Business and industry in Mooresville, like every industry in North Carolina and the nation, have been affected by unemployment, according to Ronne Grantham, manager of Iredell County Job Link/Employment Security Commission in Statesville and acting manager in Mooresville.
"It's not hitting one category," she said. "It hits every level and every educational level."
Since November, Michelle Beam, the county Employment Security Commission's re-employment services representative, has led networking sessions for people seeking jobs. She offers them tools to compete in the changing work force.
The aroma of coffee permeates as unemployed people find seats in the conference room. The mood is upbeat. A few scan books related to job searches. Others open notebooks or laptops. Conversation revolves around résumés, applications and interviews.
Some older workers are unaccustomed to completing online applications. They complain of the frustration of being unable to talk with a prospective employer.
Most participants do not have current résumés. They bring drafts to Beam, and she suggests revisions.
"She grades them like a teacher," said one person. "It's helpful."
Besides helping people apply for jobs, Beam helps them prepare for interviews. In a recent session she discussed these tips: Record a professional-sounding voicemail message; research a company and learn about its expectations; practice the interview beforehand; be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses; arrive early; let the interviewer take the lead; and wait until an appropriate time to ask questions.
Guest speakers also present information; topics vary. Some programs have addressed financial issues associated with job loss and information about debt reduction.
At the end of one Job Club meeting, Eric Swett discussed his situation. He's been unemployed intermittently since October 2008. He first found temporary work. Then in early 2009, he began a part-time job that later became full time.
The business closed during November, and Swett is searching for work in information technology. He has returned to school to pursue further certification.
Being without a job generates anxiety about the future. Swett wonders how long he can sustain the status quo. "Paying bills is tough," he said.
Swett mails applications daily and hopes to become eligible for an externship at his school.
As he and others have found, the Job Club is a way to share information, experiences and resources. Anyone can attend.
"Networking is the key component," Grantham said. "One member may know about a position that is perfect for someone at the meeting."
A diverse group of 15 to 18 participants meets at 10 a.m. each Wednesday in the Selma Burke Room of the Mooresville Library. The club's purpose is to bring resources together to help job seekers. The library provides a book display about résumés and job searches and offers free information and access to computers. Mitchell Community College also shares resources.
"We believe Job Club helps give hope to job seekers," Grantham said.