3 Ways to Explore
Trailing Spouses - Job Hunting
Plugging Into the Houston Job Market
This chapter is designed to assist the trailing spouse, a person who follows a marriage partner who is relocating to a new city, in this case, Houston. While your spouse’s employer may provide relocation assistance that includes job search services for you, you’ll want to do your own research and familiarize yourself with the Houston employment market. You’ll want to develop new contacts and learn about ways to use your expertise. This section will familiarize you with local job-search ideas as well as online resources. As many experience when they relocate here, it’s a welcoming region with limitless opportunities.

Due to the complexities of the relocation process, many companies today are ensuring the success of the employee’s longevity at the new position by providing Relocation Transition Assistance—a service that supports employees and their spouses or partners and families through a career-related move to a new location. Many companies realize that they must support the entire family to ensure that relocation is a success.

According to the transition expert firm, IMPACT Group (www.impactgrouphr.com), relocation transition assistance programs are the only programs that provide support services before, during and after the move. The process addresses both the emotional and practical needs of the family regarding dual-career issues and helps acclimate the family to the new location by providing both coaching and resources about the area.

Each employee is assigned a coach who will work with the employee and the family throughout the transition. Each coach will identify the needs of the employee, family members and the career-seeking spouse. By identifying these needs upfront, the coach can provide research and information to the family ahead of time to help with the adjustment process.

During the move, the coach is “on call,” ready to provide information on the job market, city demographics or anything the relocating family may need.

After the move, the coach works closely with the dual-career spouse by preparing his or her résumé, researching labor market information and helping with networking and interviewing. In addition, the coach will provide any information on living in the Houston region, such as child-care options, school information, clubs and extracurricular activities, utility information, neighborhood demographics and eldercare information.

Whatever the need, the coach is a lifeline to support the family so they feel settled and excited about their new move to Houston. If this program sounds of interest to you, the Impact Group suggests you speak with your Human Resources department to see if such a program is available to you.

From the start, Houston has embraced commerce and a way of doing business that exemplifies a “can do” attitude. Here it’s not about your social standing or school credentials but whether your ideas have merit and can work. Often people have risked a lot in seeking rewards, so it’s no surprise that the city has become the “energy capital” of the world.

Beyond energy, Houston’s economy has diversified a great deal since the oil downturn in the 1970s and ‘80s. Today, you’ll find active business clusters representing key industry sectors, such as energy and petrochemicals, health care, biotechnology, aerospace and aviation, information technology and nanotechnology. These industries help explain why Houston is booming while many other cities are falling behind. In addition, the region’s location makes it a hub for many international companies. As a result, Houston enjoys a competitive advantage in industries, such as oil and gas, geology, construction, chemicals and medicine. Following is a brief overview on key business sectors in the region:
  • Known as the “Energy Capital of the World,” Houston is the leading domestic and international center for every segment of the energy industry—exploration, production, transmission, marketing, service supply, drilling, technology and research and development of alternative and renewable energy supplies.
  • The world-acclaimed Texas Medical Center on 1,000 acres is a “city within a city,” with 49 not-for-profit member institutions providing patient care, cutting-edge research and education for medical and nursing students. The center is also Houston’s largest single-site employer, with more than 93,500 employees.
  • NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) was established 50 years ago and has made Houston the hub of aerospace industry. A major entity with a sizeable economic impact on the Houston region, JSC boasts annual expenditures of more than $17 billion, employs some 2,000 personnel directly and supports an additional 12,000 positions through local firms under contract to NASA. 
  • Houston is an international business center with more than 3,000 Houston-area firms, foreign government offices and nonprofit organizations involved in international business.
  • The 2011 Fortune 500 list notes 23 of the companies headquartered in Houston area, and the city ranks third among metropolitan statistical areas in the number of Fortune 500 headquarters, only behind New York (74) and Chicago (27) and sitting ahead of Los Angeles (21), Dallas-Fort Worth (20) and St. Paul-Minneapolis (14). Many other Fortune 500 companies maintain U.S. administrative headquarters in Houston. Of the world’s 100 largest non-U.S.-based corporations, more than half have operations in Houston.
  • In addition to the Port of Houston, the region supports a highly developed transportation infrastructure, including an airport system that is the fourth largest in the United States and access to an extensive railway network.
  • Along with many large businesses, the region supports more than 76,000 businesses with 100 or fewer employees, which collectively employ roughly one in four area workers and provide more than $20 billion in annual payroll. In 2010, Fortune magazine listed one houston-area company among the 100 fastest-growing firms in the United States. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, from September 2010 to September 2011 the Houston area experienced an overall growth in employment of 2.6 percent. Significant increases include the industries of mining and logging (up 12.4 percent), construction (up 5.6 percent) and service-related jobs (up 5.7 percent).

Other industries with noticeable increases were professional and business services (up 4.8 percent), manufacturing (up 4.4 percent), education and health services (up 3.5 percent) and trade, transportation and utilities (up 1.5 percent). Remaining fairly constant were leisure and hospitality (up only 0.6 percent) and financial activities (up only 0.1 percent). Employment decreases only were seen in government (down 1.2 percent) and information jobs (down 6 percent).

Compared to the rest of the United States, the Houston area was well above the national average in all categories except leisure and hospitality and information jobs.

The list of the top 30 largest employers reveals the diversity of opportunity open to newcomers. For those specializing in the health care field, you’ll find providers, such as Memorial Hermann, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, HCA, St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Representing the energy sector, prominent global players are represented including Shell Oil Company, Chevron, BP America, Baker Hughes Inc., LyondellBassell Industries, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, The Dow Chemical Company and KBR.

Rounding out the list are major corporations, such as United Airlines; retail food companies Fiesta Mart, Kroger Company and HEB; computer firm HP; Aramark Corp.; global communications giant AT&T; and Macy’s.

Nationally, the region has been recognized for its employment opportunity and for its low cost of living. Consider these recent rankings bestowed on Houston and the region:
  • Fastest Growing Wages in the United States, Business Insiders – January 12, 2012
  • Best U.S. City for Manufacturing, www.Forbes.com – December 15, 2011
  • No. 3 Best Big City for Jobs, www.Forbes.com – 2010
  • Best City for Recent College Grads, www.Forbes.com – June 26, 2008
  • No. 7 for Fastest Job Growth, www.Forbes.com – 2011
  • Top 20 in Best Places for Business and Careers, www.Forbes.com – 2011
  • No. 1 Place to Live, Kiplinger Personal Finance 2010

The region supports a workforce of 2.8 million in a metropolitan area of 5.6 million people, representing a wide range of skills, training and education. Projections from the Texas Workforce Commission indicate there is an ample supply of area workers from all 10 counties with in-demand skills. A 2010 employment snapshot includes 49,280 engineers and architects; 26,040 engineering and technicians and drafters; 74,240 computer programmers, engineers and analysts; 53,080 licensed, registered and vocational nurses; 59,380 office clerks and 59,420 truck drivers; among other specific skill categories.

The Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey showed that more than 28 percent of adults in Houston have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is higher than the national average. One of the region’s most valuable assets is its wealth of intellectual property and its skilled workforce. In fact, engineers in the region are 60 percent more common than in the United States.

A distinguishing characteristic of the region is that there is its diverse population, one that does not have a major ethnic group comprising more than 50 percent of the population. In fact, more than one-fifth of the area’s residents are foreign-born. More than 90 languages are spoken throughout the region, and the city is home to 82 consulates.

Due to the region’s location, infrastructure and probusiness attitude, many area companies do business internationally. In fact, according to the 2010 International Business Survey, more than 3,500 firms and organizations trade more than 280 types of products and services in more than 17 regions of the world. Clearly, employment opportunities abound across a wide array of industries requiring skills representing the professional, technical and skilled workers as well as students.

Job leads can come from many sources, including talking to people, checking out personnel services, answering newspaper ads, searching the Internet and inquiring about local professional associations and hotlines in specific industries.

— Networking—Virtually and In Person
The ability to network is considered as important in finding a job as combing through classified ads. To network, jobseekers should contact everyone they know in their professional life. Jobseekers should be prepared to explain quickly about their skills and recent experience. Commonly referred to as a the “15-second elevator speech,” being prepared with this can make a big difference. To learn more, visit www.15secondpitch.com, where you can discover ways to focus your thinking on what is most important.

Another useful online tool that has become essential to networkers and job seekers is to join LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), an online network of more than 25 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. By staying linked in with your professional network, you’re always connected to people who may know of open positions or know of a contact at a company you might be interested in approaching. It’s about being more effective in your daily work and opening doors to opportunities using the professional relationships you already have.

Professionals also can find contacts by attending seminars, conferences, community meetings, volunteer groups, hobby clubs and professional association activities.

Houston is home to local chapters of professional associations in almost every field. Search online to find out if there is a Houston chapter affiliated with your profession. For example, Houston supports local chapters of these associations:
Contact professional organizations in fields of interest through the telephone directory or the Encyclopedia of Associations, which is found in most libraries. Many activities are listed in the Houston Chronicle business section’s “Calendar of Events” each Sunday. Job hunters also may contact people who work in a specific field to inquire about professional associations in the Houston area.

Read publications from these associations and contact their job hotlines and visit their websites. Attend meetings and exchange business cards. Later, contact the people from the meeting and inquire about job openings.

The Houston area offers many services funded by the state government for residents to find lucrative employment.

— Texas Workforce Commission
In Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state government agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and jobseekers. For employers, TWC offers recruiting, retention, training and retraining and outplacement services as well as valuable information on labor law and labor market statistics. For jobseekers, TWC offers career development information, job-search resources, training programs and, unemployment insurance benefits. Information on the TWC’s resources is available by calling local offices listed in Houston area telephone directories or on the Internet at www.texasworkforce.org.

— Workforce Solutions
Servicing the Gulf Coast region, and as part of Texas’ statewide network, Workforce Solutions provides comprehensive human resource services for businesses and residents of the 11-county Houston-Galveston Gulf Coast region. Workforce Solutions helps employers solve workforce-related business problems and helps area residents build careers so both can better compete in the changing worldwide economy. Among its services are the following:
  • Employer Service provides personalized service to help employers find qualified applicants for their jobs, build the skills and expertise of their new and current employees and address human resources needs.
  • Operation of 25 community-based career offices to help residents get a job, keep a job or get a better job—offering placement, career counseling and financial aid services.
  • Partnering with the region’s businesses, educational institutions, civic organizations and community leaders to find solutions to current and future labor needs of the industries that are vital to the region and its economy.
  • The Workforce Solutions partners with the Texas Workforce Commission and other workforce boards in the largest job-matching database in the state: www.workintexas.com.

For more information about Workforce Solutions, visit www.wrksolutions.com.

Throughout the Houston region, particularly in active business districts, you will find many personnel-placement agencies. They typically place employees in full- or part-time assignments that can last for a short time or much longer.

Typically, employment-placement agencies make their money by charging the company that is looking for someone, or they may take a percentage of your wage. Be sure to ask each agency how it operates before you decide about going forward. You should never have to pay any agency in advance. You’re usually paid each week by the agency and not the company where you perform the work.

If you’re interested in working with an agency, do preliminary research online to determine if the agency specializes in a specific industry, such as oil and gas. If it’s not immediately clear from the agency’s Web site, call and find out. The more targeted you are in your search, the better chance you have of finding a good placement, which could lead to a full-time position. There is no penalty to apply with many different agencies at the same time, and by doing so, you’ll have more resources helping you find a job. It’s also a good idea to stay in phone contact with the agencies to find out what jobs are coming up or might be available.

So no worries if you’ve followed someone here and now need to find a job yourself. In Houston, the jobs are there; you just need to go out and find them.
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