WSU Tri-Cities graduate markets himself on bus billboards

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJuly 27, 2013 

John Showalter recently graduated from Washington State University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He's taken out ads on buses to aid his job hunt, featuring his picture and website WSUGradNeedsJob.com.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

John Showalter looks at it this way: If a business can advertise its services to find work, why not a college graduate?

The Tri-City native, with help from his father, is taking an unconventional approach to his job search, creating a Facebook page and website touting his skills and education in mechanical engineering and putting four billboards on Ben Franklin Transit buses.

They began rolling around the area featuring the 24-year-old in his cap and gown and this message: "Hire me!"

"(My parents) want to see me succeed and I want to succeed," he said.

His father, Mark Showalter of PS Media of Kennewick, said he and his son said they know their approach isn't traditional but they hope to generate interest from employers looking for creative workers.

"It's meant to be a little light-hearted," his father said.

John Showalter graduated from Washington State University Tri-Cities in May and has looked for a job for months with little success. He's researched companies and gone through job listings. He sent resumes to numerous employers, and while some said they were interested, none has open positions, he said.

"There's a lot I can do with that degree," he said. "I could look elsewhere but I'm wanting to stay in the Tri-Cities."

Conversations with his father led to the idea of taking the job hunt in another direction.

They came up with an employment campaign, fueled by social media and advertising. John Showalter wrote up information about his education, work ethics and projects he'd worked on, including a hovercraft and battle robot. A web designer at his father's company used that information to create www.WSUGradNeedsJob.com, which has links to John's cover letter, resume and contact information. A Facebook page was launched to drive traffic.

The bus advertisement uses the design from the Facebook page and website, including a black and yellow banner with John Showalter's photo. Four buses will display the ads for up to three months, or less time if John Showalter finds work.

Mark Showalter said he is covering the cost of his company helping his son but couldn't say what the total cost is. The bus advertisements, which are managed by PS Media under a contract with Ben Franklin Transit, typically cost about $500 a month per ad.

"We don't consider it so much as a cost as an investment," Mark Showalter said.

The unemployment rate in the Tri-Cities was 8.4 percent in June, down from May but still above the state average of 7 percent. And some of the area's bigger employers are laying off employees, including Hanford contractor Fluor Corp. in Richland and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Mark Showalter said he knows his son has worked hard to find a job, but he understands there also has to be a demand for employees. "It's one thing to create awareness (you're looking for work)," he said. "It's another thing for a business to have positions to fill."

The father and son said there haven't been any job offers yet. But they have heard positive comments from family, friends and even WSU Tri-Cities.

"John has a creative approach worthy of his family's famous Cougar spirit," said university spokeswoman Melissa O'Neil Perdue. "We hope he lands a great job in engineering."

Both men said traditional job hunting methods are still valid for many employers and people seeking work. However, there's no harm in taking a more creative approach that could catch someone's attention. John Showalter said he's hopeful that it will lead to opportunity.

"The only thing I can do is get my name out there," he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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