When Beth McAndrews of Barrington decided to look for a job, she had been out of work for 13 years, raising four girls at home. That was in Spring 2011, when the nation's unemployment rate was still about 9 percent.
McAndrews, 47, hadn't written a resume in that time and didn't even have a copy of her old one.
"I had to start all over again," she said. "It was overwhelming."
She is one of many women who have a college degree but have been out of work for a long time to raise their families. When they decide to go back to work, they face the challenge of re-entering a much-altered work world.
Today, however, McAndrews has a success story to tell. Not only did she get a job far sooner than she expected, but she also was able to find one for Janet VanZant, a Deer Park resident who was in a very similar position, having been out of work for 12 years to raise four daughters.
According to Chris Campbell, executive director of CareerPlace, a career counseling center in Barrington that McAndrews worked with, her approach was sound and holds lessons for others who are out of work or re-entering the workforce after a long lapse.
McAndrews said her oldest daughter, 18, recently got into college, and with three girls in high school, the youngest being 14, "we have to pay a lot of tuition. I knew I could help with that."
When she started her job search, however, the task seemed daunting: Not only had it been a long time since she held a job, the whole process of finding one had changed.
Networking is now mostly online through resources such as LinkedIn; Twitter is just one example of the new ways of communication.
"When I left my last job, I didn't even have a cellphone," said McAndrews.
To avoid facing the process alone, McAndrews signed up at CareerPlace, where she especially connected with counselor Ana Trbojevich, who helped her put together a resume and prep for interviews.
"Making 13 years (of not having a job) look like something was hard," said McAndrews. However, while raising four children, McAndrews had kept busy, volunteering for different organizations and taking computer classes.
It took her only half a year, two applications and one interview to get the job she is happy with: treasurer for Deer Park.
Once there, she learned about another open position, for a part-time administrative assistant.
"I instantly thought: That position needs to be posted," said McAndrews. She contacted CareerPlace.
It didn't take long for that offer to get to Janet VanZant, 46, who has an MBA in finance but went without a paying job for 12 years to raise her daughters.
She came to CareerPlace in January 2012 and saw the Deer Park job position, posted by McAndrews, on LinkedIn. After she applied, it took only two days for her to get invited for an interview, and after only a few days, she was offered the job.
"Everything just came together," said VanZant. She now works from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., hours that her youngest, a 3-year-old daughter, spends in day care.
Campbell said both women were wise not to try to find another job all alone, but to get professional training and advice.
"People need to be 'findable,'" said Campbell, meaning they should use professional career platforms like LinkedIn to present themselves and their resumes online. But personal contact, networking and recommendations from others also are still important -- a factor that young people sometimes underestimate, he said.
CareerPlace, formed in 1994, is a career center with an average of 300 clients from 80 communities. Clients pay $100 a year, said Campbell; the rest of the cost -- $500 per client -- comes via donors and fundraising.
Clients sign up for "modules," packages of 15 courses that build on one another, including personal sessions and interview training. Most of the more than 50 coaches are volunteers.
Campbell, 62, became executive director about a month ago, replacing Monica Keene, who left after seven years. He was a client himself at CareerPlace six years ago, when the publishing company he worked for downsized and he lost his job as the senior vice president of marketing.
"It was unlikely I would find another job" in that field, said Campbell.
A coach told him that he should follow his passion. He engaged in what he calls a "portfolio career," doing several things at the same time. He started a consulting firm, became a key figure in a networking group, and started commission furniture and real estate businesses.
He called the transition period "painful," but worth it: "I am fortunate to be able to do the things that I love to do."
More information about CareerPlace is on their website, mycareerplace.org.