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Coaches Help Job Seekers Hone Interview Skills, Résumés

Free assistance over the phone

Linda Seiden helps unemployed Arizona residents polish their resumes and brush up on interviewing skills.

Linda Seiden and other AARP volunteer job coaches help unemployed Arizona residents polish their résumés and brush up on interviewing skills. Most of the sessions are over the phone. — Andy Delisle/Wonderful Machine

En español | It's hard to land a job in this economy, harder if you're over 40, but volunteers at the AARP Arizona office in Phoenix help even the odds.

See also: A winning job interview.

Volunteer job coaches assist with résumés, interviewing skills and how to use social media websites to network.

The coaches and job hunters "meet" over the phone.

Scottsdale volunteer Linda Seiden, 59, recently coached Phoenix job seeker Lynn Schulz, 55, with weekly assignments, including studying a website that lists the 150 most common interview questions. They also did mock interviews.

"She was great at telling me, 'That isn't really a good answer,' or, 'Phrase that a little better,' " Schulz said.

He had spent two years working at a variety of home construction jobs. But after a month of coaching, he sent Seiden an email: "I got the job!" as a full-time estimator for a contractor.

Since the coaching program began a year ago, 70 of the 300 clients have found jobs.

Because there are several programs targeted at helping low-income people 55 and older find jobs, the coaching is aimed at a different audience: People 55-plus don't qualify for other job-help programs for their age group because their individual income is more than $13,613. It's also open to low-income people 40 to 54 who are too young to participate in job programs restricted to older people.

The Phoenix center is one of four phone-based job coaching sites created by the AARP Foundation WorkSearch program. Others are in Detroit, Louisville, Ky., and Washington, D.C.

"Some [people] don't know where to start after being laid off after 18 years from a job they thought they'd have for life," said Nancy Hecker, coordinator of the Phoenix program.

Job coaches tell clients about job fairs and hiring opportunities. They also guide job seekers through AARP's WorkSearch online assessment tool, which helps them better understand their marketable skills and interests.

Half of the volunteers are retirees, and the job coaching provides them with the type of meaningful volunteerism boomers are seeking, Hecker said. She'd like to double the coaching corps to about 40 people this year to help whittle down the four-month backlog.

Ideal volunteers have computer skills and experience working in human resources or as a coach, Hecker said.

Volunteer Linda Grubbs, 62, said the AARP program is one of the ways she uses her skills and experience.

The Mesa resident retired in 2004 from an insurance company, where she was in charge of customer relations and the call center. After retirement, she became a certified life coach.

The job coaches, who are asked to commit to a half-day a week, receive three days of training on how to coach, the job-hunting process, résumé writing, computer skills, and the emotional and social effects of being out of work.

"It makes such a difference when you have a supportive person to walk you through the process and offer ideas," said Maria Ramirez-Trillo, project director of AARP Arizona's WorkSearch program, which refers clients to the job coach center.

Seiden, a life and business coach, said compassionate people like nurses, teachers and social workers also make excellent coaches.

"We get a lot of clients who are afraid they aren't employable anymore," Seiden said. "Image, confidence and self-esteem are part of it. I look for what's right with them and not what's wrong."

Details on how to volunteer to become a job coach are on the website.

Maureen West is a writer living in Phoenix.

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