How do you find a job when you’ve been out of the job market for five years, ten years — or more? Many women face exactly that situation each year, says Denise Brown-Kahney, director of the Career and Life Planning Center in Flemington. The center works with displaced homemakers from Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Union counties.
The center holds an orientation session for potential clients on Thursday, June 1, at 10 a.m. at its office at 215 Route 31, Flemington. The orientation session, and many of the center’s services, are free. For more information call 908-788-1453. Information can also be found at www.hcesc.com.
Funding for the center comes from the New Jersey Department of Commercial Affairs, Division on Women. The only requirement for service is to be a “displaced homemaker” — a woman who has lost her income due to separation, divorce, the death of her spouse, or because her spouse is unable to work due to illness or disability.
The center offers a wide variety of services including one-on-one career counseling, career interest and abilities testing, computer training, and seminars on a variety of personal and career growth topics such as self-esteem and legal and financial issues.
A job readiness series, aimed at helping women re-enter the job market includes several topics, including writing a resume and cover letter, job interview skills, business ethics, and time management. The series ends with the most popular topic — a make-over workshop for all of the participants.
“We have someone from Mary Kay come in and help them with their make-up and a fashion consultant talks to them about business clothing,” says Brown-Kahney. The center also has a “Working Woman’s Wardrobe,” which accepts donations of used business clothing for women who need to quickly upgrade their wardrobes for their new careers. Clothing donations should be clean and in good condition.
Women who have been out of the work force for many years need a variety of services to help them return. “Some of our clients have specific needs,” says Brown-Kahney. “They just want a little bit of advice. Others stay with us for six months to a year.” Writing a resume is one of the most important tools in finding a job, but for someone who has been out of the job market for several years it can be difficult. Brown-Kahney suggests these steps.
Emphasize skills. “For many of our clients job history is old enough that it is not really relevant,” says Brown-Kahney. Jobs held decades ago may be irrelevant to the hunt for employment. She asks instead that her clients look at the skills they have used while they are out of the work force.
“Many of them have been very active with their children’s schools or Scouts or their church. They’ve held positions as treasurer or secretary. We have them emphasize these accomplishments in their resume,” she says.
Don’t give too much information. While most employers are aware that asking specific questions about age or marital status is illegal, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t eager to find out, and many people still tip their hands by putting unnecessary information on their resumes.
“Listing the year you graduated from high school or college is a clue to your age,” says Brown-Kahney. “Listing exactly what years you worked at each job is another give-away.” She suggests leaving exact dates off the resume.
Interview skills. Once the resume has gotten you in the door, the next step is the interview. But an interview is not a one-way street. “The person being interviewed should ask questions as well as answer them,” Brown-Kahney says. “Ask the interviewer what skills he or she thinks are needed for the job.” This gives you a clue as to what to emphasize in your answer. Even if you feel that you are not strong in certain areas, showing enthusiasm and a willingness to learn makes a good impression.
The center serves about 150 clients each year, and Brown-Kahney credits “great volunteers” with helping to make it a success. Classes are taught by volunteers and she is currently looking for teachers to help with a new program, a workshop on non-traditional careers for women, specifically women who work in careers areas where the majority (75 percent or more) of the workers are male.
The center is also looking for a new home. It has been at the same location, on the site of the Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission, since 1980, but the campus has been sold and the center must move in July. Brown-Kahney is still looking for a new, preferable inexpensive, site for the center, but she promises that even with the move it will still exist. “We may be in a tent,” she jokes, “but we will be here for people.”