Why Portland Is the Funkiest Job Market – EVER!

I have this conversation at least a few times a week. Sometimes is a frustrated professional who relocated to Portland a year ago, and finds herself under-employed and has grown uneasy about her resume. Or its someone who’s wanting to relocate to Portland but is mystified about how to approach a long distance job search effectively. Or it’s a mom who’s returning to the workplace who doesn’t have a local professional network in place.

Here’s how the conversation goes:

Client: “I’m having a really hard time with my job search.”

Me: “What are you doing?”

Client: “I’ve been looking for work for a while. I go to networking meetings, but when I make a connection and follow-up, I never hear back from them. I’m applying to jobs that I find online, but I never hear back about those either. And, when I tell people that I meet that I’m looking for a job, they don’t seem to know how to help. It’s never been this hard, and I’m not sure if I’m even looking in the right places.”

Me: “How connected to the Portland community are you?”

Client: “What do you mean? How big is my professional network in Portland?”

Me: “Not really. I mean, how connected are you? Did you go to school here? Do you have family here? Do you do volunteer work? What do you do for fun?”

Client: “I’m looking for a job, not a date.”

Me: “Right, and Portland is a very small town. Portland is a “its-not-what-you-know-but-who-you-know” place, unlike any other city that I know of. Sure, networking is important in any job search in any city, but even more so in Portland. We’re a city with high unemployment, a very desirable lifestyle, and very few large companies. People move here, and they don’t want to leave. They come to school here, and they don’t want to leave. But professionals don’t network here like they do in other cities — instead of networking after work, Oregonians are more likely to go hike or head out for a beer with friends. That’s one of the main reasons the job search can be so frustrating here.”

Client: “So what can I do?”

Me: “Re-focus your job search. Relax a bit.”

OK, I share more specific strategies with them other than advising them to relax. Really. But it depends on his or her individual situation/circumstance. I wish I had a one-size-fits-all answer– but those approaches just don’t work. You’re unique. You’re special (not that kind of special). Don’t sell yourself short by thinking that a one-size-fits-all approach will work for you.