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Older workers pursue job-search skills

Laid off after long careers, they must adjust to today's job-seeking scene.

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Although job listings are way down, Art Koff, CEO of, is getting postings for temporary jobs and project assignments. He encourages older job seekers to register with local temp agencies. "They don't care about age but are more interested in your skills and experience," he says. "If you get work through a temp firm it helps build your résumé for future work assignments." Temporary employment can often lead to full-time work.

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Mr. Koff also notes that the Census Bureau is hiring older workers to be census takers. Cirillo encourages job seekers to visit One-Stop Career Centers around the country. Federally funded, they offer free career coaching services.

Cathy Severson, an employment counselor in southern California, emphasizes the importance of flexibility. "A person who has spent 30 years in a Fortune 1000 company tends to want to focus a job search on large corporations," she says. "That's not where new jobs are. They need to look at smaller companies and for self-employment opportunities."

She cautions against providing too much information on a résumé. Applicants need to pare it down to the specific position they are applying for instead of supplying a smorgasbord of skills and knowledge.

At, founder Renee Ward runs a section called "Jobs Wanted," where members can post listings. "I can tell they haven't had to look for a job for a long time," she says. "They're not contemporary with today's recruiting styles."

She tells of one man who wants a job in construction. His posting contained misspellings. "He didn't present himself properly," Ms. Ward says. "Even if companies have an opening, when they see this kind of presentation, they'll pass. Presentation starts from Day 1 with your résumé, dress, the way you speak, being on time, and how you answer questions."

Job hunters also need to know how to assess themselves and their skills. "Those in this age group may feel that just because they have experience, they're qualified for a job," Ward says. "Sometimes they carry a chip on their shoulder. Just because they're interviewing with someone half their age, they shouldn't be condescending. They need to realize that the labor market is no longer about seniority, it's about skills."

Whatever learning curve is involved as longtime employees update their skills, the results can be beneficial to everyone. "Employer groups tell us that once on the job, older workers are more reliable," Ward says.

As Clark attends her classes every day, she finds reassurance in being with others who are in the same situation. Noting that she hopes to find a position in healthcare, she says she expects to work another 15 years, until at least age 70. Echoing the sentiments of legions of other job-seekers, she adds, "Just to be gainfully employed again would be wonderful."