Survive in '09: E-finding a job, living on unemployment

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Fred Volking could probably teach a class on bits, bytes, chips and networks. But when it comes to using his computer to find a job, he's learning new some tricks.

"I'm still trying to figure out how to run this job search," he said.

Job descriptions for computer gigs have lots of acronyms.

"Analyst, SQL, Web, Internet, .net, those kinds of things," he says.

If Fred couldn't check off each one on his resume, he'd pass it up. The staff at the Onestop Job Center says that's a big mistake.

"Maybe you have two or three of the four, you might go ahead and apply," said an employee.

That strategy gives him dozens of new leads.

"Oh it will definitely open up some possibilities," Fred says.

But while searching for a job, Fred was counting on unemployment, and that's been a problem.

"I was so scared in the beginning because it went from week after week after week, and I kept saying wow man I'm up to like six or seven weeks now and I still haven't seen an unemployment check," he says.

The Onestop staff says Fred's case is more complicated than most because he worked in two states last year, South Carolina and California.

Initially Fred filed here, but that meant waiting for California to send his earnings data.

"They said, 'well you know, unless California posts the wages, you're not going to get anything," he says.

We found out Fred could file directly with California. Not only would that make the process faster, but California's unemployment compensation is $124 higher than South Carolina's.

Talk about perfect timing. Fred got a phone call from California while we were at the Onestop.

It took 30 minutes of answering questions, verifying information and sitting on hold, but eventually it pays off.

"Got it, gonna get my unemployment checks from them," he finally said. "It's all settled, it's all worked out, I'm getting my unemployment, I'm happy."

He's approved for $450 a week, retroactive for six weeks.

"But you know the cool thing here is, everything you've led me through I could have really done myself. I just didn't know how to do some of it. I didn't know who to call I didn't know how to and it's important getting right phone numbers and the right people and just standing in line, I mean sometimes you gotta go stand in line," says Fred.

As he moves forward his job search he's putting the fear and frustration behind him and is holding on to the lessons learned.   
"You have to ask, you've to be proactive and ask, are there any other options for me? Can I take a different approach? How would you suggest I do this?" he says.

When he goes home to play cards with the family, he also has a lesson for them. Even when you're dealt a bad hand, you can still make some good plays.

"I feel so good, I really do, Teresa's going to just dance around and we'll, I don't know what we're going to do but we may even go out and have hot dogs tonight or something," he said.

The Volkings are still waiting for the check to come in the mail, but it should be here any day.