Chattanooga: Job market jostlings

Chattanooga: Job market jostlings

Expo aids older applicants playing catch-up

May 8th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Business

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Tammie Anderson listens during a resume writing workshop on Thursday, part of a career fair for people age 50 and older held at Chattanooga State. Called Prime Timers Career Expo, the event featured workshops and exhibits by potential employers.

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Tammie Anderson listens during...

Several hundred job seekers attended workshops Thursday on resume writing, while others honed interviewing skills or learned about networking or searching for jobs online.

Still others simply met with potential employers at the Prime Timers Career Expo at Chattanooga State Technical Community College.

One estimate was that up to 500 people took part in at least some portion of the event geared toward workers over 50 years old.

"At one point we didn't have a single spot in the parking lot," said Shelia Albritton, director of career services and counseling at Chattanooga State.

Ms. Albritton said a career expo for people over 50 is always a good idea, but it is especially needed during the economic recession. It has forced many experienced workers into a job searching arena that has changed dramatically since most last looked for a new post.

"It may have been a while since they have gone through the interview process or updated their resumes," she said. "This just helps them through that process."

Officials said there were 31 employers with booths set up to discuss career opportunities with job seekers. The companies represented included Unum Group, Bi-Lo, T-Mobile, Avon, Met Life and First Tennessee.

Mary Ann Mullins, a sales representative for Avon, said the event has been successful and allows company officials to meet with job seekers, which is invaluable during this tough economic time.

"A lot of women are taking up an extra income to help out their husbands," Ms. Mullins said. "While some are looking to do it (sell Avon products) full-time."

Viki Ponder, 50, has been out of work since December. She said career fairs are an excellent way to network and learn what companies are looking for.

"It's easy to get discouraged in this job market," she said. "The job market has changed, and the skills employers are looking for have changed, too."

Gerald Earls, 58, was laid off from Hino Motors in February, but he said he has been looking for jobs for the past five years "trying to get ahead of the curve."

He said job fairs are excellent ways to get in front of a potential employers, but it is still tough to find a good one.

"There are a lot of jobs out there that are entry level or looking for someone just out of college," Mr. Earls said. "They aren't looking for someone with experience. They are looking at their bottom line."

Kary Jordan Klein has owned Smart HR, a career counseling service, for 11 years. She said most people's resumes, especially those over 50 who haven't looked for a job in a long time, don't accurately reflect who they are.

"They don't get an interview because their resume doesn't accurately reflect their skills," Ms. Klein said. "Especially to the over-50 crowd, they don't know what the playing field looks like."

During Mr. Earls' search, he has learned the playing field is difficult.

"It's a tough market out there," he said.