Use anger to fuel job search, says downsized columnist

In a modern twist of irony that might bring a snigger to O. Henry's lips, Marty Nemko, the San Francisco Chronicle's career-advice columnist, was recently informed that he was losing his job.

The counselor who has worked with more than 1,600 clients in his Oakland practice suddenly had a front-row view of the world of downsizing. So he followed his own advice: Don't get sad, get mad.

"Very often, when people get downsized, they get depressed or say, 'Oh, I'll give myself a week to recover.' Well, the less action you have and less you do, the more depressed you get," said Nemko.

"I was angry, and I used that anger while it was still there to fuel my job search. Literally, the first minute after I got that call, I got on the phone and said, 'I'm going to prove that SOB wrong.' I called all the major syndicates, and since then I've had three statements of interest. This is a lesson to job-seekers who've been downsized: Use that anger in a positive way before depression sets in."

Nemko isn't the only Jewish person, of course, coping with the indignity of downsizing. Roughly one-third of his clientele is Jewish, and he notes that they seem to fare better in the tumultuous job market.

"Jewish behavior patterns seem to be independent of religiosity. I have a very, very, very — three verys — observant Jewish client, and he's functionally no different than a non-observant client," said Nemko, whose column still appears in the Los Angeles Times and on "You can never make stereotypes across an entire people. But we all make some generalizations, and there's some truth to those. So, in general, Jews do much better in their [job-hunting] efforts."

With many qualified workers competing for a finite number of openings, the assertiveness demonstrated by many of his Jewish clients is the key to their getting back to work, Nemko said. "Right or wrong, in the world we live in, assertiveness and aggressiveness works in a job search."

Nemko, a fast-thinking man who speaks almost as quickly as a singer in a Gilbert and Sullivan production, said while "many Christians are very assertive and active, on average, Jews are more likely to take action quickly. [My clients] get on the phone and make a million calls. They're not filled with doubts; they don't sit in fear of rejection. They call and call."

Also, many of his Jewish clients tend to be highly social, which is a huge benefit in striking employment gold.

"Jews tend to be social people, not laconic or reticent," said Nemko, who on Wednesday hosted a "Pink Slip Panel" employment workshop through the Commonwealth Club of California. "It's well-known that using your social network is a great way to land a job. [My Jewish clients] tell everyone from their ex-lovers to their mothers-in-law to their hairdressers that they're looking for a job. With exceptions, Jews tend to be better than other people at this."

Among his clientele, Nemko has observed a proliferation of Jewish men and women in the biotechnology and biomedical fields, along with the "traditional" fields of medicine, scientific research and entrepreneurial endeavors. He has noticed an under-representation of Jews in engineering and computer programming.

Nemko urges job-seekers to not be passive in their hunt.

"A lot of times, companies put job openings on their Web site long before it ends up someplace like the Chronicle or, because it's free," said the author of "Cool Careers for Dummies."

"If you apply to jobs on the company's own Web site, there's a lot less competition. Go to their Web sites and see what jobs are available. It's not something that requires great assertiveness, but it's a little more clever than going to the mass sites."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.