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After a year and a half of layoff, Reggie Vaughn has finally found work.

Tell me about your layoff?

I was a truck driver for a large freight company. I’d been working there since 2005. Every year around October or November, business would slow down and the bottom guys on the seniority list would get laid off. But it was never for long, and we usually would be able to pick up casual work either at our own terminal or one of the other local terminals. But at the end of 2008, we could tell things were different. The economy was really bad, and when the bottom guys got laid off, the terminal manager pretty much told us that we shouldn’t expect to be back at work anytime soon.

Did you start looking for more work right away, or did you think things would get better and that you’d get your job back?

I looked a little, but I honestly thought I would get called back to my job with the freight company. But as we got further into 2009 and the economy just got worse and worse, my company started laying off more and more guys and I realized I wasn’t temporarily unemployed, I was just plain out of work.

So when you started looking seriously, what steps did you take, and how many hours a day would you say you looked?

When I realized I really didn’t have a job anymore, I would spend hours and hours online, looking through job lists and websites. I applied for lots of truck driving jobs and even considered moving out of state to get a job. But even though I have ten years of experience and a clean driving record, I never got any responses from the applications I put in.

What kinds of jobs did you apply for?

Pretty much driving jobs – the same type of work I was used to. But I started to realize I needed a new skill. Truck driving is very dependent on the economy. When I started in 2005, my only problem was getting home at night. I was working 50 and 60 hours per week and making lots of money. But when the economy crashed, the trucks were empty. No one was buying anything.

Tell me the story of how you landed your new job. Where did you find it? What was the application process like?

The turning point was when I started going to a career center. Honestly, I had gotten depressed about my chances of finding a job. Looking back on it, I really wasn’t looking as hard or as well as I could’ve, because it just felt hopeless. At first, I was embarrassed to ask for help. Until I got laid off, I’d had a full-time job and paid all my own bills since I was 17 years old. The idea that I needed help just didn’t sit well with me. But finally I started going to the career center on a regular basis. I went to their workshops and looked at all of their job postings.

One day I saw a posting for a new Naval apprenticeship program for civilians that included classroom education and on-the-job training. That looked good to me, so I started the application process. The process was very long and involved a lot of paperwork and testing. Finally, I got an interview with three different divisions of the program. I still didn’t know that much about the program, so when the interviewers told me I was applying for a federal job with good pay and full benefits, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I did my best at the interview, then went home and tried not to think about it.

Two weeks later, I got job offers from two of the three detachments that I had interviewed with. And the crazy thing is, on the same day, I also got a job offer from the Transportation Security Administration, for a job I applied for three or four months earlier. I had been laid off and jobless for a year and a half, and suddenly I got three job offers in two days!

Is there any advice you’d give to people who have been looking for as long as you have?

The first thing I’d say is get out of the house. Sitting at home on the computer is depressing. You see all those jobs listed online and yet no one seems to want you. It makes you feel like just giving up and watching those bad talk shows all day, which only gets you more depressed. So I would say get out and go everywhere you can. Go to public places and keep your eyes and ears open. Tell your friends to keep an eye out too. Just talk to people and keep moving. Check The Reader for free seminars or programs about your industry. You never know who you’ll meet at places like that.

The second thing I would suggest is to go to the career centers. And don’t just go once – keep going. If you run into someone with a bad attitude, just go back on another day or go to a different career center. What else do you have to do, right?

The last thing I would say is don’t limit yourself to what you already know. Things started turning positive for me in my job search when I stopped focusing on what I already knew how to do. If something looks even a little bit interesting to you, apply. If you get an interview and the job doesn’t seem right, you can always decline. But if you can’t find something in your field, get out there and try something new.

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