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Jobless rate: not as scary as it looks?

Support group helps job seekers find leads and one another

Businessman and self-improvement advocate Cleon Cox knows lots of people whose employers have recently shown them the door.

That's because for the past 12 years he's been facilitating a job seekers' support group in Portland.

He's pulled together dozens of their questions, plus fellow group participants' suggestions for getting over hurdles they face in their search for another job.

The resulting book, 'The 50 Most Asked Questions From the Newly Unemployed,' includes a list of 'Basic Suggestions' of where to go, whom to talk to, and what to do to launch or further a job search.

'You have to get out of the house,' Cox says. 'That's the purpose of this book; a lot of it is to get you out.'

But before hitting the new treadmill Ñ the job of looking for a new job Ñ Cox insists that a person has to take time to be sad over the lost one, even if the layoff was expected.

'What most people don't realize is that they have to grieve,' he says.

It'll catch up with them if they don't, he says. He advises taking two weeks off to deal with the loss, even when it seems unaffordable.

Cox concedes that those new to the group usually ignore the advice, but the returning participants, who pooh-poohed it themselves the last time around, understand it. Cox says he hears them making the same suggestion to newcomers.

That's generally the way the support group works, Cox says. People pipe up and share what they know.

Cox tells people the answers to their job-search questions are already in them, but inner doubt prevents them from following their hunches.

His book also lists advice that's more manageable than taking a vacation, such as reading for fun, networking and joining the public speaking group Toastmasters to sharpen one's responses to prospective employers' questions.

In his weekly job seekers group, Cox offers advice, but he says the most important service he offers is providing the continuity of the regular meeting. He's been through some job changes himself Ñ working his way up from janitor, eventually to mechanic, pipe fitter and welder, to running Greyhound Bus depots, to selling stocks for Merrill Lynch, to running a company that helped college-bound students find financial aid and spruce up their applications.

Participant Gordon Huck, 48, of West Linn, has gone to the meetings off and on for a few years. He returns even though he has heard the advice, but these days the onetime sales manager still can't find the 'right fit' that lasts indefinitely.

'The economy has a lot to do with it,' Huck says, though he says he's also hearing good ideas and has made some fruitful contacts there.

Software engineer Lee McDowell finds the Friday gatherings to be a good way to end another week of searching.

'It's more of a sort of release to me,' he says, confiding that being home in the middle of the day can be stressful.

Cox has a final piece of advice for the gathered job seekers: For their own peace of mind, ignore the news reports about the jobless rate.

'If you follow that, it will scare you to death,' he says.

Contact Nevill Eschen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..