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Joan Cirillo | JOB DOC

Nonprofits may have need for baby boomers to fill key roles

Email|Print| Text size + By Joan Cirillo
February 24, 2008

Q. I am 57 and have been out of work for 13 months now. I was director of operations for a small manufacturing company in the western part of the state. I am having a really hard time finding similar work. Manufacturing seems to be a dying breed and no other industry thinks my skills are transferable even though I know they are. I have a family counting on me and need to go back to work. I cannot retire. Any ideas? I am getting desperate.

A. I would certainly continue to apply for manufacturing jobs, and others that would use your skills, because remember, we only need one good offer. But, I would like to suggest another industry, nonprofits. It is increasingly a very important industry in Massachusetts and one with critical vacancies. I am thinking that a large nonprofit might be very interested in your skill set. For example, food banks that need to coordinate getting perishable food to food pantries and centers in a timely way, the American Red Cross which needs to get emergency equipment and people to a disaster immediately, or a donation site that needs to sort through donations quickly and get them to satellite sites in a hurry. All of these types of situations could benefit nicely from your particular skill set.

If you think this is pie-in-the-sky, I will tell you that I was in an audience last week listening to some of the issues around attracting and retaining good talent in the nonprofit industry when two of the four panelists mentioned hiring baby boomers to fill many of their senior or key openings. For example, Joan Wallace Benjamin, chief executive of the Home for Little Wanderers, reported she recently hired a vice president of human resources and a director of research and outcomes from the corporate world. Another panelist, Paula Rooney, the president of Dean College, reported she had recently hired several baby boomers from corporations to fill pivotal roles at the school. Nonprofits realize baby boomers have many years of accomplishments left and are scooping them right up.

Companies, both corporate and nonprofit, have got to learn to think out of the box to recruit outstanding talent. This will be more and more true in the years to come as the gap in labor becomes more pronounced between baby boomers eligible to leave the workplace and Generation Xers coming up through the ranks.

Continue to use good job search techniques, definitely have a career development specialist review your resume to make sure it is all it can be and broaden your search to include nonprofits. Hopefully, this will get you to that all important question: "When can you join our company?"

Many resources can help disabled find work
Q. I have a mentally disabled 17-year-old son who wants to work part time and continue to go to school. He sees his older brother and sister with part-time jobs and wants to do the same. His school is great but they have no suggestions for work. Do you have any recommendations where he could go for work and be considered for employment with his disability?

A. Yes! Have you considered connecting with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries to assist your son? Recently, I attended its annual meeting and a mentally disabled young man got up and spoke about his work experience as a bagger at the Stop & Shop. He spoke with such pride about his job. Another young man worked in the retail Goodwill stores helping to sort clothing.

Another excellent organization is Easter Seals which will work with you to customize the work situation so that the disabled can contribute.

I would also connect with the One-Stop Career Center in your community. There are 37 of these in Massachusetts and the concept is that the job seeker can do "all of his/her job shopping under one roof." To find the One-Stop Career Center closest to you, go to mass.gov and click on Unemployment Info under Online Services. Click on "For Job Seekers" and click again on "Find a Career Center Near You." I am particularly encouraging you to use the One-Stop Career Centers because they have a designated person located at each center called a "navigator" who is there to assist people with disabilities to find resources and jobs. This could be an excellent resource for your son.

Finally, there are many other fine nonprofits which work with disabled people and help them find work such as Work Inc. I think you will find many excellent resources at your disposal.

Tailor resume to draw employers' interest
Q. I am a phlebotomist looking for work. I received my training in Massachusetts but then relocated to Florida for five years. Recently, we have transferred back to Massachusetts and I am having a hard time finding work. I thought I would get something right away but that has not been the case. I would appreciate any feedback.

A. Remember that resumes are your most important marketing tool until you get your foot in the door. They need to represent you in the very best way. You also need to keep in mind that many large companies use resume-scanning devices so that when they have a particular job opening, they can type in a few key words and all resumes in the database that fit the description will appear. You want to be sure that when healthcare organizations type in phlebotomists, your resume will pop up. It should appear in your resume objective such as "Seeking a career as a phlebotomist in a hospital or healthcare facility center." Make sure you enter all prior work experience as a phlebotomist and include when and where you received your certificate.

Allied health positions are considered a critical need and will only be more in demand as baby boomers continue to age. By keeping up your resume and tailoring it for resume-scanning devices, you will be sure to attract employers interested in your many years of experience.

Customer service jobs more than a headset
Q. I have raised my children and need to go back to work so I can contribute to my retirement. I have pretty good computer skills and friends tell me that with my strong interpersonal skills, I should think of a customer service position. However, the thought of wearing a headset and asking permission to go to the bathroom leaves something to be desired. What is your take on customer service jobs? Are they in the high demand today that my friends say they are?

A. They certainly are. According to Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency dedicated to education and workforce development issues in Massachusetts, customer service jobs are one of the top 10 occupations with the highest number of vacancies. In addition, to obtain a customer service position does not require postsecondary education. The median salary, as of May 2006, was $34,660.

I need to broaden your view of customer service jobs. Today, almost every job involves good customer service skills. You have internal customers and external customers and both are critically important to the company and how you get your job done. Keeping your customers happy is critical to the company's and your success.

Don't think of customer service jobs as simply jobs where you wear a headset. They are so much more. They can be the sales force in one industry, the voice of the company in another, publication fulfillment in another, and volunteer management in another.

Customer service jobs are often considered the foundation for getting promoted to other types of jobs in the company.

For example, when asked about career ladder opportunities for customer service representatives at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Mike Fales, senior manager of workforce planning, responded, "turnover in these jobs is 23 percent.

The reason it is so high is that we consider these customer service positions as the foundation for any other job at BCBSMA. We continuously pluck candidates from our customer service pool for other jobs in the company such as sales and marketing. Where else will employees learn the product knowledge like they do in these customer service jobs."

It sounds like you have been out of the workforce for quite a while raising your family.

The beauty of working in customer service is that if you have some good basic skills, strong computer skills, and you are articulate, you are very employable. The company will generally train you on their particular products and services, generally paying you while training you, so you needn't worry about that.

If you need assistance with good job search techniques to uncover some of these job leads, contact the One-Stop Career Center in your community or contact Tee Provost at Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston at 617-542-4180 ext. 132 to learn about Operation Service, a 10-week course that teaches the MS Office Suite, reviews good customer service practices, and provides intense job search assistance to help you find the customer service job of your dreams.

E-mail questions to jobdoc@globe.com or mail to Job Doc, Boston Globe, Box 55819, Boston, 02205-5819.

Joan Cirillo is the executive director of Operation A.B.L.E., a nonprofit that provides employment and training opportunities to mature workers 45 and older.

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