1/2/08

Finding Your First Job After 50

I am no expert, by any means. Regarding divorce, I can only write about my own experiences. One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in searching for a job was my wardrobe. Hours after Bob announced he was leaving, I called up a friend at a nonprofit that I'd worked for through the years, telling her I needed a job. Sheepishly she told me that she only had an 8 hour per week job. I had trained the previous people who worked in this position, which was to write thank you letters after donations came in, record the checks, and file the information.

I took the job. At that point I would accept anything to get me out of the house and into the market place.

My main problem was my wardrobe. After years of working from home, the clothes in my closet consisted of blue jeans, sweat suits, comfortable tops, and fancy outfits I'd wear to parties. There was nothing that fit, since I was losing about a pound a day from stress, and any work clothes I had kept were out of date.

Here's where my elegant sister-in-law came to the rescue. We traveled to the outlet malls in Delaware to their fabulous end of season sales, and she helped me put together 5 fashionable outfits, all mix and match, all well-fitting, for a fraction of their cost. Included were stylish but comfortable shoes, stockings, a coat, accessories, and a new handbag.

In this one aspect of my life I was in control. I don't think I spent more than $350 on outfits that helped to boost my spirit and make me look great on interviews.

I would get up every morning, wash my hair, put on my makeup, and wear a new outfit. I stretched that 8 hour per week job as much as I could, going in at 11 a.m., taking lunch with the regular staff (on my own time) and working until 2 p.m. This meant I went into the office four times per week. On my way home, I would check the job advertisements. One impulsive afternoon I walked into a framing shop and applied for a part time position as a framer. After taking an easy math test, I got the job, working 20 hours per week. I didn't make much money, but I was busy.

No task was too menial for me. I needed to get out of the house, so I did. I needed an income, since Bob controlled all the purse strings, so I did.

I recall talking to a woman my age who had taken two years to find a job. "Why did it take you so long?" I asked, curious, as she had more qualifications on paper than me. She answered, "I couldn't find anything." Translation: "I couldn't find anything worthy of my talents." While she was staying at home collecting unemployment checks and worrying about her bills, I was running around town working three jobs. No, I'm not taking a superior attitude. Actually, I humbled myself, working in positions for which I was overqualified, and for which I was paid barely above minimum wage.

My experience has told me that it is easier to find a job when you already have one. You exude a certain confidence and energy, which the interviewers notice.

Getting a new wardrobe was my first important step in job hunting. The second was keeping all my options open. Within 6 months this old bird found a job with benefits. The glowing recommendations from my supervisors helped to seal the deal. Those three jobs had also beefed up my resume; telling my potential employers that my work skills were current.

The point of this little post? I had not held a regular, full time job in 20 years when I had to find a way to support myself. I used all the resources I had to find those first three jobs. If you've kept up your skills by volunteering, use those contacts first. You'll be amazed at how friendly and helpful those people can be, and how that first little job will open up doors.

To this day, no job is too menial for me. If I need work, I will say yes to the first opportunity that presents itself. If I need more money, I will go out and find extra work. (In fact, I have a great job now, one that I wouldn't trade for the world, and enough income to get by.)

Good luck to you in your job hunt. Remember, persistence counts. And arrive at the interview early, so you can go to the bathroom, dry up your tears, and fix your makeup before entering the front office.

3 comments:

FI0NA said...

Where are you Vic? Taking a nice long ski holiday somewhere I hope...

Vic said...

Fiona,

I did take a holiday. Before I went, I changed the contact information to this blog and promptly forgot what I did. In addition, because I created an email account with an alias, I cannot get to my blog. How vexing. So, I decided to take a hiatus before investigating what I can do about this situation. Create another blog? Keep trying to enter this one? We'll see. For the time being, know I am fine. Meanwhile, I will continue to read your fine blog.

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