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New York's own reality TV show debuts: 'Job Hunt'

It's not going to trounce 'Lost,' but New York City officials hope their 'Job Hunt' reality TV series will introduce more jobless New Yorkers to city services that can help them find work.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / February 2, 2010



New York

New Yorkers enjoy TV dramas as much as the next guy. So why not a show about people looking for jobs?

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On Tuesday night, just as the sixth and final season of “Lost” gets under way, New York City’s own reality TV show, “Job Hunt,” will kick off, as well.

While it won't have the appeal of polar bears and smoke monsters, "Job Hunt" may tell you what color suit to wear to a job interview, or how to use Google and social media to your advantage. The 10-part series, which runs on New York’s NYC Life network, tries to help New Yorkers get back on their feet if they are out of work. And just to give the audience a little extra inspiration, it stars actual job seekers.

“You may know the season premier of 'Lost' is on for two hours tonight, but if you are looking for a job then you know what? The only show for you to watch tonight is 'Job Hunt,' ” said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's borough president.

The city’s efforts mirror a national push to help the unemployed. In his budget plan, President Obama proposes to extend unemployment benefits. For the past week, Mr. Obama has announced a new jobs-related program almost every day, including Tuesday in New Hampshire, when he unveiled one to jump-start hiring at small businesses.

In many cities around the US, mayors, too, are trying to enlist help for the unemployed. In Sioux City, Iowa, the city manager hopes to funnel some newly laid-off workers to Western Iowa Tech, which just received a $4 million grant for job training.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley on Jan. 27 opened a Workforce Center, a place where the jobless can get skill assessments and job-search assistance. This year, Chicago will spend $20 million on a new job training initiative called “Chicago Career Tech,” which will try to make the Windy City a leader in information technology.

And last fall, in LaGrange, Ga., the mayor unveiled a new job website to link the jobless with possible employers in Troup County.

New York, which has multiple Workforce Centers that placed more than 25,000 people in jobs last year, decided to launch the TV series to inform more New Yorkers about all of the city's job-assistance efforts, says Katherine Oliver, president of NYC Media.

Although “Job Hunt” will air only in New York, where the December unemployment rate was 10.6 percent, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is not averse to giving the program to other cities for free. “I always felt that if New York could make it work, then people would follow,” said Mr. Bloomberg at a press conference on Tuesday. “We would be thrilled if they want to take it.”

The show's host is Tory Johnson, known as the Workplace Fairy Godmother and also CEO of Women for Hire, which produces recruiting events for women.

“I know the pain of losing a job from first-hand experience, from losing a job that I loved and thought I would be in forever,” said Ms. Johnson. “I think this show will help a lot of people over the course of 10 weeks to go from feeling helpless to hopeful to hired.”

Mayor Bloomberg says he, too, remembers the day he was fired. “It’s not a pleasant thing, but it turned out it didn’t work out for me,” he said.

Anyone hoping to see Bloomberg on the show will be disappointed. (He says he at least made it to the cutting-room floor in a "Sex in the City" episode.) But the mayor, a billionaire, mind you, is not shy about offering advice to job seekers: “You have to convince the person on the other side that they need you. I’ve watched too many interviews where they never got to what they bring to the party.”

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