Expanding Horizons in Miami
AARP Foundation’s BACK TO WORK 50+, a program that connects adults age 50 and over with the information, support, training and employer access they need to regain employment.
Jesus Barrios, 54, has a Hotmail account. “Yeah,” he laughs, “that was one of the first things they told me at the workshop. Switch to Gmail. Hotmail is dated and sends the message that you’re out of touch. I haven’t done it yet.”
The workshop he references is part of AARP Foundation’s BACK TO WORK 50+, a program that connects adults age 50 and over with the information, support, training and employer access they need to regain employment, advance in the workforce, and build financial capability. Barrios attended the workshop after struggling for months to find a full-time job.
Barrios hadn’t always had trouble finding work; in his home country of Colombia, he was an accountant with a master’s degree. But after arriving in Miami nine years ago, things changed. “I didn’t have trouble finding a job,” he says, “I found two part-time jobs right away. Finding full-time work in my field was much more difficult.”
CareerSource South Florida, a network of workforce development centers in Miami, placed Barrios in his first two jobs. While he was happy to have the work, he could tell pretty quickly that two part-time gigs, one in retail and one in warehouse management, weren’t going to pay him enough to cover his needs. After seven months, he decided it was time to look for something full-time and more in line with his education. And although the employment agency had been helpful in the beginning, he sensed that if he wanted to move into a full-time accounting career, he was going to need to find support elsewhere.
He read about BACK TO WORK 50+ and it seemed like the right next step. While some parts of the training were familiar (computing in particular), he says he found most of the material new and extremely useful. His career coach, Beatriz Navarette, worked with him on how to present himself and sell himself as a candidate, and how to be brief and precise in his résumé. Until the workshop, he had never paid much attention to networking as a way to find employment. “This really opened my eyes,” he says. “I started talking to friends, friends of friends, passing around résumés, talking about my job search, going to places where I’d meet people in the field.”
Spanish is Barrios’ first language, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. Not an insurmountable one, though, since he writes and understands English better than he speaks it. During an interview for a job he found through ZipRecruiter, the potential employer told him, “Your English isn’t great, but your experience is.” He offered Barrios the job that day.
While Barrios was debating whether he could accept the position, which was 30 miles away in Miami traffic, his current job came through. Marianne Lobo, program manager of BACK TO WORK 50+ at Youth Co-Op, Inc. operated by CareerSource South Florida, had been helping Barrios with his search. When she heard from an import-export company looking for an accountant, she sent his résumé, explaining to the employer that although Barrios’ English needed improvement, his accounting skills and experience would more than make up for it. She negotiated a one-week trial period. If his performance met the employer’s expectations, he would be offered full-time, permanent employment.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Barrios is now the full-time bookkeeper.
He recommends BACK TO WORK 50+ to anyone looking for work. “They do a lot of follow-up with you, they work hard for you, but they expect you to do the heavy lifting. The program gives you the tools, but you really have to do the work and be ready when the time to interview comes.”
When asked about the positive effects of finding a job, Barrios is contemplative. “When you can’t find work for a long time, you lose faith in yourself. Having a job makes you feel like yourself again. You regain that confidence and you can feel your horizons expand.”
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.