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Techies squeeze Juice into their jobs, lives

In the New Economy, a magazine cutout collage might be a crucial step toward a $100,000-per-year job.

In the New Economy, a magazine cutout collage might be a crucial step toward a $100,000-per-year job.

That's what Carol Kilgore, a former director of marketing for Vodafone AirTouch, found out after putting her job search in the hands of San Francisco start-up Juice, a new talent agency for Information Age workers that has rocketed to profitability in less than six months.

"I did some creative exercises," Kilgore recalled of her stint as a Juice client. "I made a collage, tearing out pictures and text from magazines. That collage is about seeing all different aspects of my life and things that I aspire to, not just work. Some people might consider that sort of loosey-goosey, but for me it was the right thing."

Magazine collages are not the only projects that distinguish Juice from other employment agencies. What really sets Juice apart--and raises the eyebrows of critics--is that the business is modeled on a Hollywood talent agency, in which the company represents job seekers in their search, ferreting out opportunities, negotiating their salaries, and taking a cut of the action.

That separates Juice from the traditional recruiting system, in which companies hire recruiters to identify and lure potential hires, and from the online job board system of posting openings and resumes, which has transformed much of job hunting and employee recruiting from face-to-face networking to a semi-automated database matching system.

Can the system designed for Hollywood stars and pro baseball players work for information age professionals? Skeptics doubt it, particular in light of the recent and severe downturn in the technology sector.

"It's the kind of program that might have worked in the hot, hot tech job market, but in today's marketplace--except for the superstars--it will never work," said John Challenger, CEO of job outplacement firm Challenger Gray. "It's a very select, small handful of people that can basically walk in and get a job anywhere they want because they're geniuses. The rest of us, as much as we'd like to have someone else come in and sell our candidacy, it's just totally unrealistic."

But Juice has so far managed to defy the naysayers. The brainchild of self-described "serial entrepreneur" Dion Lim, whose previous credits include Sina.com, Quote.com and Epinions, Juice reached profitability last month--only five months after taking on its first clients.

Juice makes money by taking a flat fee from its clients for the evaluation process, which it refers to as "Squeeze." For the representation phase, Juice earns a percentage of the client's first year compensation, including salary, bonuses and options.

The start-up attributes its success in attracting clients partly to its integration of "lifestyle" issues in the job search. That approach is designed to appeal to workers who have soured on the round-the-clock work schedule of Silicon Valley.

"There are some people who are young and the Silicon Valley work ethic is fine," Lim said. "But for most people, lifestyle issues are much more important than they were four years ago. There's no question about that."

Like any Hollywood agent, Juice prides itself on its ability to hustle.

"We help brainstorm and cultivate the positions for our talent, especially if the original position the manager had open doesn't really apply once interviewing has started," Lim said. "We have actually cold-called the CEOs of companies in which our talent has an interest to get them to create roles based on their strengths."

Still in its infancy, Juice is focusing on clients looking for jobs in marketing and creative services, but the start-up plans to expand into sales, engineering and other areas. The average annual salary of a Juice client is more than $100,000.

Having launched its service at the beginning of the year, Juice now has about 30 clients, four full-time employees, and several independent contractors.

The start-up's Web site describes its mission in terms more reminiscent of New Age motivational speakers than traditional career counseling or headhunting.

Juice clients, according to the Web site, are "people who have already broken out of 'the system' (anyplace with constraints) and are looking for help in finding and navigating their own path; people on the verge of breaking out and are looking for someone to catapult them into the future; and people looking to redefine the way they live and how they work."

The company promises clients career counseling that includes "creative exercises" such as collages and career visualizations; interviews with family, friends and former co-workers; and "the expression of your personal brand through a scouting report that blows away traditional resumes."

"Their whole Web site and the way that they approach this has a tone that I found appealing," said Kilgore, who had worked for Vodafone AirTouch for 15 years before Juice found her a position with the Seattle offices of Publicis. "I was at a crossroad in my career. The concepts of Squeeze allowed them to work with me and develop me as a brand, to help me find out what would be the ideal work situation."

Juice, privately financed by Lim and his wife, Amy, may seek angel investors to stimulate growth but intends to remain private.