An Update on Two "Help Wanted" Job-Seekers

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Liz Gockel spent 19 years as a secretary at a company in Solon that made roofing materials. Then, in February, the firm was bought, and Gockel was laid off.

GOCKEL: I figured something was going to happen because there had been a lot of upheavals during the year. So I just figured, I don’t know when it’s going to happen but it probably will.

The company gave her a month’s notice, so by the end of March, Gockel started looking for work for the first time in two decades. That means she’s adjusting to a whole new way of getting jobs.

GOCKEL: We thought, well, send out a hundred resumes to all these different places, and we’re set, and it doesn’t work that way anymore.

Today, she scours the online job boards and networks in the real world as much as possible. And, she’s readying herself for another adjustment. At her old job, she made $20/hour.

GOCKEL: If I find something that’s a little less than that, I have to accept that.

In fact, most of the jobs she sees now pay around $8.50 an hour, less than half her old income. And, those companies expect more computer skills.

GOCKEL: Skills with Excel and Powerpoint and Access and all these other things that I really didn’t have to, or only touched on a little bit at my old job.

So, she’s taking computer classes at the Employment Connection, a government agency of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County that provides career resources. Her husband is retired, and their house and cars are paid off, but she says she can’t stop working. At 60, she says she’s not prepared mentally or financially to retire. One thing she’s worried about is how she’s going to pay for health care. So, for her, finding a job is a full-time job. At least, she says, she’s not alone.

GOCKEL: In these times, it’s not an embarrassment to be without a job. Because there are so many of us in this predicament.

Like Liz Gockel, Tom Hasson of North Royalton also spends a lot of time at the Employment Connection.

HASSON: I used the Employment Connection as my office which is what they promote. It was somewhere to get out of the house in the morning, go somewhere, stay focused, and try to get the job done of finding a job.

The Employment Connection offers help with writing resumes and polishing interview skills. For Hasson, it worked. Through a twist of fate, the Employment Connection is now his employer.

HASSON: Well ironically, it was just through networking. Just being there for months time, speaking with the people who are there, sitting having coffee, and one of the employment counselors said, do you have sales skills? So that’s how the conversation started.

Hasson’s former experience in sales at KeyBank helps him cold-call local companies today, looking for openings for the job-seekers at the Employment Connection. Working at a government agency is a bit of a paycut for Hasson, but he’s happy to have the work.
And, he has some advice for those still looking.

HASSON: After attending numerous networking events, and listening to numerous speakers, it’s all about networking. You don’t know where it’s going to come from.

And, with more than half of the participants in the Help Wanted series still looking for jobs, Hasson is an exception. In this market, even those with education, skills, and a solid work history keep searching nearly a year after we started following them. They can only hope that the recovery that the economists keep talking about will turn into real jobs in 2010.

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