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A Job Skills Forum at Edmond Town Hall January 25 that brought in expertise from state and private agencies ended up highlighting the burden and stress that many older and long-term jobseekers experience, which could work against them as they continue their search for employment.
The forum was hosted by Connecticut Senator Tony Hwang and brought in behavioral health specialist James Rascati, state labor department job center director Stephen Romano, Career Resources CEO Scott Wilderman, and Newtown resident Tom Long, an executive and longtime staffer at The WorkPlace.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal also attended the forum along with approximately two dozen others in the Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall.
Senator Hwang told The Newtown Bee that along with reviewing myriad resources offered to job seekers through the Connecticut Department of Labor, the WorkPlace, and Career Resources, it was Mr Rascati’s portion of the program that seemed to resonate with many of those who turned out.
“Stephen Romano, our Department of Labor representative, brought details about the operational aspect of his office — resources, market data, sector reports on opportunities within specific industry and available jobs, and details about the unemployment insurance program,” Sen Hwang said. “Mr Wilderman and Tom Long talked about specific programs their offices offer to help those looking for jobs with interviewing and training resources.”
He said Mr Long reviewed collaborative programs between the WorkPlace and the Department of Labor, and resources and assistance for those having trouble paying their mortgages because of job loss.
“We learned that the higher the income of an individual being displaced, the higher the risk of that individual defaulting or falling behind on their mortgage,” Sen Hwang said. “They also covered the state-mandated mediation process, and the counseling services they offer.”
Mr Long also covered specialized support and opportunities for veterans, which are hosted in conjunction with federal and military agencies, as well as a program specifically targeted at seniors and retirees who decide to return in some capacity to Connecticut’s workforce
“But what was the most powerful part of the evening was talking about the emotional toll, the process of grieving, and the acceptance of that emotional despair, frustration, and disappointment,” Sen Hwang said. “He did a great job at explaining that this is a natural emotional process. And there is always someone available through each of the agencies we had there to provide some level of counseling.”
Sen Hwang said Mr Rascati helped discouraged job seekers better understand there is a process to coping with this aspect of unemployment.
“We don’t talk enough about the mental health toll and unemployment’s toll on wellness, and the potential for depression, the whole cycle of grieving. That was very powerful,” Sen Hwang said. “What came out of that was the universal tendency to feel a loneliness — that you alone have lost your job. And everyone on the panel was able to say that every one of them had lost jobs, and that these people were not alone. There are people around them, family, friends, neighbors, the community, which are there to support you and help you. Unemployed people cannot afford to think it is their burden to bare themselves.”
The senator said as he watched audience members during that section of the forum, he could see some of them reacting positively or with self-realization that they were experiencing just what the panel was talking about.
“The other interesting point Tom Long brought out was, whether you are an entry-level hourly worker or a six-figure executive, when you lose a job you experience the same range of emotions,” Sen Hwang said. “They all go through the same thing. No one is immune to this emotional roller coaster.”
The senator was happy that panelists reinforced concepts like job seekers needing to come out of their “silo” and networking.
“In this day and age of internet job posting, you may send out hundreds of applications and get very little return,” he said. “But ultimately its about relationships you build through networking that you could never know about if you just work your job search on the internet.”
The forum also provided an opportunity for job seekers to go on camera and present an “elevator conversation,” a 30-second pitch about themselves, which led into panelists role playing employers doing follow-up questions. Sen Hwang said the results were amazing.
“After one particular gentleman, I walked up to him and asked if he could sense the confidence that he was expressing. And he said he never thought in his wildest dreams that he could just stand up on cue and talk about himself in such a positive way,” he said. “I get such a high out of this, because a bunch of people left knowing they had all these resources and all this help available.”
Frustration Can Surface
In a follow-up call to Mr Long, he acknowledged the great resources his fellow panelists provided. He said anyone who is unable to find work after a six-month time frame will begin facing a real challenge as they see the end of unemployment coverage looming, and potential employers begin to notice and even question why the individual was without a job for so long.
These individuals may also begin sending subtle signals to interviewers with body language or an attitude that reflects their depression, desperation, or worse — defeat
“It becomes a challenge,” Mr Long said. “They begin losing confidence and they start doubting their own skills and abilities. Frustration can begin to surface, and all those can become barriers to really shining in an interview, or even in a networking situation where you are trying to sell yourself.”
He said The WorkPlace can provide tools through a partnering company called Career Edge that helps people explore or rediscover their value, and how to communicate that value to employers, how to find their passion, and explore skills they have from an industry they may not be able to go back to that might be transferable to a different industry,” Mr Long said, adding that he has seen for himself how these confidence-building supports make all the difference.
“I would say that people go through a transformation by rediscovering themselves and the abilities they have,” he said. Mr Long said one WorkPlace program, Platform to Employment, combines these supports with a subsidy to employers that covers qualifying candidates’ salaries for one month as they go through a “tryout” phase.
“I’m happy to say that more than 90 percent of these job seekers end up being kept on as full-time employees of the companies we help match them with,” he said. The bottom line for any long-term job seeker, however, is to fight the tendency to become isolated.
“Maybe you don’t want to be out in the world and be faced with situations where they have to tell others that they are unemployed,” he said. “I dare say that most people will face a period of unemployment in their lives, and you just have to accept that, reach out for help, and never stop networking and talking to people.”
Networking And Confidence
Those who want to experience both networking and support may want to consider attending the next session of the Northern Fairfield Professionals networking group, which focuses on members of the local workforce in transition. The group’s Tuesday, February 13, meeting is from 5:30 to 8 pm at the Knights of Columbus building at 46 Church Hill Road behind St Rose Church, and is free for participants.
That meeting will feature a talk by Jason Hyde presenting “Three Things Unemployed Professional Must Know to Overcome Frustration and Fear.”
Mr Hyde told The Bee that he is passionate about helping equip people with a renewed sense of confidence.
“There is a particular concern for people who are older, or who consider themselves to be older, and who worry their age will be a detriment in finding work,” Mr Hyde said. “This can be something they wear — they worry about it when they’re walking in the door, they worry about it when they are being interviewed — it just comes across.”
He said even though job seekers see that unemployment numbers are dwindling, there are still may people who are underemployed. These people may not be making enough money to survive, or they are not utilizing their best skill set.
One of the three things that Mr Hyde plans to cover at the networking group on February 13 is that obstacles are lessons.
“It’s all about getting people who are unemployed to reframe their thinking about their situation,” he said. “By looking at where they are, they may discover it’s the best thing for them — it is where they are supposed to be in the career path they are supposed to have,” he said. “Too many people in a job wait around too long before they make a move toward something else, even though there is a nagging little voice in their heard telling them to do so.”
He said while many employment support systems are great at telling job seekers what to do, but Mr Hyde hopes to help them to, “get out of their own way mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.”
“I want to make the process of getting out there and selling their best selves more seamless, bringing good energy to the experience, and that they feel pumped up and look forward to the next step in their career,” he said.
For more information about Northern Fairfield Professionals, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about The WorkPlace at workplace.org.
Get details about services and job fairs being offered by Career Resources at careerresources.org.
And begin exploring opportunities at the at the American Job Center Network at the regional Department of Labor offices in Waterbury, or by visiting careeronestop.org — or job seeker services through the labor department