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Joyce Endee

Jobs scarce but resources plentiful at Job/Career night

Gafney Library Literacy Center hosts event

June 25, 2009
WAKEFIELD — Jen McCawley has been searching for a job since March, when she was laid off after working 13 years in accounting for a medium sized Portsmouth business.

Like many others who attended the Job Fair/Career Night hosted by The Literacy Center at the Gafney Library, McCawley suddenly found herself overqualified yet undereducated for the slim pickings of jobs in the current recession.

But what she did bring with her to this first-ever event held at the Opera House was a positive attitude, interview-ready appearance and a fresh resume.

"I'm finding myself in the awkward position of being older, with a young child, with a lot of experience, but no degree," said the 39-year-old Wakefield resident whose husband is self employed. The family is currently covered by extended COBRA benefits package offered as a severance, but sometime soon those bennies will run out. She said many employers that require "all the experience" also require a degree to get your foot in the door, and the jobs that do not require the degree also don't require "all the experience" – a Catch 22 for sure.

Since her layoff, McCawley has sent out at least 50 resumes and cover letters, all meticulously prepared and customized for the vast array of openings.

"I go online constantly. I sent out 50 or more resumes already… I guess my next step is to get the degree. The money issue is always there, though," she said, adding that she has already taken some online courses through Granite State College and at the fair collected information from the college reps.

"Coming into it [the job search] I thought that with the experience I had, I'd find something sooner rather than later. I'm getting a little more nervous. I've applied for everything from an assistant comptroller, to a bread truck driver, thinking that would be fun and physical," McCawley said.

If there were ever an ideal time to reinvent oneself, this is it for many.

"I decided this would be a great opportunity to take a look at everything and see if I wanted to do something different," she said.

"I'm looking to be happy more than anything," she said.

Other job seekers like Bill Donnelly of Wakefield, who is just a few years short of retirement, were laid off after 20 years in their respective fields. Donnelly is currently pursuing his GED through the Literacy Center after working with engineers most of his working life. But despite a lengthy resume and good references, he can't get his foot in the door without at least a high school diploma.

Literacy Program Coordinator and Career Counselor Rosemary Stewart and Gafney Library Director Beryl Donovan greeted guest and familiar faces as they came through the door, pointing them in the right direction of the handful of employers, like the US Census Department and Cianbro Corporation, and college recruiters that attended the fair. Stewart explained the fair came about after she and Donovan attended an enormous job fair in Manchester, where 10,000 job seekers came out. "We found 30 companies at that job fair that hire people from the Wakefield area, and then we looked for local people and businesses that hire," said Stewart. Many companies as it turns out utilize temporary employment agencies to fill vacancies since demand rises and falls, and those agencies were invited to attend the fair.

Library personnel also have reached out – literally – to job seekers as they walk through the library doors and hunker down to borrow a computer and work on a resume. Donovan said she'll inform job seekers of the resources offered through the library and the literacy center. Another benefit of the program is that the volunteers and staff provide one-on-one attention. Steward said a lot of people who haven't looked for a job in a while don't know how to brag about themselves and identify skills on their resume. Stewart helps people draw out their skills and build a list of references.

Donovan said one satisfying moment was when a man who had lost his construction job used the library and staff to build a resume. He got a job not too longer after, and returned to the library to stuff some money into the donation jar.

"That's fun to see," said Donovan.

Success is measured one person at a time. "If we can find something for one person, that's a good thing. "The beauty of our program is you are able to work one-on-one," she said.

The Gafney Library is hosting a coffee and networking session for job seekers tonight from 4 to 6 p.m. at the library, located on High Street. For more information on any of the library services call 522-3401.

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