Network, network, network

Two weeks ago, Mark DiBattista, of Medford, was one of the nation's 12.8 million unemployed. Out of work for nearly two years, he was one unemployment benefit check away from dire straits. But on March 26, he started a job. How did he get it? Network, network, network.

It's good advice. Yes, as today's U.S. Labor Department report shows, the job market is improving, But a new job isn't going to just jump in your lap.

"I have to believe that 80 percent of the people that are landing today are not landing those jobs via the Internet," DiBattista said. "They are landing them through networking and volunteering.  That was the enabler for me."

Networking led DiBattista to the Career Transition Partnership, a faith-based group in New Jersey that endeavors to connect employers to the unemployed. Through CTP, DiBattista met two very  very important women -- Jeanne Page-Soncrant and Rachel Romeo.

Page-Soncrant, a human resources professional and one of the leaders of the group, had been unemployed herself, until fairly recently. You can read her story by clicking here. Rachel Romeo is the human resources director at Alteva Inc., a Philadelphia telecommunications company that is expanding so fast that it is outgrowing its office space at the Bourse.

Romeo also made a connection to CTP and agreed to post her company's job openings on its website. "I was thrilled to be involved," she said. She met Page-Soncrant and hired her to help with HR tasks at Alteva. She also met DiBattista.

"I know a lot of companies will look unfavorably about people who have been in the market for a long time," said Romeo, who herself had been laid off in 2001. "I actually find that people who have been unemployed for a long period of time are more eager. They really want to show the company what they can do." 

Even though DiBattista didn't have 100 percent of the skills that Alteva wanted, he had the work ethic and many other qualities that made him a fit for Alteva. And he had Page-Soncrant to vouch for him. “He was a job seeker I knew of – who I’d seen in action doing volunteer work," she said. She also knew that he had kept his skills and added to them while unemployed.

Romeo urges job seekers to network. "When you are fielding 200 or 300 resumes for a job that used to bring in 20 or 30, it always helps to have some other way for someone to recognize you," she said.