How to Move Ahead – Go to School

By Michael J. ARVIZU

What is student Olga Alvarado’s advice for anyone looking to get ahead?
Simply, “Set your mind to it.”

The 61-year-old Montrose resident recently completed a course of study at Glendale Community College’s Continuing Education-Garfield Campus in Glendale.

As a long time secretary for the La Cañada Valley Sun newspaper in La Cañada Flintridge, Alvarado found herself looking for a new job in December 2012 when the Los Angeles Times-owned newspaper’s newsroom operations moved to downtown Los Angeles.

“I started looking for a job, but, I mean, it was hard to find one,” Alvarado said. “I went back to school and then I started doing research to try to figure what was out there that was in demand.”

What Alvarado found was a demand for medical front office workers. So in February 2013, Alvarado began taking courses in medical front office. She finished in December of that year.

During her job search after finishing, however, Alvarado found most employers required some experience. Once again, Alvarado found herself in front of the blackboard, taking general clerk and accounting courses, with chapters on how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the Internet. She also took keyboarding, and introduction to computers classes.

“I knew the basics,” she said. “Even though you know how to use a computer, there’s always something new that you can learn.”

Alvarado said most of her classes had, at a minimum, about 16 students enrolled.

She only has about three chapters to complete in her courses before being granted her diploma, but she was allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies on May 28; however, Alvarado has been working full-time as an administrative assistant since May 9 – 17 months since her last day at the La Cañada Valley Sun.

“The majority of the people take the class because they want to go back into the job force,” Alvarado said.

The classes, she said, are completely free, and the campus provides advisers to look at resumes and hold mock job interviews. Even though she has been called in for interviews in the past, Alvarado said, these amenities allowed her to polish her interview skills when the time comes to seek employment, and “how to sell yourself,” she said. “The [advisers] practice with you.”

“I kind of knew a little bit,” Alvarado said of her interview skills. “But, you know, everything changes. It helps you more, because it makes you feel more comfortable, and you can have confidence.”
Olga Alvarado at her graduation ceremony.
Anyone looking for a job in a difficult market, Alvarado said, should consider “improving themselves and upgrading their skills.”

“I was out for 17 months,” Alvarado said. “When I least expected it, it happened. Since I couldn’t find anything, I just kept going. If I needed to take another class, I would go back and do it.”

Since she wasn’t going to work every day, by going to school, Alvarado said, she was able to keep her job skills fresh and up-to-date.

“It has to do with how much you want to improve yourself,” she said. “If you don’t do your part, then you won’t advance. If you really want something, you go and get it.”

For more information on the courses available at Garfield Campus-Continuing Education, call (818) 240-1000, Ext. 5690.

  • Ruth Longoria Kingsland

    Excellent article and subject! Enjoyed this a lot!!! Go Olga!