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Job Cuts Hit Professionals in Mid-Career

Posted April 11, 2008

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— The rising rate of unemployment in the Triangle is striking a new type of victim: middle-aged professionals with decades of experience under their belts.

An increasing number of baby boomers are among the job seekers that have paid 66,000 visits to state Employment Security Commission (ESC) centers across Wake County in the past six months, officials said.

"We see a lot of professionals, a lot of IT people, admin folks," said Elaine Whitefield, a workplace development trainer with the ESC.

Those 45 years and older make up more than a third of the long-term unemployed, according the U.S. Department of Labor.

"There's nothing more depressing than being mid-career and realizing you don't know what you want to do with your life or where you're going," said Mary Specyal, who was recently laid off after 15 years as information-technology project manager.

The Avadon Group and Wake Technical Community College, though, have developed a program to give laid-off professionals a second chance at career innovation. The program is being offered through Cary's ESC center.

"It's just to spark that thinking: What else could I do? I've done this all my life; what else could I do?" Whitefield said.

Classes teach job seekers to assess and promote their strengths, find the right career, interview well and create resumes and portfolios that showcase their skills. Trainers also teach interpersonal and workplace communication skills.

Specyal said she learned to see her age and years in the work force as a valuable asset: experience.

"To realize who you are, where you're going, what you've achieved and what you can bring to the table is so liberating," Specyal said.

Companies have announced that they will or already have cut more than 1,100 jobs in the Raleigh-metro area and 400 in Durham since October. Regional unemployment rates have also gone up in the past year, according to U.S. Labor Department.

February unemployment was at 4.2 percent in the Raleigh-Cary metro area and 4.3 percent in metro Durham. That was up 0.5 percent in Raleigh-Cary and 0.4 percent in Durham from February 2007.

ESC officials say its program, though, can help workers buck those trends: 75 percent of participants get interviews within two weeks of taking classes, and the program has helped place nearly 1,600 people in new jobs.

Officials said those numbers might be even higher because some program participants do not notify the center when they get employment.

Specyal said taking the classes has helped her envision a new career in sales.

"I feel positive about the prospects because I think there is a real need for the expertise that individuals my age can bring to the table," she said.

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  • IHave1-2 Apr 11, 2008

    I could have relocated to another country to keep my job but I would do so at THEIR wages, not U.S. wages. I decided to stay and change my profession to something that cannot get outsourced. The jobs may come back when customers and clients can't get satisfaction and the companies run near bankruptcy. By then, it will be too late for fixing things. Corporate welfare will continue to keep big businesses afloat... unless we get a president and congress with enough brass to stop what is happening, which means keeping lobbyist out of their back pockets.

  • klk727 Apr 11, 2008

    Outsourcing has done wonders for the economy hasn't it? Just look where we are now.

  • whatelseisnew Apr 11, 2008

    lockinlady

    People relocate for jobs all the time. In fact someone I work with was offered a spot in Poland and is seriously considering making the move. Most of the jobs that are leaving are not coming back. Outsourcing is not going to stop. Things have moved to the next level. It is no longer the idea of cheaper labor. The economies of these other country are booming and it is creating demands for products. So many companies are benefiting twice; they receive cheaper labor for a while and build up a brand new set of consumers for their products. So either you move, find a replacement job here, or switch to a field here that has a future. A health care professional might be one of the safer bets.

  • lockinlady Apr 11, 2008

    Oh, come on now. Who on earth is going to uproot children, spouses, mortgages, aging parents, and life as they know it to move to China for a job? Let's be real. Outsourcing needs to stop, the war needs to end, and jobs need to come back to the US.

  • whatelseisnew Apr 11, 2008

    Another option they could think about. They can move to the country where their jobs are now. Likely country candidates are: India, China, Brazil, Russia, Romania, Poland. I know my job is going to one of those places. In my case, it most likely will be China. I think it is part of our free trade deal. My job gets traded for ah ah, hmmm I guess unemployment. I don't envy mid-career people, yes they have experience, but they are also competing with younger folks that have newly minted masters or PHDs.