By Mike Harris
Ventura County Star
Vicki Schweitzer, 61, has been looking for work for about a year.
“It’s not going very well,” said the former office manager, who lost her job in a downsizing during the economic downturn.
“There just doesn’t seem to be very much out there and a lot of them are asking for so many computer abilities it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I know I’m capable of learning different programs, because I have done that in the past, but that’s not, like, my strong suit.”
It should be, instructor Esther Maron advised her and other out-of-work baby boomers who took a four-week course designed to assist older job seekers, ages 50 to 64, in Simi Valley, Calif.
Maron’s course, “Get Noticed and Get That Job,” covered more than the need for older job seekers to be proficient in Office Word or Excel. The classes focused on self-awareness and assessment, how to stay motivated during the job search, how to create an effective resume, and how to market yourself.
There was some resistance. The final class consisted of mock job interviews with Maron playing the employer, but attendance was sparse. Maron said some students were loath to do the drill.
A message she hammered during the course was that in a technologically driven market, older workers need to be computer literate to compete with younger, tech-savvy applicants.
“The majority of seniors that I’ve spoken to, while they know their way around a computer, generally they don’t know their way well enough to qualify for some of the jobs that are there. And the prospective employer doesn’t want to teach them,” said Maron, 74, who ran a job-search business, Say It with Panache, in Los Angeles for 23 years.
More seniors than ever are choosing to work, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many don’t have enough money to retire, having lost jobs and savings during the recession and sluggish recovery.
Yet their unemployment rates are not as high as some other age categories.
The national unemployment rate for people 55 years or older in November was the lowest of any age demographic, 5.8 percent, the labor bureau reported. In contrast, the national rate for people 20 to 24 was 12.7 percent, and for those 25 to 34, it was 7.9 percent.
Maron offered unflagging encouragement to the handful of baby boomers who showed up for the third week of her course, noting privately that some are depressed about looking for work in a tough job market.
“Be positive!” she wrote on a white board. “You are the product! Maintain your enthusiasm! Personal contacts are important!” Forty-eight percent of all jobs are obtained through personal contacts, she told them.
Marian Rubinstein, 55, credits Maron “with giving us that can-do attitude that, you know, we can get it together.”
Rubinstein is trying to re-enter the workforce after 10 years away to raise a family.
“I’m just starting to put my toe in the water and getting my resume and cover letter together,” she said. Rubinstein, who used to work in real estate, said she’s looking for a sales job, “something involving people. I don’t think I’d be a good office person.”
Maron recounted how, in the first week of the course, she asked people in the class who had gone on a recent job interview. No one raised a hand.
“I think the big problem is that their presentation is such that they’re not getting their foot in the door,” she said. “But I truly believe that given the chance to get into an interview, they would be able to get very close to a job, if not get a job.”