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New career as job goes overseas

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

STREAMWOOD — Ruth Eckler of Streamwood always was searching for the perfect career for herself.

The self-described “people person” thought she’d found it when she was placed as a switchboard operator at Allstate Motor Club in Hoffman Estates through temporary staffing agency Kelly Services.

“I got in and I thought, ‘This is great. This is perfect. Maybe in three months, I’ll get the job,” Eckler said.

She did. She worked at Allstate for a year as a temporary worker, then another 10 months as a full-time employee. That’s when, in October 2009, her job went overseas, she said.

One year later, Eckler still is unemployed, but she remains upbeat. She’s taken advantage of a time when there are few jobs to look for by focusing on finding that career.

After the layoff, she went to the Illinois WorkNet Center, which in turn pointed her to the Workforce Investment Act, she said. That act provides funding for people who have been laid off for training in certain fields.

“I thought, ‘Going back to school? Really? At 52?’” she said. “I thought, ‘I can get a job. I can get a job.’ That didn’t happen.”

Throughout her life, Eckler always had gotten jobs.

She’d started out as a teen mom, running her own cleaning company while her four children were little. She’d been a bank teller and a switchboard operator. She could type 55 words per minute, quickly find information and navigate her way around the Internet.

But four months and countless job interviews later, she still couldn’t find a job.

“Sitting at a computer all day, you apply, you get an interview, you go out there and there’s 200 people. You think, ‘I must be lacking something,’” Eckler said.

So she thought about the kind of career that would be perfect for her, and she thought of her daughter, a certified nursing assistant. That sort of career takes “a special heart,” she said, but she wanted to be around people and she wanted to help them.

She thought about the skills she had gained at the jobs she’d held, and she thought about what she might be lacking.

Then she signed up to earn her certificate through Elgin Community College’s Office Assistant program.

Eckler is taking six classes now, planning to finish the program in a year, she said. And when she gets her certificate, she wants to become a receptionist in the health field, such as a doctor’s office.

She never would have thought she’d go to college, she said. She’d just earned her GED in 2007.

But, she said, “I’m not going to be depressed. I’m going to have accomplished something, and I’ll prove to my kids you can learn at any age.”

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