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New London - For Susanne Curry, a former executive with AT&T and the Mystic technology firm MResult, the "Boomers Back to Work" class by Stonington author and job coach Jean Baur at the city's unemployment office this week proved to be a godsend.
Curry was laid off from her job as the senior vice president for business development at MResult in March. But, anticipating a job interview the following day with a nonprofit, Curry said Baur's class had helped her figure out how to connect the dots between her experiences in the business world and the skills she could bring to a charitable organization.
"This place is the most unspoken of benefit for people who are unemployed, no matter what the age," Curry said after the free three-and-a-half-hour session at the newly rebranded AmericanJobCenter, formerly known as CTWorks, at the Shaw's Cove Business Park.
Baur has been teaching the class for Baby Boomers for a couple of years. She is the author of two books, including the recently released title "The Essential Job Interview Handbook," published by Career Press.
During her class, Baur addressed some of the major issues that boomers - essentially anyone over 50 looking to get back in the workforce - face today as they look for a job. John Beauregard, executive director of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, who is responsible for operating four job centers in the region, said the class on boomers - one of more than three dozen his agency offers - came about because the 50-plus age group here has been the hardest hit when it comes to long-term unemployment.
"It's just a real focus we have to help that group get back to work," Beauregard said. "They do have special challenges ... but they also have deep ties to the region and are very skilled."
Baur said one of the key points in her class is to get boomers away from the habit of spending all their time poring through websites looking for employment listings. Much more important these days, she said, is networking - going out and finding the companies you want to work for and then gaining a foothold to get noticed before an opening comes up.
"It's like turning the Titanic to get people away from their Internet addiction," Baur said in an interview at Muddy Waters before her class.
One way to build a network, she said, is to send "advice and target" emails to people you know looking for help on how to break into a certain company or business field. People usually are flattered by such messages because they recognize a person's inside knowledge, and the information received can include contacts or advice that will prove helpful in finding job opportunities, she said.
Only about half of the country's job openings are ever published, Baur estimated, and about three-quarters of hires are filled by insiders or through networking.
"People are spending to bulk of their time on a small piece of the pie that is hitting only half the job market," she said.
In one exercise from her class, Baur has boomers do what she calls a "map and zap," a sort of cheat sheet that helps them match their employment skills to the job description and lists three questions that they want to ask of the interviewer to show interest and preparation. The "zap" part of the exercise prepares boomers to meet questions about specific expertise that might be lacking with their own queries to focus answers toward proven abilities or experiences.
"This is a powerful way out of a corner," Baur told the class. "This is a muscle you've got to build."
Asking for a high salary
Inflexibility in working style
Inflexibility in work schedule
Unable to sell themselves
Too much emphasis on benefits
Lack of interest in a job shown by not asking questions
Too much time spent talking about free time
Inappropriate interview attire
SOURCE: Jean Baur