Competition for jobs is growing as the number of layoffs increase.
A new study by the UCLA Anderson School shows the East Bay has lost 4,100 jobs in the financial services sector in the past year, a drop of 6.6 percent.
Bruce Kern, the Executive Director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance says that finding a new job takes months.
"Usually it takes two or three months and with the overall softening of the job market, we're seeing longer periods of time."
Diablo Valley College is seeing a surge in laid-off workers going back to school to get new job skills.
"It's no longer the company that takes care of their employees. They know that they may have to change, and so I think they're much more willing to change now than they have in the past," said Diablo Valley College Counselor Cheryl Carter.
48-year old Brenda Gilbert is one of them. She worked at the same company for 20 years before getting laid off. She decided it was time to go back to school to change careers.
"I looked at what my outcome would be versus not doing it, so here I am," said Richmond resident Brenda Gilbert.
Diablo Valley College has geared up, offering certificate classes in growing fields from digital graphic arts to solar system installations and health care.
Schenk says it makes no sense to go after a job in a sector that's contracting.
"I think if you're trying to find the same thing again, that's probably going to take longer than if you look at re-inventing yourself... the Phoenix rising from the ashes kind of thing," she said.
However, some classes have waiting lists due to heavy demand. Meeting that demand could be jeopardized by state budget cuts.
"It is a real challenge to figure out how we're going to serve additional students given the resources that are available," says Schenk.
Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have one of the state's highest concentrations of jobs in finance. That's a major reason why the jobless rate in the East Bay is higher than in other Bay Area counties.
The latest California unemployment figures come out this Friday.