"We are really feeling it. It is very tough in automotive," said David Rosenberg. While Ford, GM and Chrysler continue to post massive losses, and more white collar workers in the automotive industry – and its satellite suppliers – are joining their blue collar counterparts in the unemployment lines. To those in the queue, it feels like there are few automotive job prospects left available to them.
"I was laid off from my position in April," Rosenberg recalled, "but during the first couple of weeks afterwards, I really couldn't do anything. I couldn't process much information because I was still in shock." Rosenberg‘s situation looked dire. The total number of white-collar positions cut by the Big Three U.S. automakers in 2008 alone is in excess of 8,400. And several large suppliers are being compelled to make lay offs in the wake of the ever-increasing financial crisis facing the automobile manufacturing industry.
Unable to relocate with a mortgage and a new child
Rosenberg worked for one of those suppliers, Century Tube, in his hometown of Madison, Ind. Madison is a small town in the south of the state near the Kentucky border. It has maintained its historic charm and has been recognized as "The Prettiest Small Town in the Midwest" by Ladies Home Journal. It has a population of a little over 12,000, and the estimated household income is $38,500. It is not an industrial or business hub. Now out of work, it seemed there were few local job offerings available to him. "I own a house there. In this economy, how in the world could I afford to try and sell my house to move to someplace else?" And to add to his worries, at the time he had been laid off, he had a two-month-old baby. "It was a nightmare situation," Rosenberg said.
After falling into a brief malaise, Rosenberg kicked his job search into high gear and was determined to remain focused on his industry but was hesitant to return to the job seeker Web sites that he had used in the past: "I didn't want to waste any time, so I threw multiple volleys out. I shot several shots over the barrel. I knew from working with CareerBuilder and with Monster in the past that it was pretty labor intensive. You have to set up a lot of information with them and you have got to check back with them a lot. You have got to make multiple searches for multiple types of situations that may interest you in multiple areas of the country." Rosenberg also realized that there was sense of urgency as the downturn in the auto industry was already underway.
He saw a television ad for TheLadders and was intrigued. With salary levels more depressed in the Midwest than in major metropolitan areas like New York and L.A., Rosenberg's previous salary had been in a range just under the $100,000 mark. "I knew that TheLadders advertised itself as the six-figure-job-finding company. So I looked at my potential and said, 'I think I am qualified enough.'"
He joined SalesLadder and three months later was appointed sales manager for AT- USA in Seymour, Ind.
"It was a job offered to me in my specialty, and it was about an hour away from where I am. The salary that they offered me was better than the one I had when I was laid off from Century Tube, so it was a step up."
U.S. and Japan’s automotive interdependence
Rosenberg’s Tier- One company that manufactures and supplies machinery and parts, including drums and rotors and disk brakes, en masse to automobile assembly plants. He concedes a total collapse of the Big Three auto companies in the U.S. could have a disastrous domino effect on companies in the supply loop but points out that his concentration has been a little different: "I am focused toward Japanese car manufacturing. Toyota, Honda and Nissan are in a stronger financial position than Ford, Chrysler and GM, because they build cars smarter. But still Toyota is worried because they share a lot of the supplier base with GM. A company like mine that makes disk brakes has maybe 40 percent of our business with Toyota and 30 percent of our business with GM. Even though Toyota is strong, it doesn't want GM to fail either because they are afraid that GM will bring down some of the suppliers who also supply parts to the Toyota group, thus causing Toyota its own crisis."
Rosenberg said he believes his abiding interest in Japanese car manufacturing has set him apart from the pack and will continue to be his trump card. He didn't start out working in the automotive industry; his first job out of college was working for a Japanese company that made cordless telephones. "I lived in Japan for three years, so I speak Japanese pretty fluently. And I have concentrated on Toyota, Nissan and Honda. Being in sales, I can talk to the Japanese. I have played that card pretty well in my career moves."
Specialists are still highly desired
For anyone in automotive considering a career change Rosenberg advises that he or she should ask the question: "Do I have to stay in automotive?"
"Consider if your skills are transferable some place else," he suggests. "But if you are locked into automotive because that has always been what you do, then you have to consider what is your specialty, your niche that makes you more attractive than the next guy." Through TheLadders.com, Rosenberg connected with AT-USA via an LA-based recruiter specializing in multinational, multilingual professionals in various industries who was in search of candidates who knew Japanese as well as the auto industry. "How would I have ever found somebody like that?" he laughs. "In the automotive industry, if you can sell yourself as being a real specialist who knows the 'X Factor' really well, and if you can document that, you should play to that strength."