Posted on 01/05/2017

BACK TO WORK 50+ Assists With Job Placement
Settling Into A New Career

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Settling Into A New Career
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Helping one woman settle into a new career with a great company.

For most of us, when we think of college campuses, we think of them as places for kids who are 20 to 30 or more years younger than we are. We often forget that local colleges can actually be resources for us beyond young adulthood and throughout the rest of our lives as we seek to reinvent ourselves and our careers.

Cathy Alexander, a 59-year-old retail sales clerk, realized this when she arrived at the orientation session for AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ program in Birmingham, Ala., which was hosted by Jefferson State Community College.

“They helped me re-do my resume and the college’s career services office used their connections to outside businesses to get me the new job that I love,” Cathy said. “I didn’t even know that resource was out there!”

In fact, nearly 15 percent of students enrolled at U.S. community colleges in 2014 were over the age of 40, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

This critical mass is one of the reasons AARP Foundation has partnered with 20 or so community colleges across the country to provide career counseling and coaching, resume advice, and scholarships for financially vulnerable job-seekers over the age of 50 – regardless of whether they are enrolled in a degree program at the school.

Cathy’s longstanding goal, even before finding the program, was to leave her job at the discount store. She had been working there for eight years and was getting fewer and fewer hours and making less and less money over time. “I wanted more of an office job,” she said. “And I didn’t want to deal with the weird hours, and the strenuous work and lifting.”

In the months before attending the Back to Work 50+ program, her resume was generating no interviews and, as far as she knows, no interest.

One problem was that Cathy’s resume had a big hole: four years of being “unemployed by choice” before going into retail work. But her career coach helped Cathy tie her retail experience to the office experience she had many years ago. This helped her market herself as a customer service expert to local employers.

By working her connections, the coach was able to find Cathy a full-time job, with benefits to come, at the Birmingham-based eCo Credit Union.

Her first weeks on the job were a very drastic change, but certainly for the better. “With retail, the company doesn’t really care about you as an individual, and you have to deal with a lot of customers who aren’t in the best frame of mind,” she said. “My first day with the credit union, I got to meet the CEO at a lunch.”

And things only got better from there. The company even gave her the flexibility she needed to attend a doctor’s appointment her first week on the job. “They let me use sick leave even though I hadn’t earned any yet,” she said. “They’re a fantastic company, and I feel a lot more appreciated.”

Cathy goes to work now with a new sense of purpose and pride. “At the office I work in, it’s only the branch manager and me, so they depend on me to be there every day. We see a lot of the same members all the time; you call them by name, and they feel welcome.”

“You can’t get a better feeling of accomplishment than that,” she said. “I actually enjoy my work every day now, instead of getting up thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go back in today.’”

Call 855-220-9731 today to order AARP Foundation’s free job search guide and find out if there’s a Smart Strategies for 50+ Jobseekers Workshop near you.

*Updated 05/04/2017

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