Layoffs can start your own Act 2

Charles Gordon says he’s always wanted to run his own business. But the Sacramento man had a solid career in information technology, and with it, security.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I was too concerned about stability to pick that up,” he said.

Gordon, 37, had built his career working for financial services companies including Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments.

Then, in March 2008, three years into his IT job at CPS Human Resource Services, Gordon was laid off from the Sacramento-based state and federal contractor.

“I was completely caught by surprise. Nobody could see it coming,” he said.

Security was quickly replaced by anxiety as the months ? and interviews ? went by. Frustration followed.

“I anticipated a short job search, but it got harder and harder. You’re feeling like you’re coming close,” Gordon said. “You’re told you’re the runner-up, but after a while, second-best just isn’t good enough.”

Out of frustration, Gordon, his wife, Sara, and friends began brainstorming ideas. Those sessions set the stage for Gordon’s second act: an idea to combine his interest in photography and video with creating a quick job sales pitch ready for any employer.

“I was discovering a solution for myself when the light went on,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘If I could put my ‘elevator pitch’ on a 60-second video …’ Then I thought, I could help more people than just myself. I’ve got to start a company.”

By late January, Video Profile TV was born, a business to make video resumes for job seekers. Gordon bankrolled the venture out of his 401(k) retirement funds and targeted the same job fairs where he had been hunting for work over past months.

“Once you make that decision” to start a business,” he said, “you put everything you’ve got into it.”

Sara Gordon was on board from the beginning. With 15 years’ accounting and office administration experience, she brought back-office knowledge to the table. Soon, she would be writing scripts and polishing up candidates’ presentations in post-production.

It wasn’t until March that the whole team came together, though.

Janis Smith had worked as a placement coordinator, finding jobs for people like Gordon. With her own resume writing company, RDE Specialists, she was a fixture at area career fairs.

“She had started her own business writing resumes and cover letters. We were going to the same job fairs,” Gordon said.

At a March career fair at Heald College the two businesses decided to join forces.

“It was like that ad about chocolate and peanut butter,” Gordon said. The merger combined Gordon’s experience in IT and video production with Smith’s resume expertise.

“We offer a bundle of services,” Gordon said.

A joint workshop for job seekers followed in April.

Even with early fits and starts, the venture is finding traction. There’s a new Web site,; and the business has been featured on local television.

Gordon is just one of many who have forged their own road around recession.

Some are going back to school to gain new job skills. Others are bolstering their chances by returning to graduate school. Still others, like Gordon, are striking out on their own.

More job seekers are starting their own businesses to beat the recession, even amid signs that economic recovery remains many months away.

That is according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which reported nearly 9 percent of job seekers in the second quarter found jobs by creating their own. That’s twice as many as in the year-previous quarter, according to the Challenger study.

“It’s a big risk,” Gordon admitted. “But I’m not just starting a business. I’m starting a business that addresses a problem out there,” he said. “If we can get great candidates in front of employers, maybe we can stimulate the economy a little, too.”

(c) 2009, Sacramento Bee. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.