Network keeps job hunters positive

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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When Auburn’s Steven Lease lost his job last summer, he decided to turn a bad situation into something positive. Lease, who was laid off from a small renewable-energy company, quickly learned there were a lot of other people in the same situation. “Basically, I started going around looking for opportunities to network,” he said. “I soon realized there wasn’t anything I could find for people out of a job to talk about how they feel and share ideas on how to go about being successful.” So Lease, an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster of Troop 19 in Auburn as well as a member of Downtown Rotary, came up with his own solution. His organization, Active Job Seekers of Auburn, now meets weekly. When he first found himself unemployed, Lease didn’t waste any time coming up with a plan. “I started walking around to all the local businesses, introducing myself and asking them to explain their business to me so I could promote it,” he said. “In the process of doing that, I could learn who was out there and what was going on. It wasn’t walking in asking for a job, but asking how to help their business.” That positive approach caught the attention of Angela Tahti, Placer Arts executive director, when Lease walked into the ARTS building in Downtown Auburn. “I was so impressed with his initiative to take a circumstance and activate that into finding out what Auburn needs, what drives Auburn and who these businesses are that make the town grow,” Tahti said. She invited Lease to attend the Arts Council board meeting, which happened to be that afternoon. “He came back and met the board and asked them questions,” she said. During the conversation, Lease and Tahti discussed the idea of others following his example and finding “their next life” through networking. “And he did it,” Tahti said. That conversation with Tahti was the impetus for starting the group, Lease said. Soon he and fellow job seeker Brad Baldwin were meeting once a week over coffee to discuss their efforts and give each other a boost. After about a month and some marketing on the Auburn Journal Web site and other places, the coffee meetings began to attract others. Currently, Active Job Seekers of Auburn has 18 members. “It’s a way of keeping positive,” Lease said. “If your job is looking for a job and at the end of the week you don’t find one, you feel like you’ve failed. We look at ways to become successful that week, if it is volunteering or even going for a run — whatever works for each individual. It’s trying to make the individual feel like they’re worth something.” One of the ideas for forming the group was to focus on the value members could provide to the community through volunteering. “It also keeps their skills sharpened and they feel better about themselves,” Lease said. Just having the support group there as a sounding board has been great, too. “One week I had taken a test and felt I’d failed it,” Lease said. “It was nice to be able to share it with the group and how horrible I felt.” Lease found out later he had passed the test. The meetings fill an important void, said Baldwin, who is president of Active Job Seekers. “For the most part, it is getting up in the morning, putting on work clothes and meeting in a group-like setting and talking about what’s going on in the job force — what’s working and what’s not working,” he said. “The networking you make from meeting new people in the community and sharing stories are the best part about it.” There have been some successes, too. Some of the members have found jobs, Baldwin said. And a few days ago, someone who had heard about the group called Lease to tell him about two administration positions that were available. Active Job Seekers meets for 45 minutes to an hour one Tuesday a month at Auburn Connections and the other Tuesdays at local coffee shops. Lease has also created a Web site for the group with the idea in mind that other communities could use it to start their own support and networking organizations for job seekers, he said. In the meantime, he has found employment and is in training to become a financial adviser with a local company. “It came about through my own networking and positive attitude I had when talking to people,” he said. “Personally I think it led to me being successful and someone identifying me for a possible opportunity.” Gloria Young can be reached at ------------------- Active Job Seekers of Auburn Web site: E-mail: