Jobless in Massachusetts making TV ads pitching themselves for work
CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- Jayna Dinsmore dressed in a sharp pink blouse and black slacks and made the pitch she hoped would end her five months of unemployment: Experienced marketing manager and analyst. Diverse background. Trade show experience.
Only she wasn't talking to an interviewer. She was talking to a TV camera.
After sending resumes, attending networking events and blogging about her search for employment, Dinsmore joined a small but growing number of unemployed people who have made television commercials about themselves to try to get directly into prospective employers' living rooms.
"I figure any exposure I can get is a great thing," said Dinsmore, a 33-year-old married mother with a newly minted master's degree in marketing from Bentley University.
"The New England Job Show," a new public cable access production, allows hungry job seekers to record 30-second commercials in a studio at a middle school in Chelmsford, near the New Hampshire state line. Volunteers -- all also unemployed -- then put the commercials into a half-hour episode that includes discussions on dressing professionally, personal finances and health-care options.
About a dozen job seekers have taped commercials, and none has landed a job yet. But the first commercials just started airing last week.
The job show airs on at least five area public access stations. Comcast spokesman Jim Hughes said the cable company, which operates in many of the Massachusetts towns, didn't have viewership numbers.
Casting a wide net
Creator and executive producer Ken Masson said the show's uniqueness will catch eyes. "Everyone talks about being cutting edge. Well, this is cutting edge," said Masson, himself an unemployed community banker.
The commercials are different from personalized online videos that have exploded on YouTube because employers don't have to actually search for these.
But the commercials cast a wide net: There's no guarantee that hiring managers in the job seekers' industries will see them. Those taping the spots said they were hoping to get lucky with the TV ad while also pursuing more targeted and traditional job search methods.
Other cable access stations have job programs: For two decades the state of Michigan has produced its own cable access job show featuring experts talking about employment trends, personal finance and career tips; and KSAR-15 TV, the public access station in Saratoga, Calif., airs a show on job hunting for California's Bay-area viewers.
But the personal pitches from job seekers appear to be a new twist, said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
"So many Americans are now comfortable with making a short video. It seems like a natural progression," Thompson said. "And TV, in spite of all the technology, is still the dominant medium."
Masson said he and friends from a networking group launched the show with $100 and the help of a local Rotary Club.
Kristyn Silk, who was laid off from Fidelity Investments in November, immediately volunteered to direct.
"Basically, this is a project and we all have some project management experience," said Silk, of Merrimack, N.H. "Our goal is to get people jobs."
The show's host, Ajita Perera of Shrewsbury, is a recently laid-off market manager who worked as a reporter for CNN in Sri Lanka in the 1980s.
"It feels like coming home," Perera said.
So far, the group has recorded four episodes. The first show aired March 23 and will rerun on participating stations for two weeks. Stations will get two new shows every month, Masson said.
Thompson compared the 30-second commercials to speed-dating lunches. But like speed dating, it's unclear if lasting matches can be made.
That doesn't bother Libby Dilling, 42, of Stow, who has been looking for a nonprofit job for eight months. During a recent taping, Dilling recorded her pitch, but spoke too long and slightly fumbled over her words.
After some coaching, the group decided her third take was what she needed to land a job in the nonprofit world.
"I've never done something like this before," Dilling said. "We'll see what happens."