Cassidy: Sergio Ochoa is driven to work for Tesla

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Maybe it’s not the way I’d do it. Maybe it’s not the way you’d do it. But Sergio Ochoa knows what it’s like to be looking for a job out there, and he decided he was going to make a splash.

“It’s something a little out there,” he says. “I’m pushing myself.”

He’s pushing all right, with a one-man social media blitz aimed squarely at landing a job at Tesla, the valley’s much-buzzed-about electric-carmaker.

“I’m a very big car guy, for one,” says Ochoa, 30, a marketing person who was laid off from Brocade Communications Systems in the fall. “Combine that with, I have a big interest in new technology, and it just kind of meshed.”

It meshed into, the digital base for a Facebook, Twitter, Google (GOOG)+, YouTube, etc., campaign built around Ochoa as a suave “car whisperer,” a man who speaks to cars. Of course, only one car speaks to him: yeah, the Tesla Roadster.

“It sounded a little cheesy to me at first,” says Balazs Hajdu. And this from a guy who’s been Ochoa’s friend since kindergarten at Empire Gardens Elementary School in San Jose. But Hajdu came around. He spitballed ideas for the video and he did some photography work for the project. By the end, he had a new take.

“I give Sergio a lot of credit,” says Hajdu, who works in IT at a big valley company that he didn’t think needed to get involved in all this. “You know what? It’s people who are just taking that huge risk, who say, ‘You know what? I’m going both feet in,’ that really are successful.”

It’s both feet. Ochoa appears in the video in cool shades and a snappy suit. He rented a red Roadster for the occasion, which he drives through the Portola Valley hills between scenes in which he talks to Tesla about what a perfect pair the two would make. At seven-plus minutes, the video feels a little long, but it has its moments.

“So many people are applying for so many positions,” Ochoa says. “Recruiters read thousands of résumés for one position. I thought, ‘If I can create something funny …’ ”

Yes, it has come to this. The stubborn economic downturn has inspired job seekers to try all sorts of kooky stuff. Bob Withers, a career counselor at nonprofit NOVA in Sunnyvale, says he’s seen oddly shaped résumés, résumés presented on metal cutouts. He’s seen billboards and airplanes trailing banners.

“People have done those kinds of things,” Withers says. “Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t.”

The keys, the NOVA folks say, are the old standbys: Build relationships inside the companies you want to work for and diligently research the companies that you’re applying to so you know what will fly when you approach them.

Is Ochoa worried that maybe Tesla wouldn’t be into such a strong come-on?

“A few days after launching is when I started thinking, ‘Wait a minute. Is this going to be a good thing?’ ” he says. But he decided that the campaign displays his social media and marketing skills and shows his passion for Tesla. Besides, if his effort doesn’t grab Tesla’s attention, he adds, maybe it will tickle some other prospective employer.

And has the effort grabbed Tesla’s attention?

“I haven’t gotten an official HR call back,” Ochoa says. “But I have gotten some random emails.” Some of which sound like they’re from people who work at Tesla — people who tell him to keep it up.

Officially, Tesla is being cagey. The company’s response to my questions about Ochoa’s effort came in an email saying that the company is aggressively hiring while combing through hundreds of résumés a week in search of the best and the brightest.

“Mr. Ochoa’s enthusiasm is notable,” a company spokeswoman added. “He’s made his passion for Tesla and dedication toward joining Tesla clear.”

Which is not a “no.” And so, Ochoa will continue to wait, while talking to other companies, of course. Meantime, he adds, those who’ve become frustrated looking for work might want to try thinking outside the box.

“Most likely someone who is frustrated has been doing the same process over and over,” he says. “And if they keep doing the same thing, they’re likely to get the same results.”

Hard to argue with. But just what you do differently and how different it is, well, that’s up to you.