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Unemployment Is High, but Jobs Are Out There

Helping Experience Work@50+ job fair set for Nashville, Sept. 22

Summary
• Unemployment has risen more than 300 percent among older people in the past decade.
• Job fairs such as one scheduled for Sept. 22 in Nashville can give older workers tips and leads.
• Health care and green technology are among the hot areas for those seeking work.

When Aaron Sito lost his job of 23 years after a company merger, he little imagined it would take him three years to land another full-time position.

In April 2009 the former pharmaceutical representative took two part-time jobs. One, as a photo specialist for Walgreens in his hometown of Lebanon, became full time in January.

In the months between jobs, Sito, 51, sent out hundreds of resumés and applied for 300 jobs online and through local employment agencies. Simple perseverance led to his present position.

“A new store opened in Lebanon, and I just walked in and said, ‘Hey, need anybody?’ ” he recalled. “The manager saw that I had had plenty of responsibility. I kind of convinced him: ‘Here is what I am willing to do—whatever it takes.’ ”

Sito has made the best of the situation. “I’d done well in my career. We had been able to save, and my wife was working part time, so we didn’t have fear of a financial crisis. We were prepared for this type of a thing.”

With Tennessee’s unemployment rate over 10 percent, it takes a lot to land a new job. For older workers that means perseverance as well as flexibility, networking, training and a willingness to explore new fields.

A recent AARP analysis found a 331 percent increase nationally in unemployment among workers 55 and older during the past decade.

“Unemployment right now is at one of the highest levels we’ve seen since the mid-’80s. People are not only unemployed in large numbers but unemployed over a longer period of time,” said Jeff Hentschel, communications director of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Nevertheless, jobs are out there, especially in the areas of health care and green technology, according to Hentschel.

For job seekers 40 or older, a separate website, Boomer Careers, offers specific information geared to issues faced by older workers in Tennessee.

In collaboration with the Employment Guide and WiserWorker.com, AARP is sponsoring more than 40 career fairs in the 19 states with the highest unemployment rates for workers over 50.

“The career fairs are about linking older workers with a variety of services and resources as well as allowing them to meet with prospective employers,” said Tara Shaver, AARP Tennessee community outreach director.

A Helping Experience Work@50+ fair will be held Sept. 22 at LP Field in Nashville from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and job seekers can register online.

“The career fair will feature employers with job openings, help with job search strategies and career counseling,” Shaver said.

It also will provide an Internet café so attendees can go online and access job sites.

A highlight of the Sept. 22 fair will be an AARP-sponsored workshop—“The Power of Promoting Yourself”—presented by volunteer Bonnie Fertig and Shaver. Fertig describes it as giving job seekers “an individual look at what key qualities they have to offer to an employer and what they have to promote in terms of creating a brand for themselves.” The interactive workshop will focus on how to promote yourself and your “brand,” using networking tools, resumé writing and the interview process.

A key tip is to let people know you are looking, Fertig said.

First Tennessee Bank is one company that values the experience and diversity older workers can bring to the table. The bank looks for “someone who can add to the success of the organization and be successful within the organization,” said Tracie Robinson, First Tennessee’s talent acquisition and diversity officer.

“Stay current technologically by being abreast of how to search for jobs now,” she said. “Understand how to really navigate [the job] system through networking.”

Ken Beck is a freelance journalist and author living near Watertown. His “Ask Ken Beck” trivia column runs in several Middle Tennessee newspapers.

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