Take a little time to grieve, then set your sights on a life full of opportunity
Q. My marriage of 37 years has just been dissolved. It turns out that my husband and his secretary have been involved for years. She gave him an ultimatum and he chose her. I find myself at 57 years of age without sufficient income, no job prospects or job skills (I never worked outside the home) and feeling very isolated (my four kids have relocated across the country). It is difficult to get out of bed. Any suggestions how I can make things better for myself? I was a very good problem solver for my kids' problems but can't seem to problem solve for myself.
A. I am really sorry to hear about your situation. I am sure you already know this, but you are not alone. For a variety of reasons (death of a spouse, divorce, stepped out of the workforce to take care of children or ailing parents, etc.), many mature women (age 45 and older) find themselves in a similar predicament.
Give yourself some time to grieve and feel bad about your situation, but not too much time. The key is for you to now begin a new life, a life full of risks but also full of opportunities. If you allow it, it could be a very exciting next chapter of your life. Here are some things to consider:
Take control of your health and diet: Check out the YMCA/YWCA or other health club in your community.
If you plan to job search during the day, select early evening to get over to the club to work out, take a class, use the machines, etc. An added bonus is that you might meet other peers and begin to widen your social circle. Talk to everyone, be friendly and open to meeting new people.
Another positive is that you will be toning up your body and feeling better about your appearance. This will help you feel better about yourself as you interview.
Take control of your finances: There are many excellent books on investing and understanding finances today. In addition, there are several cable stations that sponsor programs on getting control of your finances. Those are a good start. However, nothing will take the place of meeting with a good financial planner (ask around and try them out just as you would a doctor).
There are several nonprofits that offer this option, and many financial planners who will take a few clients gratis each year. Once you have plotted out where you are today and where you need to be, you will feel so much better. You will have a roadmap to follow, customized just for you.
Begin to think about work as a positive aspect of your new life: It sounds like you need to find work. You need more income. This may be the most challenging piece of starting your new life. You have never been in the workforce before and knowing where to start can be overwhelming.
I would encourage you to look at this as a positive addition in your life, not as punishment. Once you have found work that you enjoy, it will give you many benefits, including: income, health, and other worker benefits, structure to your day, an opportunity for personal growth, and hopefully, many colleagues to enrich your life.
Seek out the closest One-Stop Career Center: These are one-stop centers for job seekers of all ages where you can find counseling, employment workshops, recommendations for job training, and many excellent job bank sources.
Many of these services cost nothing for the job seeker. To find the closest center to you, type in www.detma.org and at the top of the screen, it will have the how to "Find a Career Center Near You." If you are not computer literate, go to your neighborhood library and ask them to assist you in finding the closest center.
Consult a career counselor: See if you are simpatico with the job counselor at the one-stop center. Most are very knowledgeable and very helpful and can point you in the right direction whether it is a training program, employment workshops, or other resources that you need.
If you don't feel the person was very helpful, start asking around for other referrals. This is a critical component for you. You must get good advice about what are the next steps for you to pursue in your career.
Attend an information session at Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston: I cannot resist also mentioning my own organization, Operation A.B.L.E., since we are celebrating our 25th anniversary of helping mature workers 45 and older find work.
Our headquarters is at 131 Tremont St., across from the Park Street MBTA station in Boston, but we have staff located at many one-stop centers throughout the state that can assist you as well.
It is quite possible that you will need some kind of training program to make you more employable. Join us on Fridays at 10 a.m. for one of our information sessions to learn more about what is available to you at no or minimum cost. We have programs for entry-level to professional and they might be just the ticket you need to become more employable.
See if you are eligible for the Older American Community Service Employment Program: One of the programs Operation A.B.L.E. runs is the Department of Labor's Older American Community Service Employment Program (formerly known as the Senior Community Service Employment Program) for mature workers 55 and older who are income eligible.
We help these mature workers by finding a nonprofit or government agency that will provide some on-the-job training while they earn $7.50 per hour ($8.00 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2008) for up to 20 hours.
At the same time, we provide intensive job search assistance to ensure that at the end of the year, the participant will find unsubsidized work.
Use all the resources that are available to you: As you can see, there are many resources. Chip away at these and others. Transitioning from stay-at-home wife and mother to finding work in today's business environment will be challenging. Seek out as much help and support as you possibly can.
Set goals for yourself each week and try to meet or exceed them. I am wishing you the best of luck with your new life.
Might be time to take look at chosen field
Q. I am in the development field and have had three different positions in the last six years. I keep losing my job for one reason or another. I really like raising money for worthwhile causes but, at this point, I am worried that someone will look at my resume and wonder why I have moved around so much. Should I pursue this field or start looking at other fields?
A. The development field is an excellent one if you are successful. The pay is quite good for nonprofits because nonprofits recognize that you must compensate the people who are successful raising funds for the organization or they will lose them to another. However, it is also a difficult field.
The competition for those precious corporate, foundation, and individual contributions is tremendous, especially in Massachusetts, where nonprofits are becoming one of the largest industries in the state.
I am not so concerned that you have worked at three different nonprofits in the past six years if you were successful raising funds and were let go through no fault of your own. However, and only you can answer this, if you were let go because you were not successful meeting your fund-raising goals, perhaps this is not the best field for you to be in.
One way to determine whether you have the reference support to stay in the field is to call some of your former managers and see if they are willing to serve as references in your current search. If there are pauses or refusals, you need to listen to that.
In addition, ask yourself about your computer skills and attention to detail. Both are critical skills to be successful in this field. If neither of these skills are your strong suit, really rethink whether this is the right fit for you.
If, however, you have just had some bad luck and would like to pursue another opportunity, I say, try it. See if you get some attention with your resume. Use your contacts from the various companies where you have worked for leads. There are also some very well-known recruiters in the development field that could be helpful as well. Be sure you connect with them as well.
E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Job Doc, The Boston Globe, Box 55819, Boston, MA, 02205-5819. Joan Cirillo is the executive director of Operation A.B.L.E., a nonprofit that provides employment and training opportunities to adults age 40 and older.