career counseling and linked him to support from fellow job searchers. She introduced him to Catholic Charities staff to learn about public benefits such as food stamps. Joe never thought he might need them.

“Ann pumped me back up, said I needed to keep focused, fight for a job and hang in there,” Cardinale said. He signed up three times for the program’s group and individual career counseling series. Finally, this month, the branding and networking skills he learned paid off. A former coworker arranged a job interview for Cardinale at a Westchester-based accounting firm.

Cardinale learned about the job on Monday morning and interviewed for it on Tuesday. After 889 days without work, he suddenly found himself employed once again. “Everything changed in an instant,” Cardinale said. “My faith and the help I received at Catholic Charities got me through this.”