When Ernie Bishop was laid off from his product manager position in October 2011, “it was such shell shock,” he recalls. His efforts to find a new job were hampered by the bad economy and the fact that he had a one-year noncompete agreement with his former employer.

In retrospect, though, Bishop realizes that he sabotaged his own efforts. “It was a shock to get laid off after 12 years of being a vital part of the company. I went into a little bit of a depression.” For five months, he looked for jobs in “traditional ways — job boards, talking to some connections.” He attended training and information sessions offered by the Minnesota Workforce Centers.

The turning point came when he was referred to HIRED, a Twin Cities provider of job-skills and employment training. “They set me up in a number of different programs. The branding was really good. There was a program to understand what a real job search entails. We learned how to use LinkedIn. There was a transition program about understanding depression, then moving forward and leaving baggage behind. Each one of those steps reinstilled the confidence I had lost when I lost my job.”

By mid-October, Bishop had a job offer in hand from Ultimate Power Company. He started work November 1. Interestingly, his branding statement and LinkedIn network continues to draw inquiries.

For other dislocated workers, Bishop has this advice: “There’s a mental aspect to losing a job that you’ve given your heart and soul to. A lot of dislocated workers don’t realize they’re depressed. There’s a lot of help out there. You don’t have to go through it yourself.”

How did you sabotage your initial job search?

I made it through several interviews. In round one and round two, they’re looking for information. But in the decision-making interview, they want more personality. I didn’t show any. I was a bridesmaid six times in three months. That got depressing, too. Now I know why.

How did you develop your branding statement?

We talked about what is your personal style, what do you bring to the workplace. You have key words that people search for. One of my recommendations said I was tenacious when it comes to customer service. I’m known as a business builder. All of that is your brand.

How did you change the way you network?

I’m a social networker, but I had never really networked for business. I have a list of former vendors, competitors, customers. In the networking classes through HIRED, I was educated on how to approach people without saying “Hey, do you know how I could get a job?” When I approached my current company, I didn’t say, “Hey, do you have anything?” Instead, I called the owner and said, “I’d love to send my résumé and LinkedIn account. If you have anything, great. If you don’t, I’d appreciate any referrals you can give me.”

What’s the key to finding a new job as an older worker in a tough job market?

One simple answer: Flexibility. That was the other thing HIRED taught me — I’d love to be a product marketing manager, but in reality I would still be unemployed. I didn’t have to take a cut in pay, I just had to take a re-look at who Ernie is, the talents that he has, and how he can apply them in today’s marketplace. □