After losing two jobs in two years, with no health insurance and her savings long gone, Karen Price was at home going over another list of employment leads when opportunity came calling.
A man she had worked with four years earlier phoned to offer a job starting up a new family entertainment center in Timonium.
"I was flabbergasted," she said. "He asked if he could hire me away from my job, and I told him he was in luck -- I didn't have a job."
For Ms. Price, 32, it proved that a good reputation was better than a good resume in finding work.
Last month, she opened the Fun Time Pizza center, a new unit of the Fair Lanes bowling chain that offers food, arcade games and entertainment, managing a staff of 65 employees. Her work as a fast-food manager had impressed the supervisor, while her subsequent direct sales experience with photocopiers and construction materials directories increased her employment value.
"I couldn't be happier. I love managing and working with kids. It calls for creative ideas, and there's no chance to become bored with this new challenge."
Hiring people for the new venture, Ms. Price could see that the desperation of her own joblessness was shared by many. There were 10 applicants for each opening, including teachers and nurses. Some were looking for second jobs to supplement income, others for a foothold in an expanding organization, but many simply needed any job they could find, she said.
"I can sympathize with them. I know it's tough out there," she said. "You learn to do things much differently when you're without any work. It's a humbling experience."
When she lost her job selling directories in September, Ms. Price set about an aggressive job search.
She applied for a variety of sales and managerial positions. "I had good experience in both fields, and I was open to a broad range of jobs. I wasn't trying to specialize or confine myself to the perfect job."
She got a surprisingly good response from employers to her letters and resumes, but the job offers paid too little, required relocation or involved too much travel for a single parent. "I tried to screen them, but at least I knew what was available out there for me." The results showed that there were jobs to be had in her field, "if you keep plugging away."
When she was just about to make a hard decision on accepting one offer, the fortuitous call came from the Fun Time executive.
Maintaining self-confidence is essential to securing job interviews and getting job offers, even when prospects seem to be getting dimmer, she added. "The positive attitude is something you can't afford to be without when you are looking for work."