Just a few years ago, business boomed and employers fought over the best employees. But the recession has left precious few county businesses ready to hire.

"That's not to say that no one's hiring, but the timing's a little off," said Carol Dreyfuss, spokesman for the Anne Arundel Trade Council.

After three years of successful spring job fairs that drew hundreds of job seekers and about 50 employers, the trade council has been forced to cancel this year's event.

"This all began as a service to our members, the employers," Dreyfuss said. "But now it's not a service they need."

The job crunch has prompted groups outside the usual government agencies to pitch in and help the growing ranks of unemployed county residents ease the transition between jobs.

Programs for everything from dealing with the stress of losing a job to switching careers have sprouted up at local churches, schools and other groups.

The YWCA Woman's Center in Annapolis is offering a new resume assistance service. A guidance counselor at Northeast High School in Pasadena has extended career planning to her students' parents.

And a Severn church hopes its new "Between Jobs" seminar will serve as a catalyst for unemployed parishioners and non-parishioners to form a job-search network.

Resume assistance always has been at the heart of six-week job search workshops the YWCA has run for years. Butthis month, after seeing a preponderance of white-collar workers at recent workshops, the Y pulled out the resume assistance component.

"There seems to be a real need for that," said Laura Junkin, director of the Career Service Program. "Because of the recession, we're finding that people are being laid off, then need very quickly to get aviable resume to begin applying for new jobs."

By appointment for$40, career advisers work with job seekers in individual sessions, using written summaries of work experience. The Y offers the service to men, too. And it's free to those in the Displaced Homemakers and Single Parent programs.

At Northeast High School in Pasadena, guidance counselor Dee Hill began hearing students talk about their parentslosing jobs, some of whom worked at Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group.

"I see the school as a community resource," said Hill, who planned a six-part program for adults called, "You are what you were,who will you become?"

"We have resources here. Why not have this available to those parents who now need assistance?"

In the first session, which was to meet last night, a school psychologist, a private psychologist and a private social worker talked about how to deal with being unemployed, switching careers or entering the workplace after a long absence.

"One of the hardest things is being laid off and finding the confidence to get another job," said speaker Lawrence Iacarino, a partner in LaVigna & Iacarino Psychological Services in Severna Park.

Often, a laid-off worker unwittingly transfers his shaken self-esteem to a potential employer, reducing his chances of getting the job, Iacarino said.

"The first step is to separate your self-esteem from the status of the job," he said.

It's also important to stay productive during time once spent at work, even if that means finishing a home project, added speaker Richard G. Whiteside, a Severna Park social worker in private practice.

By helping parents,some of whom might be returning to the workplace after years at home, changing careers or fearing they might be laid off, Hill felt she could help students, too. Students feeling stress from problems at home can suffer depression or behavior and academic problems, she said.

If enough parents are interested, Hill wants to spend subsequent sessions exploring where to search for a job and which careers are most secure. She plans to offer parents appointments for help with writing resumes or using the school's career information VISIONS computer.

At St. Bernadette Parish in Severn, Sister Rose Lindner also began hearing about parishioners and other members of the community beinglaid off. Many are white-collar and government workers. Lindner, coordinator of social ministry, found space in the church, called on career development specialist and parishioner Rita Carey, and set up a "Between Jobs" seminar.

The free seminar, scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday at the Stevenson Road church, will focus on transferring skills toanother job, writing resumes and avoiding depression.

She hopes the seminar will help people between jobs form a job-search network. Like the Northeast program, the church invites those who are unemployed as well as anyone worried about losing a job in the near future.

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