Back in December, Lake Bluff resident Kirsten Caspersen was one of 1,500 people laid off from Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire when Aon acquired the company.
Thursday, Caspersen was one of more than 600 job seekers to meet with 55 prospective employers during a job fair sponsored by Rep. Robert Dold, R-Kenilworth, on Thursday at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
Making a Case to be Hired
Aon was one of the employers there, but Caspersen was talking to Allstate Insurance and at least seven other firms.
As she spoke to Shannon Morris of Allstate, Caspersen discovered Morris knew some of her former colleagues from Hewitt. Caspersen valued pensions for 23 years at Hewitt, and now wants to help another company with her accounting and math skills.
“I’ll be giving them a call,” Caspersen said of her former co-workers. “I hope I can take the skills I have and a company needs someone like that. I’ve worked with actuaries for a long time.”
It is All About Networking
Caspersen's predicament was a common story at the job fair. Some had been out of work for a while. Others were hoping to leave the ranks of the underemployed to fully ply their skills.
The Get America Back to Work Job Fair was the second Dold has held this summer. The first produced jobs and from the comments of job seekers and those looking to hire, it appears Thursday’s event was headed in the same direction.
While she has been looking, Caspersen has been a volunteer at the Career Resource Center in Lake Forest. Caspersen said the organization has helped her acquire skills she needs to conduct a job search after 23 years in one place. She has helped the center as well.
“It helps me feel useful and needed,” Caspersen said. “It keeps my spirits up. They helped me rework my resume and they’re keeping me up to date on anything that fits.”
Though the 52-year-old Caspersen does not believe her age is an issue in her job search, the Career Resource Center has helped her retool her networking and job search skills for the 21st century.
“It’s not like it used to be,” Caspersen said. “You don’t just look in the newspaper and see what jobs fit you. I’m working on my networking. I know I need to do a lot of that.”
Entrepreneurs Still Sought
Morris said Allstate received more than 100 resumes during the first 90 minutes of the job fair. Matt Flaskamp handles agent recruitment for Allstate. He must find 25 people in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota willing to sell the company’s insurance before the end of the year.
“You do need the capital to start a business, but we give you all the tools you need,” Flaskamp said. He added that when an agent is ready to leave or retire; they can sell their book of business and keep the money.
“It can be worth $100,000 or up to $1 million,” Flaskamp said.
Dold was impressed by the hundreds of talented people who passed through the rows of employers at the job fair.
“They were professionally dressed and came ready to impress," Dold said. "I hope they were able to find resources that will help them."
Before the job fair was 2 hours old, Axa Advisors Vice President Edward Silverman of Deerfield had arranged six interviews for prospective workers. Axa is a financial services company specializing in annuities.
“We need professional, successful people who are ready to get back to work,” Silverman said. “If you have a path of successful leadership and come up to me, I want to talk to you. I’ve seen a lot of quality here.”
Not Among the Counted
Deerfield resident Helen Moenin stopped by the Axa table looking for part-time work for a very practical reason. “I need the money to pay for health care,” she said.
Though the nation's official unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, Dold often has explained the reality is closer to double that number. People who have no job and can no longer collect unemployment are not counted in the official total of the jobless.
“With the people who are no longer looking for work because they have given up or are underemployed, the number is much higher,” Dold said. “It is between 17 and 18 percent."
Highland Park resident Barb Morrill is one of the uncounted. Morrill was a senior financial analyst before she joined the ranks of the unemployed two years ago. Since then she has worked part-time in the retail industry and landed temporary contact work using her accounting skills.
“I work 65 hours a week so I can have health care and pay my bills," Morrill said. "The contract is up in a month. You never know until the 12th hour about being retained for contract work. I need to find something.”