photo: Marianne Sneizek
For Marianne Sneizek, working at K-B Toys was practically all she had ever known. She started as an assistant manager in a retail store right out of college, moving to the home office in Lee and then slowly worked her way up its corporate ladder. Sneizek eventually assumed the title of manager of accounts payable, vendor relations and reversed logistics in which she supervised a staff and managed a third party warehouse.

Sneizek managed to hold onto her job at K-B through its initial bankruptcy in 2004 but in its second bankruptcy at the end of 2008, which proved to be the end of company, Sneizek was laid off. At that point she had been with the company for 27 years.

Sneizek had had some contact with BerkshireWorks, the Pittsfield-based career center, prior to being let go. In anticipation of its closing, K-B had brought them in to help its employees with their transition. After being laid off, Sneizek started taking some classes there but a portion of those offered were not very relevant to her. "Many were geared to writing resumes," she says. "I didn't need that."

When Berkshire Works received its stimulus funding - the center got an initial $696,315 in April 2009 plus an additional $83,440.17 in Rapid Response Dislocated Worker training funds in February 2010 - Sneizek was finally able to

Marianne Sneizek Roundtable
get down to business. BerkshireWorks now could offer additional courses and Sneizek took classes in Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Quick Books.

Still, Sneizek's hunt for a job was more and more dispiriting. "There were very few jobs to apply to," she says. "Then I would hear I was overqualified. There was nothing for middle management. Then around the holidays in 2009 there was nothing. It was really depressing."

Thanks in part to the stimulus funding, BerkshireWorks was able to respond to Sneizek and others in her position by creating The Executive Job Search Roundtable specifically to service upper level job seekers who are struggling in their search. "What drive our services are our customers," says Melanie Gelaznik, BerkshireWorks' program manager.

"It was the best thing that ever happened," says Sneizek.

In the group, says Sneizek, she learned how to network more effectively, she got help re-doing her resume to emphasize certain skills, she got the support she

Marianne Sneizek at the Roundtable
needed. They did mini speed networking events with local human resource managers, which got some roundtable members job offers. Members of the group would pass on job descriptions to each other, they went to job events together, they would talk about what worked - and what didn't - on interviews. One time, Sneizek mentioned she had an upcoming interview at a certain company. Another member of the roundtable had previously interviewed there. "He said, I have information on that company, I'll get it for you. He gave me a 100-page document on the company. When I went to interview I was so prepared," says Sneizek.

Sneizek eventually got a job offer as an operations manager at a local product wholesale company. One of the requirements for the position was knowledge of Excel 07 which she was able to include on her resume and discuss in her interviews thanks to her course at BerkshireWorks.

"I don't think I would have gotten the job without the career center's help," she says. "I might not even have applied for that job. One of the things they do is keep you in focus when you're looking for a job and they keep you motivated. It's a big emotional rollercoaster. You get those rejections one day and the next day you're back to applying for jobs. It's a very supportive environment."