Among the thousands of people on the job hunt in Northeast Ohio are a group of folks past fifty who never expected to find themselves unemployed. They’ve been called everything from “mature workers” to “seasoned professionals”. And now, they’re trying to figure out where they belong in a marketplace that keeps getting younger. ideastream®’s David C. Barnett reports.
Edna Fabry’s fingers race across the keyboard as she finishes up a document for the boss. In this case, the “boss” is part of a computer program that teaches typing skills at the Maple Heights library’s Career Center. Fabry’s been coming here just about every day since she lost her job at a call center, last October.
EDNA FABRY: That was a temp assignment. It was horrible, just horrible --- many of the people that I worked with left. That’s how bad it was.
Before that, raising a special-needs child had been a full time job for the 54-year-old, but then, a messy divorce pulled the financial rug out from under her and she had to go back into a job marketplace that had changed quite a bit since she last looked for work, over 30 years ago.
EDNA FABRY: Back then, it was pretty easy. You walk into a place, fill in an application, usually they say, “"Okay, sit down. We’ll give you an interview.” And there weren’t a lot of people out as there are today, because of the economy, stuck trying to get “whatever”, just to survive.
The job hunt is especially tough for employment seekers over the age of 50, who expected to be cruising toward retirement, at this point. Laurie Henrichsen was 53 when she got word that her former employer was restructuring, two years ago.
LAURIE HENRICHSEN: And some changes were made as a result of that, and my position was eliminated.
The Avon Lake resident had been working in the public relations department for 18 years when she got the news.
LAURIE HENRICHSEN: I didn’t think losing a job would impact me the same as it does other people, because I have a lot of outside interests, I have never felt that my job defined me, but I found out that it defines me a lot more than I thought,
Now, she’s learning to re-define herself and articulate what makes her stand out in a growing field of candidates --- especially as area colleges and high schools are preparing to release hundreds of hopeful graduates into the job market.
LAURIE HENRICHSEN: You have to focus on what you bring to a potential employer, because there are things that you can bring that a younger person might not be able to. You’ve encountered a lot of different situations over the course of your career; you’re good at problem-solving; there aren’t too many things that you haven’t seen probably during your career.
In his career, 56-year-old Bill Marshall of Hudson has done everything from finishing big coils of steel to supervising information management systems. He says those three decades of work experience are something they can’t teach you in college.
BILL MARSHALL: People with the degree are possibly going to find a higher-paying job than I may find, but I am a very mature, responsible, loyal individual who will be an asset to a company at the right time.
And just to disprove the old adage about old dogs and new tricks, Marshall has plugged himself into the social networking website for job hunters: “Linked-In” --- which is based on the idea that the more people that know you are looking for a job, the better chance you have of hearing about a lead. Broadcasting his status as a person looking for work was the furthest thing from his mind when he got laid off in 2001… and once again in 2007.
BILL MARSHALL: I didn’t even think of “networking”. I figured the only place I was going to find a job was in the newspaper or --- if I got lucky enough --- to find somebody who was looking for somebody through a “friendly referral” thing. Eight years has taught me that it’s networking and who you know, how do you know them,
Bill Marshall, Laurie Henrichsen and Edna Fabry all plan to keep on their game faces. They’ve heard the advice about how losing your job can be the first step to changing your life and finding that job you’ve always wanted. But, Fabry says that doesn’t make the day-to-day struggle any easier.
EDNA FABRY: You know, right now, I’m going through a time where the phone’s not ringing, and it’s very frustrating. I’m wondering when is someone going to call me and say, “Look, we’ve got a job for you.”