Posted on 01/05/2017

BACK TO WORK 50+: Giving one woman the edge to stay competitive in today’s job market

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She may have had a master’s degree and years of managerial experience under her belt, but when Jayne Holley saw an ad for a free job retraining program at her local community college, she knew there was a potentially valuable opportunity for her.

After losing two jobs in a row to downsizing, and then being rejected from nearly 60 job openings, the 59-year-old Jayne knew she needed help freeing herself from the cycle of self-doubt that she was caught in.

“When I saw the ad, I felt like this program was created just for me,” Jayne said. “They were going to teach me how to deal with ageism, show me what I was doing – and how I was acting – that made me stand out as an older person.”

AARP Foundation funds the BACK TO WORK 50+ program at Jayne’s local community college in Elgin, Ill. The program was specifically created to connect older workers like her with the coaching, job retraining and employer access they need to get back into the workforce, advance in their careers, and build the financial capability and resiliency they need to prevent them from slipping into poverty later in life.

BACK TO WORK 50+ is helping job seekers at more than 19 other sites across the country.

For Jayne, the program was both eye opening and life changing. Her job coach, Elizabeth, helped her rework her resume, rethink and repackage her skills, and retool her job hunt.

“After so many years of being in the job force, you think you know a lot of things,” Jayne said. “Here I am, thinking I have a good resume, but she gave it a 15-second look and told me I had work to do.”

First, Elizabeth showed Jayne the key items that need to be on today’s resumes, and where they need to be located to get noticed by employers. Second, she told her to throw out the old “list everything you’ve ever done” approach, and focus instead on listing her accomplishments in a compelling way.

The program also encouraged participants to get comfortable with the technological aspects of today’s job searches – including resources like social media and online job applications.

“I didn’t realize things had changed that much,” Jayne said. “But you have to be open to change; if you don’t choose to embrace it, you’re going to get left behind.”

For her part, Jayne had always been comfortable with experiencing her career as a series of transitions, an evolution. After earning her bachelor’s in therapeutic recreation, she applied that expertise in a variety of recreation programs, including at aquatic centers. Earning her master’s in leadership development enabled her to spend most of her career in management. Her last position in the rehabilitation unit of a hospital spanned almost 20 years. After being downsized out of that job, she did marketing for a physical therapy office for two years before she was once again laid off.

“There is a lot of grieving. You tend to question yourself, like, ‘Was I not good enough?’ I was in my late 50s, and I really started to feel that age was becoming a huge factor against me,” she said. “But I didn’t want to walk away bitter and angry or close any doors behind me. I realized that I just needed to be competitive with people who were younger than me.”

While attending the program at Elgin Community College, she decided that a college campus would be the perfect place for her to work. She enjoyed the youthful atmosphere, and felt that it was similar to the “helping profession” work that she had done with recreation, rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Within the BACK TO WORK 50+ program, Jayne set up an informal “accountability partnership” with another participant, Sandra. Together they set goals, reviewed each other’s resumes, and gave each other feedback about interviews. With one another’s support, they both found jobs at nearly the same time. They continued a bi-monthly “check-in” with each other for the next six months to talk about the ups and downs of their new jobs and provide each other with support.

Jayne is now a part-time community relations specialist at Elgin Community College. In her spare time, she uses her marketing skills to help build her husband’s business brand. It may not be the situation she had envisioned as she was finishing up graduate school, but it’s a perfect fit for her current lifestyle.

“I found that if you embrace the journey, your eyes kind of open to other things,” Jayne said. “Look at your skills, look at your accomplishments and think of where you can go next.”

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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