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Elders Flock to Job Fair

New America Media, News Report, Jun Wang Posted: Sep 15, 2009

IRVINE, Calif. A briefcase in hand, 75-year-old retired psychiatrist and neurologist Ali Tajpour had come to the third annual senior job fair here Sept. 12 organized by the City of Irvine, hoping he would snag a job.

Tajpour was one among 700 elders who showed up at the Lakeview Senior Center, many in their Sunday best, to talk to recruiters and attend workshops on honing up job search skills.

As the U.S. economy tanks and nest eggs shrink, more and more older people are forced to come out of retirement and get back into the workforce, even eyeing jobs that may not pay well.

Attendees at last week's job fair stood in line in front of tables set up by employers from both the private and public sectors, eager to impress.

Laurie Miles, independent sales representative and recruiter with Avon, said her company would like to hire elders because of their rich experiences and broad background.

Many elders worry about their social security and health care, Miles said, noting that her company welcomes anyone who worries about their future.

Miles said Avon doesnt hire only women. After taking Avons online sales training program, many gentlemen in their mid 60s are doing well in her company, she said.

Not far from the Avon table, another line of elders stood in front of the Census Bureau table, waiting to talk to recruiters. Faye Hezar, partnership assistant with the Census Bureau, said there would be 5,000 positions opening up in Orange County for the Census 2010. She said they are looking for people over 60 because the openings are mainly part-time and temporary, factors that would suit many elders.

Hezar said they are also looking for people whore familiar with their community and who speak more than one language. Elders generally meet those requirements.

Lydie Delieuze, senior services program coordinator with the city, said the economic slowdown drew only 24 prospective employers to the fair this year, fewer than there were in the first and second years. Besides recruiters, the city had also invited career counselors to give workshops tailored to elders to sharpen their marketable skills.

In the workshop, Interviewing: Tips and Techniques for Seniors, Valerie Schmidt, founder-president of Schmidt Associates, a recruiting and outplacement consulting firm that specializes in working with seniors in career transitions, told job seekers to stay in the present.

She said that during the interview, they should avoid talking about how things were in the good old days. They should also avoid saying such things as youre too young to remember or, my 30 years in that industry. They should, instead, focus on their experiences in the last two to three years.

To create a positive impression in the first couple of seconds, she advised them to dress up, but not dress old. That meant they should wear something that is appropriate for your age, but in the current style.

In the current tough job market, Delieuze said, the trick is to get your foot in the door through a volunteer job. At the job fair, there were six recruiters who were looking for volunteers.

Angeline Santiago, volunteer services coordinator of the Orange County Parks, was one of them. She said her organization has about 800 volunteers, who donate an average of three hours per month on various jobs. Their oldest volunteer is a man who was more than 100 years old, whos still working in an adult literacy program, she said.

Iraq-born Tajpour, who is looking for a part-time job as a psychotherapist or counselor, said he currently volunteers at the citys One-Stop Center, a job search service center sponsored by the Employment Development Department. He said he has been looking for a job for the last three years, ever since he moved to Orange County. Asked why, he would only say: "Because I need it."

However, not everyone at the job fair was overly enthusiastic about the idea of volunteering, in the hope that it might evolve into a paying job. A 65-year Korean man, who didnt want to be identified, said the job fair is more like a show.

I want a job right now, he said. Getting hired right away as a waiter in a restaurant would be better than being told by prospective employers from big companies that they wont make the hiring decision any time soon.

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