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VAN NUYS : AARP Helps With Job-Hunt Script

Dennis Burgess never thought he would end up here, at a job re-entry program run by the American Assn. of Retired Persons. After all, he is only 44.

But after he left his job as a program executive in charge of 39 television shows at ABC-TV in 1990 to pursue a writing career, the Reseda resident spent four years learning how hard it was to sell scripts from the other side of the table.

So, needing to support his wife and two children, Burgess decided to get back into the business again with a full-time job. But the doors have been closed.

“It’s kind of like being a professional baseball player " Burgess said Tuesday at the orientation workshop at Los Angeles Valley College. “When you hit 40, you are over the hill.”

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From bank tellers to mosquito killers, the dozen people who attended the opening orientation of the AARP Works program had similar stories to tell.

Josie Gardner of West Los Angeles was turned down for a bank teller job last month despite four years experience as a teller at a bank across the street in Brentwood. She is in her 50s. “They are looking for the energetic, young 28-hip-year-old,” she said.

“When you fill out the application, you can feel them counting the years,” said Howard Brown of Los Angeles, 55, who works six months a year for Los Angeles County as a mosquito abater.

“It’s like they are asking themselves, ‘Will he fit into our company at this age?’ ”

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Although age discrimination is illegal when hiring, volunteer consultant Rochelle Linick said many employers find ways to skirt the issue by saying applicants are “overqualified.”

As a result, the AARP provides the seminars to help middle-aged and senior workers re-enter the work force. On Tuesday, AARP volunteer trainer Stan Liebling, 77, of Woodland Hills, suggested not taking “overqualified” for an answer.

“Ask the interviewer why you are overqualified,” Liebling said. Then, he added, tell them about the advantages older workers bring to a job, such as stability and experience.

Applicants are still being accepted for the six workshop sessions, which continue through Aug. 26. The program, whose only cost is a $20 materials fee, will teach self-assessment, job search skills, interview practice and networking to find jobs.

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But even Burgess has already learned that networking is not enough when times are tough.

Even though he was the producer on ABC-TV’s “The Fall Guy,” Burgess doesn’t want to call the star, Lee Majors, for a reference.

“Lee’s looking for work too,” Burgess smiled.


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