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Weston Workers Seek a 'Plan B'

After the 9/11 terror attacks, the New York-based company that Pam Whittemore worked at decided to relocate, and she was left to pick up the pieces.

The Weston resident inherited "all of the tools of the trade" to start her own business, including a blueprint machine, drawing board and clients. At Drum Hill Designs , Whittemore offers planning and design for different areas of a home.

"Starting my own business was not what I originally had in mind,” says Whittemore. “But as it turned out, it was the best thing to happen to my career as a kitchen designer. It also promoted personal growth and creativity."

A new trend in employment is people with jobs looking for backup plans, said Paska Nayden, a business coach from Easton. At a recent Webinar, Nayden and her sister, Lena Gjonaj, also of Easton, found that 50 percent of the participants had jobs but were concerned about losing them. Nayden and Gjonaj host a business networking group every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Easton Public Library. The sessions will run through May 31.

"Small businesses fuel America," said Nayden. On average, it takes six to 12 months for a business to start generating income, she said. Many people opt to own businesses but hire managers while they work at jobs and draw salaries elsewhere.

Whittemore said success can be measured in a variety of ways, and she feels lucky to love what she does. "I think the best way to measure success is how you feel about your job," sge said. "Is it fulfilling, and can you support yourself and wake up in the morning and look forward to a challenging day and feel rewarded at the end of it?"

But many of the people currently unemployed face bigger issues than just finding their dream jobs. The biggest problem in the job market is age discrimination, said Nayden. "People 45 to 50 years old are not finding a job. They're being told, 'Why would you take a lower-paying job when you have too much experience.' That trend hasn't changed much," said Nayden.

Gjonaj said the unemployment figures provided by the Labor Department are not all inclusive and the actual number is higher. "There is an uncategorized group – the group that has given up. They no longer collect unemployment and they still don't have a job," she said.

In their group, Nayden and Gjonaj see young adults who are right out of college, mothers looking to reinvent themselves, white-collar executives out of jobs and retirees.

"There was one student who graduated from Northeastern with a great GPA and couldn't find a job. Two months ago, he found an entry-level job in Boston," said Nayden. "May is around the corner and students will be graduating from college. ... I don't see a job creation rate in Connecticut to meet the demand."

She said some women are looking to find jobs because their husbands were laid off. And there are couples who both have lost their jobs. Weston's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent for March, with 281 unemployed out of 4,881 people in the labor force, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor's Website. Connecticut's unemployment rate for March was 9.3 percent, with 174,900 people unemployed.

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