Rebounding From a Layoff

Don’t Overlook The Job Fairs

CCPA Trade Fair

Donate Please

Apply Please

Corporate Angels

Join Please

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the August

8, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Revving Up Old Computers

It turns out that size matters quite a bit, much more

than speed. At least that is the case where computers are concerned.

Boosting your PC’s capacity can give you the fun of a whole new

machine

— for a fraction of the price. The PC Users Group will show you

how to make the transformation happen when it meets on Monday, August

13, at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library on Route 1 South. Call

908-281-3107.

Paul Kurivchack has been president of the PC Users Group, which

was founded 16 years ago, for six years. A graduate of the College

of New Jersey, Class of 1974, when the school was called Trenton

State,

Kurivchack majored in electronics technology. He spent his first two

years of college at Middlesex Community College, where he met his

first computer. The machine, roughly the size of a bread box, used

a paper tape. Programming was done via "very basic Fortran."

Drawn to computing nearly 30 years ago, Kurivchack went into high

tech sales. His jobs included one where he sold large computer-based

control systems for refineries. The jobs, always involving high tech,

also involved lots of travel. With two children at home, Kurivchack

traded in flight time for a commuter ticket from his home in Raritan

to Manhattan, where he is a senior help desk specialist at MTV. He

unravels computer problems for employees at the MTV Network, Showtime,

Nickelodeon, and other Viacom divisions. This is how he summarizes

his work: "In the imperfect world of PCs, we just try to make

people happy."

Two people his job makes very happy are his teen-age daughters, for

whom he has wrangled tickets to MTV in-studio concerts, including

one by N’SNYC, at which his younger daughter ended up sitting next

to one member of the group.

Asked how many PCs he has in his house, Kurivchack has to stop and

think. "Three up and running," he says after taking a mental

inventory, "one laptop, and two in pieces." Someone for whom

the thrill of computing is not dead, Kurivchack has tied the computers

together via a home network, and maintains a "hobby" business,

Krieffs Graphics, through which he builds the machines from scratch.

Only the third person to head up the Princeton PC Users Group,

Kurivchack

jokes that he is president "by default. No one wants the job."

Kurivchack is just half kidding. Volunteerism among busy suburbanites

is dying, he says. Adding to the challenge in computer users’ clubs

is a big drop in the "cool" factor. "Computers are like

toasters now," he says. "Five, six years ago, we had 130

members.

Now it’s 90."

The average age of the group’s members "has got to be 60,"

says Kurivchack. He points out that the two groups most interested

in computers are children, who value them as game-playing vehicles,

and seniors, who use the machines to communicate with friends and

family. Working at wiring his 70-something mother, Kurivchack says

computers are perfect for retired people, allowing them to stay in

touch with far-flung family and friends and ameliorate any sense of

isolation that can come with a move out of the workforce.

The age group that lies between Nintendo and shuffleboard has less

reason to fire up the home PC, says Kurivchack. But that may be

changing.

Relatively new computer utilities, including putting together digital

photo albums, taking web cam shots of the baby, and downloading music

— and even full length movies — is stirring up interest. These

activities are space hogs, however, calling for lots of memory and

hard drive space, more than computers purchased as recently as 15

or 18 months ago can deliver. Kurivchack says the problem can be

remedied

fairly easily. Most — but not all — core PC elements can be

replaced with more powerful parts. Here are Kurivchack’s guidelines

for turning an older PC into a machine capable of handling early-21st

century computing demands:

Enhanced memory is number one. "Upgrading memory is

the number one improvement," says Kurivchack. Memory, expressed

as RAM, should be 128 megabytes if the computer is to run the latest

programs smoothly. Upgrading is easy. "The chip only fits one

way," he says. "You just have to know where to look on the

motherboard."

A big hard drive has room for thousands of MP3s. It is

barely necessary to go back to the last century to find a time when

a 2 gig hard drive was considered huge. Now, says Kurivchack, many

programs take up half a gig of space — or 25 percent of the

computer

real estate available for all uses. Video files, picture files (all

those digital snapshots), and music files take up a great deal of

space as well. Happily, Kurivchack reports that prices for hard drives

have dropped dramatically. Twenty gig can be had for about $89, he

says. Installation will double that amount, and he suggests that

anyone

interested in the upgrade might want to tackle the job at home.

"The

instructions are pretty self-explanatory," he says.

Consider other easy upgrades. Boosting memory and capacity

will make an enormous difference in performance. Other upgrades

amateurs

might consider are changing the computer’s video card and adding a

new sound card. Anyone with a modem slower than 56.6 kilobytes might

want to tackle that upgrade, too.

Keep in mind that certain attempts to boost speed might not

be possible, or even very helpful. Computer ads are all about

speed.

Users are sometimes shown wearing goggles while sitting in an armchair

that appears to be square in the middle of a wind tunnel. But

upgrading

the high-powered processor that creates that speed often does not

work. Often new processors are not compatible with existing

motherboards,

says Kurivchack. And speed, he says, is not all that Intel and other

processor manufacturers would like you to think it is.

"Speed is not as important as RAM," Kurivchack says.

"Yeah,

with one gig it’s like a Ferrari rather than a Corvette, but anything

over 400 or 500 megahertz will work. More is immaterial unless you’re

editing video. I have old, junk machines, five years old. My daughter

uses them to Instant Message and surf the Internet. She doesn’t know

they’re slow machines."

If a computer has 128 megabytes of RAM and a large hard drive —

at least 20 gig and maybe even 30 or 40 — it will deliver top

performance even at relatively low speeds. One reason this is so,

he says, is that there is a speed bump that has nothing to do with

the computer itself.

"The phone connection is the bottleneck," says Kurivchack.

"Speed doesn’t help with downloads." No matter how fast a

computer is, it will not handle speed-eating applications like

streaming

video if it has to get to the Internet through a 56.6 K modem, which

is the fastest connection anyone without DSL, T1, cable, or satellite

Internet access can use. Frustrated in Raritan, Kurivchack is not

among the lucky few home users — he puts the percentage at 10

to 20 percent — whose computers reside in a community where high

speed Internet access is available.

Kurivchack estimates that a couple of hundred dollars worth

of upgrades — or less — will turn an older computer into the

equivalent of a new $1,000 machine. Computer owners have just one

thing to overcome. Lifting the case of a computer and staring into

its guts still terrifies many. Even most 20-somethings shrink from

the act, fearing they will irrevocably ruin the thing. "There’s

a fear factor out there," says Kurivchack.

Top Of Page
Rebounding From a Layoff

On Tuesday, August 14, at 9:30 a.m. Project

ReEmployment,

a non-denominational service offered through the Jewish Family &

Children’s

Service of Greater Mercer County, holds the first of the four sessions

in its program for unemployed individuals at its offices at 707

Alexander

Road. Call 609-987-8100.

Rachel Weitzenkorn, the program’s coordinator, says the effects

of job loss can include isolation, depression, anger, and grief, along

with financial distress and family upset. Project ReEmployment, where

participants are required to attend all four half-day sessions, is

designed to get people through all of this while helping them set

up a game plan for finding a good, new job.

"Most people underestimate the effect of a lay-off," says

Weitzenkorn, a 1999 graduate of Boston University who holds an MSW

from Rutgers. I can attest to the truth of her statement. While I

still don’t fully understand why, I do know that even the arrival

of a welcome pink slip can precipitate a blue funk.

The call came early on December 18, a Monday morning, just as I was

settling in for a day’s work in my home office. An employee of a

dot-com

that reported on business news in the high tech, mostly Internet,

sector, I was just getting started on a quarterly summary of top tech

companies in New York City and Philadelphia. These companies had

become

increasingly hard to find during the eight months I reported on them.

Stock prices were being quoted in pennies, and every week brought

the cancellation of three or four IPO offerings. The CEO of one of

the top Internet sites catering to brides had told me months before

that he was sure no consumer-oriented Internet company would go public

again — not ever.

Even before I picked up the phone, I suspected what the news would

be. The caller ID announced the Florida number of my company’s

headquarters,

where the top executives and the IT guys worked. The rest of us —

editors and reporters — worked from home offices and knew each

other mostly through Instant Messaging. The voice on the other end

of the line confirmed my hunch. It was the online publication’s top

editor, my big boss. There had been some talk that I would start a

New Jersey beat, and for a nanosecond I thought maybe that was what

he was calling to discuss. But no, I really knew.

The exact words my editor, a decent man and a good boss, used were

a blur. My impression was that he was having a much harder time with

the call than I was. His message, transparently rehearsed, almost

certainly with a lawyer, was clear enough: Stop typing this second.

You have been laid off.

In the flurry of E-mails and Instant Messages that followed, I learned

that reporters and editors around the country were getting the same

call. Most, incredibly enough, were surprised, something I found hard

to understand given that our jobs were to report on dot-coms,

companies

very much like ours. And for months the news had been unremittingly

bad.

Others were angry. They had been lied to! Misled! Well, yes, there

had been statements to the effect that more venture capital money

— enough to carry us to profitability — was due to roll in

any minute. Strange, I thought, that any of them, a pretty good bunch

of news people overall, had believed those statements to be anything

more than wishful thinking.

Me, I was neither surprised nor angry, or even unhappy. Quite the

opposite. In Christmas cards mailed just two days before the mass

lay-off, I had told friends I was quite sure I would be free to get

together with them soon. I expected to be laid off before New Year’s.

Getting a virtual pink slip a week before my older son was due home

for the holidays and my husband was scheduled to take vacation was

a bonus. On top of that, I was given far more severance pay than I

ever would have expected, and I was in the early stages of talking

about taking an excellent new job. (This one.)

The dot-com job, which had tied me to a desk in my home office from

before 8 a.m. until at least 6:30 p.m. had proved to be way too

isolating

for my taste. There had been talk, early on, of renting a satellite

office in Manhattan where I could work off and on. There had been

talk of staffing up so that I, and my reporting partner, who lived

in Brooklyn, could get out in the field to do face-to-face interviews.

But dwindling capital made it necessary for us to stick close to our

desks, turning out news stories based on telephone interviews as fast

as we could to fill up the site.

So, to review, I didn’t particularly like the job, knew a layoff had

to be coming, had a good shot at a better job, knew a good-sized

severance

check was on the way, and was looking forward to time off at the

holidays.

Elation would have been the proper reaction to that call from Florida.

But here is the odd part. I was depressed.

For me, a brisk walk through Manhattan — all around Central Park

and then down through Chelsea, the far west Village, Soho, and Tribeca

— is a sure cure for a little depression. I headed there on the

day after the Florida phone call. Instead of its usual magic, all

Manhattan held for me was streets full of purposeful people. Every

one of them heading for work, or so it seemed. I was the only person

on earth who did not have a job!

What nonsense, what rubbish, I kept telling myself. But the internal

lectures did not work. All through that day, and on the three days

that followed, I was inexplicably down. The weekend brought relief.

Come Saturday, I was part of a normal group of bookstore-browsing

loafers, not the only person on the street with nowhere to go.

Given my reaction to an absolutely welcome lay-off, imagine what

Weitzenkorn’s

clients are going through. "Most of the individuals we see are

being downsized from major companies," she says. "They had

been working for their companies for 10, 15 years. They come to us

asking, `What do I do now?’"

Class size in Project ReEmployment ranges from five to 20.

Participants

tend to be corporate employees. "We had a vice president last

time," says Weitzenkorn, who has been running the programs for

one year. Right now, a number of IT professionals are coming in.

Classes

often feature guest speakers, including representatives from local

corporations, experts on budgeting, counselors from temporary

placement

firms, and job search advisors from area colleges. Discussion is

encouraged,

and participants often pick up leads, search strategies, and tips

on coping with family and financial concerns from one another. Some

classes become close, and form a sort of alumni group to keep the

communication going after the sessions end.

Weitzenkorn also is available after the formal program to provide

counseling. Among her advice to job seekers — and their

families:Know

it is normal to grieve. Most people, told they are no longer needed

at their jobs, are going to go through a process that is very much

like grieving the loss of a family member or close friend. "There

is shock, anger, depression, guilt," Weitzenkorn says. No serious

job search can begin until these emotions are out of the way, she

says. It may take a month, or six months. There are people who are

still unable to come to grips with the loss after a year. If working

through the emotions surrounding a lay-off takes this long, however,

counseling may be in order.

Shed the shame, and reach out. "People are so ashamed

when they lose a job," says Weitzenkorn. "It’s so

embarrassing."

A natural reaction is to hide out, but that is precisely the worst

thing to do when a good new job is the goal. "Almost everyone

gets a job through networking," she says. Try to swallow hard,

realize that the stigma once attached to a lay-off is now gone, and

tell absolutely everyone that you are looking for a good employment

opportunity.

"We teach people how to say this," says Weitzenkorn. While

many ex-execs choke on announcing to near-strangers that they need

a job, saying something like, "`I’m interested in getting into

export logistics, do you know anyone in the field I might be able

to talk to?’" can be much easier. Remember that people, almost

universally, enjoy helping if they themselves do not feel pressured.

Think of shifting gears. Hard as it is for many of the

newly-laid-off to accept, for a good number of people the event will

be remembered as a positive career milestone. Weitzenkorn has seen

a number of corporate employees, who, while missing their paychecks,

are happy to be freed from jobs they didn’t like all that well. Many

decide a change is in order. Weitzenkorn says work at a non-profit

looks attractive to a good number of her clients, and that teaching

is gaining in popularity among mathematicians and scientists.

Make an interim plan. Some of Weitzenkorn’s clients need

an income right away to keep up on their financial obligations. To

help out, Project ReEmployment brings in credit counselors to teach

budgeting. "When we ask new participants if they are interested

in a course on budgeting, they say no," says Weitzenkorn. "But

that is one of our most popular classes. People always stay around

to ask questions." Project ReEmployment also brings in reps from

staffing agencies to discuss short term employment possibilities to

help keep the mortgage money flowing while the search for a good,

permanent job is in the works.

Be patient with your unemployed spouse, parent, or child.

Families need to listen, and go easy on advice to their unemployed

relative, says Weitzenkorn. Coping with an empty mailbox weeks after

sending out 200 resumes is a strain. Putting yourself on the line

at interviews where the other candidate gets the nod is demoralizing.

At home, the lay-off victim needs support.

Even in the best of circumstances — like mine — a

lay-off

is a jolt, especially in a society where the first question we ask

one another invariably is: "So, what do you do for a living?"

An aim of Project ReEmployment is to show the unemployed that they’re

far from alone. At any given moment lots and lots of people are

hunting

for their next jobs, and that the experience, painful though it may

be, is often a stepping stone on the way to a better job — and

maybe a better life too. That’s the way it worked out for me.

Top Of Page
Don’t Overlook The Job Fairs

For the newly unemployed, job fairs are a low-key way

to survey the employment scene. Get your hair cut, your resumes

stashed

in a clean folder, and off you go.

For the employer, job fairs can be a surreptitious way to meet

candidates

who might be persuaded to change careers. A nursing service might

encounter a programmer with a penchant for helping people. A hotel

might influence a burned-out social worker to go into hospitality

sales.

Pathfinder Consulting Group runs these fairs for profit, and they

call them "Mega Job Fairs." The next event is Wednesday,

August

15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Forsgate Country Club. Admission is

free and the minimum charge for employers is $200 for a six-foot table

($150 for nonprofits), with booths costing $400. The one after that

is on Wednesday, September 5, at the Raritan Convention Center in

Edison. Call 732-821-7048.

Professional Service Alumni Association, a spin-off of an organization

sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Labor, has set up its own

schedule of Job Fairs, with the first set for Tuesday, September 11,

7 to 10 p.m., at the East Brunswick Library. Job Fairs continue in

December, March, and June. (In alternate months, the PSAA has its

regular meetings.) Admission is free, but the cost to sponsors is

$100 per table, or $250 for three evenings, $300 for four evenings.

Call 609-655-3804.

"We are seeing a resurgence of the 1995-1997 period, when the

economics of business saw the buyouts, furloughs, layoffs and

closings,

necessary for business to maintain itself," says Murray

Meiseles

of PSAA. "These job fairs are for the sole purpose of bringing

the talent of a whole host of persons, of varying characteristics,

to the employers of our country. It is our belief that the face to

face relationship will accomplish the joining of talent and need."

Top Of Page
CCPA Trade Fair

Calendar alert: for Thursday, August 30 — the

Princeton

Chamber has announced its speakers for the Business Trade Fair on

Thursday, August 30, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal.

Joachim Schafer, president of Hannover Fairs USA, will speak

at lunch, and Daniel Fleming, of Wong & Fleming, gives a

workshop

at the pre-show coffee hour at 10 a.m. His topic: "The Pacific

Rim Countries — How They Affect Your Business and the American

Way of Life."

U.S. 1 Newspaper will hold its Technology & Computing Showcase in

conjunction with the chamber’s expo. It’s at the same location at

the same time and it is also free. Joseph Montemarano, director

for industrial liaison for Princeton University, will speak at U.S.

1’s Technology Forum at 4 p.m. His topic: "From the Ivory Tower:

A Princeton Guide to Valuable Technology."

Also scheduled are tastings of wine and beer and specialty foods from

3 to 5 p.m., and handwriting analyses by Renee Martin, of Forgery

Forensics, from 2 to 3 and 4 to 5 p.m. For information about the

chamber’s

trade fair call 609-520-1776, and for the U.S. 1 Technology Forum,

call 609-452-7000.

Top Of Page
Donate Please

The Salvation Army is looking for help in sending

youngsters

in foster care to its Special Needs Reunion Camp, held at Camp

Tecumseh

in Pittstown. This camp reunites brothers and sisters separated by

the foster care system for a week of outdoor fun. The program

encourages

family togetherness, character building, and social development

activities.

A donation of $275 will send one child to camp for a week. Call

908-851-8237.

Top Of Page
Apply Please

The IRS is accepting grant applications from organization

providing

low-cost legal assistance to people involved in tax disputes. Matching

grants worth up to $100,000 for the calendar year 2002 grant cycle

are available. Grants also are available for programs that assist

taxpayers for whom English is a second language.

Applications for the grants must be received by Friday, August 24.

The application package is available on the IRS website (www.irs.gov)

or by phone at 800-829-3676. To qualify for a grant, tax clinics must

be run by accredited law, business, or accounting schools whose

students

represent taxpayers in tax disputes with the IRS or in the courts,

or by tax-exempt organization.

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

The American Red Cross of Central New Jersey is sending

David Novak, its marketing and communications director, to Gujarat,

India, where an earthquake killed more than 2,000. This chapter

contributed

the third largest dollar amount raised in the United States to aid

victims in that desert area, and Novak will document the relief

efforts.

The Howard Design Group is celebrating a 2001 APEX Award

of Excellence for the 1999-2000 Annual Report for the Eden Family

of Services, a non-profit that provides lifespan services for children

and adults with autism, The report, "Celebrating 25 Years of

Lifespan

Services 1975-2000," was created by Peter Gialloreto, a graphic

designer from Howard Design Group at 20 Nassau Street and Pamela

Geisel, a California-based freelance writer and former Eden staff

member.

Princeton Softech has held a fundraiser for the Juvenile

Diabetes Foundation. In addition to a barbecue, hosted by the

company’s

North American sales department, Princeton Softech’s executives

volunteered

to get all wet for the charity. Employees and friends paid $5 for

the chance to throw balls toward a target that would send an executive

plunging into a dunk pool.

Top Of Page
Join Please

The Borough Merchants for Princeton is inviting downtown

businesses

to join up. The non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting

Princeton as a shopping, dining, and business destination. The

all-volunteer

group’s annual promotions include an annual job fair and decorations,

carriage rides, and entertainment for the winter holidays. The

membership

fee is $200. Checks in that amount can be sent to the organization

at Box 584, Princeton 08542.

Keep Middlesex Moving, the county’s non-profit

transportation

management association, is developing an online directory of area

businesses that deliver. The organization finds that commuters refuse

to leave their cars home, at least in part because they want them

available during the workday for errands. The directory is to

encourage

office workers to car pool or take public transit, and have the dry

cleaning or prescription they would run to pick up at noon delivered

to their homes instead.

Keep Middlesex Moving is inviting any business that delivers to

consumers

to submit a listing for the directory. Possible categories include

florists, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, and pharmacies. Any

business

that wants an application for a free listing is invited to call

732-745-4318.

The Regional Planning Partnership , with headquarters at

870 Mapleton Road, provides tools and strategies to local government,

citizens, and developers to encourage smart growth. The organization

is preparing its annual Resource Book and is offering sponsorship

ads for amounts ranging from $100 to $1,500. Call 609-452-1717.


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