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Job-Seekers Find New Resources


FOOTHILLS — They're referred to as having "careers in transition" workers in their 40s and 50s who are unemployed during a recession that has cut deeper, wider and longer than any since the Great Depression.

In an effort to help a multitude of jobless executives, managers and other professionals, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce has begun a program called Careers in Transition. It includes a center at the chamber office to plug job-seekers into a network of business contacts and will also feature an as yet unscheduled series of seminars that begin next month.

"Losing touch with the structural requirements of working is one of the problems--that's everything from just getting up and showering to hitting the freeway traffic and putting in eight or nine hours--the whole routine is changed," said James M. Kilderry Jr., a Los Feliz program management specialist who describes himself as "between assignments for two months now."

Kilderry is one of a group of volunteers who have been meeting since December to develop the chamber program. It is different from public and private job clubs and trade associations because it will use the 1,800 Glendale chamber members as networking resources, Kilderry said.

Professionals say that networking--the process of broadening business acquaintances through professional, volunteer and social activities--is the key to success in a depressed economy. Kilderry, who helped develop federally funded job placement services, estimates that at least 80% of executive positions are filled today through networking.

"We normally don't get into this type of thing," said Aulden Schlatter, chamber executive vice president. "But with the growing numbers of trained people out of work, we thought we could do something to fill a void."

Participation is open to job-seekers from throughout the region, including professionals who live in Burbank, Pasadena and other areas of the foothills.

"This is the type of thing that chambers are going to have to do," said Dave Kilby, vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce. "The needs of the business community have changed so much."

Thomas M. Shea, 58, of Alhambra is a career general manager who was unemployed for eight months before he was hired recently as director of community relations for the Los Angeles chapter of the National Safety Council.

Shea said he found work only after developing extensive contacts with other professionals as a volunteer with the Pasadena Resource Center, sponsored by the state Employment Development Department. Shea now leads the "alumni club" of the resource center, a group of about 50 professionals who have begun new careers but meet monthly to maintain their contacts.

"I think the concept is, wow," said Shea, referring to the Glendale program. "That's what chambers of commerce should be all about."

Though Shea had changed employers several times in his earlier career, he said he was unprepared when he lost his position last year as manager of a light manufacturing company. "I was so engrossed in my own occupation and my own day-to-day routine that I wasn't out and about in the business world," he said. "So when the end came, I was just standing there nonplussed."

He said his situation is typical of many middle-aged executives. "If they find that their position is being eliminated, it doesn't dawn on them that this is going to be a real tough process. They try to go it alone, waiting for an executive search firm to discover them. That's not turning the trick anymore."

Shea predicted that the age of lifetime careers is fading. He said the once-traditional loyalty of managers to employees and vice versa "seems to have dissolved." He attributed the change to a growing "shortsightedness among companies that are only looking to the next quarterly report as their measure of success." To compensate, he said, "it behooves everyone to keep their network intact."

For those who suddenly find themselves unemployed, he said, "maintaining or establishing a routine is of the utmost importance. You need a place to go, to be there at a given time and to dress as if you are going on an interview, always carrying business cards even though the only business at the time is finding work."

The Glendale chamber's Careers in Transition program is designed to do just that--to establish regular gatherings among participants and encourage job-seekers to become active in chamber committees, said Julie Burroughs, chamber membership director.

"It's a reason to get up, brush your teeth and get out of that bathrobe," she said. "It's a place to go."

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