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'Will I Ever Work Again?'

Many older workers are jobless for more than a year

But then she watched a video of herself in a mock interview. "I was shocked," Gaul says. "My lips were pursed — I thought I was upbeat and smiling. When I was young my mother told me I didn't have a pretty smile, so I should make sure I kept my lips closed. I had to change that."

One of Gaul's homework assignments was to write a 60-second commercial about herself. Shortly after she finished the course, the Bridgestone Tire Company's Akron Technical Center called her for an interview. Asked why she was the one to hire, she did her commercial.

She's now an executive assistant again, still giddy a year later. She took a 17 percent pay cut and didn't care. "I tell people there I am the happiest person in this company."

Hard as it is to imagine in today's tight market, experts believe there is an expanding role for older workers in tomorrow's labor force.

"Foresighted employers are anticipating labor shortages," says Nicole Maestas, a RAND Corp. senior economist. "And one way to offset that is to keep your older workers employed."

And what do they have to offer?

"The answer," she says, "is experience."

Faye Fiore, a former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writes on consumer issues.

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