- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2011

DUBLIN — Tens of thousands of Irish people are leaving their debt-battered land because they can’t find work.

But one frustrated job hunter, 26-year-old Feilim Mac An Iomaire, has refused - and captured the nation’s imagination with an inventive PR stunt that highlights his plight.

“SAVE ME FROM EMIGRATION,” reads Mr. Mac An Iomaire‘s billboard in the heart of Dublin, the focal point for a novel social media-driven campaign that advertises his 10-month search for work and desire to stay in Ireland.

The effort has cost him about $2,800 - and given him a priceless global spotlight for his skills as a marketer and deal-maker.

Barely two days after rebranding himself as an Irish everyman named Jobless Paddy, Mr. Mac An Iomaire (pronounced “mac un-O-mora”) appears certain to have achieved his goal of landing a good job, most likely in Dublin, by the end of the month.

Between seemingly endless calls, tweets and Facebook posts from well-wishers and tipsters, the commerce and marketing graduate of National University of Ireland at Galway put on his best jacket Thursday for the first of potentially dozens of job interviews in the coming few weeks. He declined to identify any of his sudden suitors but said he hoped to be in a position to choose.

“I couldn’t have imagined the effect my campaign has had. I expected to get maybe 10 offers and, hopefully, someone would really want me. But I’m just overwhelmed now,” Mr. Mac An Iomaire said before his first job interview.

Mr. Mac An Iomaire returned to Ireland in August, full of optimism, after working for a year in Australia as a travel agent and events coordinator in a Sydney hostel. He had a few thousand dollars set aside as he started a conventional job search in marketing.

More than 100 applications yielded only two inconclusive job interviews last year, a typical experience in a country suffering nearly 15 percent unemployment and experiencing its biggest wave of emigration since the 1980s.

At least 50,000 people, mostly 20-something university graduates like Mr. Mac An Iomaire, are forecast to leave this nation of 4.5 million by the end of the year.

But while staying in his parents’ home and living off state welfare of $269 a week, Mr. Mac An Iomaire‘s frustration turned to inspiration: If he couldn’t land a job as a marketer, he’d showcase his marketing skills to land a job.

“I felt I needed to use a billboard to get my cause out there. Then I wanted to drive interest through the power of social media, so I was quick to set up Twitter and Facebook pages, and got tweeting my friends and posting right away,” Mr. Mac An Iomaire said.

In early April he got to work. He purchased stock photos from an Indonesian company, persuaded free-lance graphic designers and photographers to offer him cut-rate creative help, and negotiated a bargain deal from a major ad agency for a lone billboard slot.

The result is an advertising icon for Ireland‘s economic freefall from Celtic Tiger boomland to the brink of national bankruptcy.

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