There’s hope yet for Austin job seekers

Recently, the departure of ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft from Austin eft a flood of Austin drivers scrambling to find new work, whether freelancing or permanent gigs.

Some angry drivers even struck out against the ride-hailing companies with legal action, while others stood in long lines to join companies vying to take Uber and Lyft’s place.

Although these drivers were contract workers, the loss of their regular source of work could very much feel like a layoff.

“Losing a job is a tremendous loss. It is not only the loss of income, but it is a loss of identity. It is, in a lot of ways, similar to going through the grief process,” said Robyn Maitoza, assistant professor of human services at York College of Pennsylvania. “On one hand, people may feel lost, angry, hurt. While at times, they may feel relieved, especially if the situation at work had been stressful.”

“It can be a huge hit to someone’s self-esteem,” Maitoza said. It can also give these workers “an opportunity to reevaluate their priorities or change career directions… And going through the process is a lot like an emotional roller coaster — feelings will vary, perhaps, hour by hour as well.”

Sanjay Sathé, founder and CEO of RiseSmart, a San Jose, Calif.-based company that helps job seekers look for new opportunities, says a job loss can stir up emotions of shock, depression, anger and hostility. The key, he says, is getting to a stage of optimism and renewed energy.

During these times, resources from outplacement firms to app-based and online job applications can help workers move on to the next stage in their careers.

“Outplacement is an important way companies can support their impacted employees,” Sathé said. “It gives the employee an advantage over other job seekers and allows them to focus on the opportunities available.”

San Francisco-based Thumbtack, which connects job seekers with work gigs such as home repair opportunities, says workers have more options today to launch their own businesses. From home remodelers to singing instructors to dog trainers, Thumbtack says it provides anyone with a skill a chance to connect with customers.

In Austin alone, 11,000 professionals have helped 80,000 Austinites complete over 100,000 projects since January 2015, the company said. During that time, Thumbtack has seen Austin’s demand skyrocket for home-related fixes and cleaning, private investigative work and life coaches, among other things.

This past week, the company hosted a launch party at South Austin networking hub Vuka complete with food and drinks and demonstrations to feature their local network of Thumbtack professionals. Masseuses, stylists, professional trainers, dog trainers, guitar teachers, interior designers, landscape artists, among others, were slated to connect with future employers.

“Austin is a great city for small business owners, just starting out or growing their business,” said Thumbtack founder and CEO Marco Zappacosta. “We believe the independent professional should be able to focus on what they do best and that Thumbtack will do the rest, any season of the year.”

The time of year can also play a role in whether job seekers find success.

While some experts say the summer months can be a challenging time to job hunt, those same experts say Austin and other U.S. cities are seeing robust hiring trends even now.

In the region’s most recent jobs report, for example, the Austin-area’s unemployment rate in April slipped below 3 percent for the first time since the dot-com boom’s heyday. A key, as reported by my colleagues Dan Zehr and Tim Eaton, was activity by local tech and other employers who boosted hiring during the month.

The metro area’s jobless rate dropped to 2.9 percent in April from 3.1 percent the prior month, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The last time it was lower than 3 percent was in November 2000, when the rate was 2.3 percent, the commission data show.

The figures, local job experts said, signaled that the current employment situation in Austin is a clear advantage for job seekers.

“Certainly candidates are in the driver’s seat, and it is a candidates’ market, ” Melinda Alison, regional president in Austin for the global staffing firm Robert Half, told the American-Statesman last month.

So hang in there, Austin job seekers. There’s hope yet.

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