Daen Alexandre has a bachelor's degree in business with a minor in theology. She's worked at a law firm and as an administrator at a health clinic. But after several years as a homemaker, she found that trying to re-enter the job market is daunting.
See also: Find a job.
"I know there's always a problem with such a huge gap on your résumé," said Alexandre, of Cos Cob. "It's affected my confidence."
To help her with the transition, she turned to AARP Foundation WorkSearch, a free program that helps job seekers 40 and older. In collaboration with the Stamford office of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut (ULSC), WorkSearch provides job and career information as well as training and related employment services to individuals who are seeking to find a new position or to re-enter the job market.
The partnership began in February 2010 and attracted 280 job hunters last year. The Stamford center serves people from Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties.
Connecticut's average unemployment rate last year for people 55 and over was 7.6 percent.
While Alexandre hadn't found a job by mid-May, she said she's in a much better frame of mind since using WorkSearch. "The fear has gone. I'm definitely going to find something," she predicted.
Elaine Pope-Joffrion, director of employment services at ULSC, said WorkSearch "is very much about job-search skill building. Some prospective workers lack computer skills. Others are lacking current résumés.
"It's not uncommon for people who have worked for a long period of time to have a résumé that needs updating," Pope-Joffrion said. "Some don't even have one, and then they find themselves out of a job. So we have to start from scratch there."
Training is individualized, since no two people have the same needs and skill sets. The Urban League also takes a holistic approach that may include referrals for credit counseling and foreclosure advice, where needed. The "soft skills," such as interviewing skills and how to dress for the interview, sometimes make all the difference, she said.
Sometimes people may have difficulty finding work in their former field, so the program provides training in other industries, such as certification in hotel and hospitality services.
"We're looking for industries with good growth," Pope-Joffrion said. "No one has a magic bullet, but we're going to use all the resources we have … to give our clients the best chance they have to get hired."
AARP and the AARP Foundation also work with the Connecticut Department of Labor to support other free services such as the CTWorks One-Stop Career Centers located throughout the state. Go online and click on CTJobCentral for an office near you, or call the AARP state office at 1-866-295-7279 toll-free.
Earlier this year, the AARP Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to The WorkPlace, Inc., for an innovative work training program, Platform to Employment, to help older workers. The first of two classes sponsored by the AARP Foundation graduated in May.
More online resources
The AARP website features tools such as a search engine that locates jobs by keyword, state or ZIP code and a webinar series for job seekers. Also, the AARP Foundation WorkSearch Information Network provides an online skills assessment, as well as information on career exploration, education and training.
Sometimes re-entering the job market can be intimidating for older workers. "We have a lot of folks who haven't been on a job interview for 30 years," noted Erica Michalowski, AARP Connecticut community outreach director.
"It used to be they'd pull out a newspaper and call the ads that applied to them," Michalowski said. "But now it's more about having a well-written, up-to-date résumé and being able to use a computer to network, search for and apply for jobs online. It's a matter of learning some of the technical skills."
Also of interest: How to make yourself indispensable at work.
Bob Moseley is a freelance writer living in Shelton, Conn.