"Job Squad" Helps Woman Returning To Work

Jeanne Mowchan job seeker
CBS
Editor's note: After her story aired Thursday, Jeanne got a call from U-Haul, in Richmond, Va., her hometown, saying it had more than one position she might be suitable for, one of them an administrative position in the company's marketing department. She was slated to meet with U-Haul officials Monday.

The economy is forcing millions of Americans who've been out of the workforce for years try to become part of it again.

And "The Early Show Job Squad Series" focused on one of them Thursday.

The lessons she learned could apply to anyone in her situation.

For the past 18 years, Jeanne Mowchan has been a stay-at-home mom in Richmond, Va.

But when the economy tanked, her husband's business started to dwindle, explains consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen.

"We've cut back on a lot of things that we used to," Jeanne says. "I never would have a budget. I'd go to the store we'd buy whatever we wanted. If my daughter wanted something when we were at the mall, we would just buy it. ...We don't do that anymore. If it's not a necessity, then we don't get it."

So Jeanne, with one kid in college and another teenager at home, made the tough decision: return to the workforce to help make end meet.

"I worked when I graduated from college back in the late '80's," Jeanne says, "stopped when my son was one year old. So, I have an 18 year lapse in my resume!"

Her husband, Neal, says Jeanne "sells herself short. I mean, she's done a great job around here. She's like the business manager of the household. And she keeps everything running smoothly. (She's) extremely well-organized."

Jeanne hopes all of that, plus years of volunteer experience, will help her land a job among the 8 million hourly workers in the US.

"I don't even know how to put together a resume anymore," Jeanne realized.

To help her in her mission, The Early Show sent Jeanne her very own "Job Squad" -- experts in figuring out and helping her land her first job in nearly two decades, all from SnagAJob.com: Cathy McCarthy, Greg Moyer, Heather Moose and Cynthia Conway -- all of them experts in getting jobs for hourly workers. We also put image consultant and fashionista .

First task? Get a plan, with the help of Moyer.

"We're gonna spend probably 15-20 minutes just talking about a little bit about your background, your interests, your skills your strengths -- the things you think would be important as you start this job search," he told Jeanne.

Working with a flipchart, Moyer wrote down her work experience, her strengths, and helped her see where she could fit in today's workplace.

"As you think ahead and say. 'What would I most like to do at this point based on the experience you've had,' what would you lean to toward?" Moyer asked.

"I'd probably like to work in an office if that was available. If not, maybe a bank."

With a plan in hand, the next stop was with Conway and Moose, on selling yourself to a prospective employer.

"Pretty much," Conway told Jeanne, "you have, like, two minutes to sell yourself to the employer, and that's what that SnagAJob profile is gonna do."

And selling your experience.

Moose added, "You might wanna also mention that you have childcare experience. I know it's something a little different. But it does show that you're a giving person and have care giving skills. I think that's good."

And since Jeanne was out of the job market for so long, the Job Squad team hooked her up with Cathy McCarthy to give her a little insight to the interview process.

Is it best to be honest, Jeanne wondered.

"I think so," McCarthy responded. "I mean, one of the things you are trying to do is be you on your very best day."

Jeanne is optimistic, but knows that there's lots of competition out there.

Says McCarthy, "We're seeing that our jobs, or number of postings of jobs, are basically flat, but our number of job seekers is up almost 100 percent."

So how do you stand out, Koeppen wanted to know.

"A positive attitude," McCarthy said. "You can't teach it. Flexibility with schedule. Being very focused on what you tell the employer. And don't give up, because you never know when the very next employer you talk to is the one that's hiring."

But before the Job Squad could send Jeanne out on any interviews, there was one last thing that needed to be made over: her interview suit, which was three sizes too big!

Enter Szish, who stepped in to show Jeanne some looks employers are looking for.

Jeanne says she goes for comfort over style.

But Szish said, "For an interview, style is important, because creating that first impression is crucial."

She says a good outfit is one that draws attention to your face, so the interviewer is focused on you and not your clothes.

"You want poeple to be really be kind of wowed when they see your face," Szish continued. "You want that color to give you warmth, to kind of make you look inviting."

So, with several outfits from Macy's Herald Square and three months of working on back-to-work strategy, Jeanne was rewired to be rehired!

On The Early Show Thursday, she told co-anchor Harry Smith she's gotten some nibbles and, "One thing I learned was to focus on what sort of job I wanted right off the bat. Because I did go on an interview for something that I really was not interested in doing. So, this really taught me to focus on what I want to do and to only go on the interviews of the jobs that you're interested in."

"And she has that flexibility," Koeppen pointed out. "She's jumping back into the work force after 18 years. So she can be a little picky. Her husband, she said, is the main breadwinner."

"I have a son in college and a daughter who will be in college in a couple years," Jeanne said. "So, for a couple years, we'll have two in college. So I just need to come up with some more money for the extras."

Problem was, she noted, "I didn't know how to do anything. My resume skills were obsolete. I worked at a computer company before, and they still had mainframes most of my computer skills were ancient.

Shje also has on her resume, what is this 18-year gap? The last time you were employed was 18 years ago, but she's been working, working at home with the kids and raising them."

On the Job Squaders, Jeannse remarked, "The one thing that they told me was the most important thing was to get some self-confidence. And that is the one thing that you really have to do."