After endless trolling through career Web sites such as Monster.com and never connecting with a human, Charlene Helm snapped.
"Every day was a constant battle," said Helm, a May 2008 graduate of Appalachian State University. "I was so frustrated I just typed in 'I need a job.' "
And there at the top of the list was www.damnineedajob.com, a Web site designed by Larry Dinsmore of Lexington, which offers T-shirts with the Web site name on the front and your résumé printed on the back
The site didn't land Helm, 23, a job but helped all the same.
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"It just kind of put some humor in the situation," said Helm, a marketing major who has found a part-time job at a non-profit in South Carolina since she discovered the site last year.
The site was born out of frustration, said Dinsmore. In 2005, he went 18 months without a job. He created the site thinking he might make a little money selling T-shirts and show off his technical skills since he was looking for a job in the computer field. As luck would have it, a local television station profiled the guy, someone home sick from work saw the piece and, yes, Dinsmore was called to come in. After the regular round of interviews, he got a job at the Kentucky League of Cities.
The site languished for a few years. But when the economy started to go south, he found himself touched by the people who found it. He said his traffic is up 30 percent to 40 percent from its previous peak, which followed an appearance last summer on CNN.
Many people come to the site in the same way Helm did. They type "I need a job" into a search field.
"To me," said Dinsmore, "that's kind of an act of desperation."
The site that he kept as a lark has become somewhat of a mission because of the e-mails he gets from people laying out their plight or asking for advice.
"I do see the impact that the economy is having on real people," he said. He lets people know he's not a professional career counselor but tries to be sympathetic and constructive in his e-mails.
"It sounds kind of cheesy," he said, "but if it provides somebody with a moment of escape in a dismal time" the site is worth his effort to keep it current.
The message of the site is fairly straightforward: Don't give up. Do whatever you can to get noticed. He even recommends buying or producing a résumé shirt and calling up the local news to follow you in your quest for employment. (Hey, it worked for him.) He's seen television reports of people who've done just that. One woman from California was almost directly quoting Dinsmore's words from damnineedajob.com.
That out-of-the-box strategy might work for some, said Michael Cronk, assistant director of the career development center at Transylvania University. "If you are a gambler," he said, "something like that might just work."
But, he said, the most important thing for job candidates to do is network. "That is the best way to get noticed by employers."
And think carefully about the jobs. Go for quality over quantity, he said. Research the job and the company and make sure your résumé reflects how you can fill the need.
Dinsmore said he'll keep up the site and keep responding to the e-mails he receives.
"I don't have a magic wand or anything," he said. But there are some links to job sites, a forum to share a story and game arcade for a little distraction. And, as its Note from Larry says, "If this site just made you laugh then so be it."