Poster Boy for Recession Gets Job

unemployed poster boyPaul Nawrocki literally became a poster child for the recession. After a February 2008 layoff and no significant leads for months, he wore a tote board on the streets of New York City, handing out résumés, hoping for a bite. The theory? Not to look desperate but to attract attention from commuters passing who might be hiring managers and recruiters. To his surprise, more attention came from the media and from other unemployed compatriots. "So many people in New York City are out of work, but they're invisible," says Nawrocki, 60. "They're dressed in suits, looking for work. This huge group of people gave me all this encouragement."

Now, two years later, the former toy company executive has finally landed a job. The biggest irony--he now works for a magic trick company.

Serenity Now

Many people have mantras they use for inspiration and motivation. Nawrocki attributes much of his success to the words of the "Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Niebuhr which constantly play in his head and did not waver over the past two years:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

He learned it from his police lieutenant father who worked with alcoholic rehabilitation in Rochester, NY. But never more in Nawrocki's life did it matter than these past two years. A healthy dose of good karma and patience didn't hurt either.

A career coach who writes for got in touch with him in early 2009. Lauren Zander of The Handel Group advised him in line with his mantra. Economic numbers? Can't change those. Nawrocki's age? Couldn't change that either. But changing his outlook helped -- that his new "job" was looking for a job. And changing his exterior a bit -- losing a mustache, exercising more, eating better -- helped boost his positive interior as well.

Teetering on the Edge of Despair...and Running the Other Way

Financial problems started to mount. Mortgage deadlines loomed. Nawrocki funneled money to the mortgage and pushed health insurance premiums to the edge of grace periods. His long-standing accountant offered to do his tax returns pro-bono. He welcomed that, but also dreaded learning the total he'd have to pay the government. Good karma struck again and he got a $5,000 return. In 2009, this was essential because his wife is diabetic, has high cholesterol, two hip replacements, and neuropathy. They went for routine tests and found out she had uterine cancer. The family almost lost all health insurability but paid for COBRA with that tax return.

Attitude is everything. Nawrocki says he never felt close to despair. "I was never embarrassed or humiliated. Why would I be embarrassed to ask for work?" he says. "I wasn't out there with a tin cup. I was only asking for an opportunity. I sent my resume to over 7000 businesses in the metropolitan area."

Let the Magic Begin

Ultimately, it was a chain of events that he thinks led to his current job. The good experience wearing the sign board led to his work with the career counselor. And old-fashioned networking in the toy company community hooked him up with his new company -- Fantasma.

Despite making half of his past salary, Nawrocki is back on the commuter train, liking his new role as an operations manager. He's not out of the financial woods yet and he still feels a responsibility to the unemployed masses. Just this week, he said he received a letter from an unemployed 59-year-old woman in California who had read his story. She sent him a check for $25.

The nation added 162,000 jobs last month. It was the first significant growth since the down turn, but unemployment remains at 10.2 percent.

"It's overwhelmingly moving," he says. "I realized the story isn't about me. I know it's about the millions of other people who are also unemployed. I have to stay strong because I needed to do it for them. The team is still out there struggling."

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It's the great depression all over again

May 08 2010 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey T! I DO have a college education that I didn't suck the military for. I had the college degree BEFORE I attempted to enlist! I was over qualified for everything and that's what the recruiter told me! He told me that since the military really didn't know what to do with females at the time and the fact that the males most certainly wouldn't want to take orders from a female, he advised me not to enlist! No mental illness that has been claimed here! Gee, if someone has a different opinion or fact than you believe you all resort to name calling and attacking that person. NOW WHO'S MENTALLY UNSTABLE?

May 06 2010 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@ Vera, hang in there...they kept tellin me something was coming. I just didn't know I'd be paying to come to work, and might I add driving 40 miles one way...OMG!!! I looked up cause I need gas, and it's $2.99 a gallon. Can we all get a break. Thanks for the congrats, cause a piece of job is better than none. @ Jennife....never give up...Things happen we when least expect them.

May 04 2010 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like Katie hit a nerve. I'm a Vet and never got a single dime of taxpayer money after I got out of the Navy in 1966. I wonder how much money we taxpayers would save if only Vets got Veterans Day off every November 11th? Instead of Vets getting the day off, every single person on local, state and the federal payroll gets a holiday. The ones who do work that day on the taxpayers dime get double time or double time and one half. One out of every fifteen workers in America are paid by tax dollars. How much money does that cost???

May 04 2010 at 2:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I DID NOT knock military service and the preference afforded them. I was NOT turned down for military service. At the time I attempted to enlist the recruiter was honest with me and advised me that the military did not know what to do with females other than stick them behind a desk and never promote them. I OUTSCORED EVERY MALE IN THE ROOM WHEN I TOOK THE ASFAB TEST! The recruiter was being honest in telling me I could probably do better in the private sector. It was his words, not mine, that said WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH WOMEN IN THE MILITARY! At that time, women were not allowed in anything except office jobs. So, the recruiter told me to use my intelligence and persue other avenues. I thank him for his honesty then, I just didn't realize that my intellilect would be used against me in later life!
I just arranged for interviews for a government position in the office I'm working in as a contractor. A non-veteran scored 100% on the qualifications test that asks about your training, experience and abilities. She didn't even get an interview The "veteran" that got the job confessed to me that they hadn't EVER worked in an office and this position was for a purchasing agent! Screw the most qualified! Screw the person who went to school for this. Hire the vet so the government (TAXPAYERS) have to spend many dollars "Training" this person for a job they weren't qualified to apply to in the first place! WOW, that's greatl

May 03 2010 at 11:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

These days those of us seeking employment are in life rafts trying to stay afloat. No matter who we are or what we did before, the story is the same. We all want a job and are doing all we can to find one. I feel guilty not spending all my time on the hunt. But to retain my sanity, I have to get away.

And please, don't pick on our military folks. They serve/served our country to keep us free. Knowing a young man who went through some real horrors and is disabled for life, I can't thank them enough for their sacrifices and wish them the best. Where would we be without these fine men and women????

May 03 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You should be kissing every VETS a** that you can find. They are the reason you have the right to express your thoughts and views, even if those thoughts and views are whacked! God Bless our Servicemen and Women serving now and God bless our VETS of every era.

May 03 2010 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That is just one of the problems with liberals. They think they speak for everyone. If Bush Jr. as you call him had not took the action he did we would have been fighting terrorist in the streets of America. Although I have serious doubts that you would.

May 03 2010 at 9:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah Bat Boy the job market is bustin' at the seams with Barry at the wheel. Keep it up Barry . You still have some people fooled!

May 03 2010 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Katie, Why do you have to blame your bad luck on us Vets who never knew if "bad luck" was around the next hill? Besides I hear a lot about people with degrees get the job because they're disciplined. Extra 4 years of partying is what I saw a lot of the time. Disciplined education - anyone who served got that. Leave me alone with your BS (and I don't mean Bachelor of Science either).

May 03 2010 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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