Q: I have worked the last 19 years as a caregiver. I can no longer physically do the job. I have also had four years' experience as a guest service representative at a Hollywood Video store. I am trying to get a job as a bank teller or customer service person in a call center, but it seems that either I can't do the job, or I am too old to learn something new. I am reliable and honest. I am just not getting any calls from my online applications. What should I do next? My unemployment and food stamps are not enough to pay my rent, car insurance, electric bill, and other necessaries. If something doesn't happen soon, I will be homeless. My family cannot help me.
— Carol, age 61
A: Carol, first of all, you're never too old to learn something new. If your potential employers don't seem to know that, then there are things you can do to battle the odds. Highlight your advantages. Focus not on what you don't have, but on what you do offer to any employer. Be clear and specific about exactly where you offer experience, skills and strengths that other candidates may not have. Frame your experience as an asset and be ready to talk about how it has helped you and the lessons you have learned. Also, ask yourself whether there is room to explore other options in the field you mastered over 19 years. Although you are no longer physically capable of doing the exact same caregiving work you did before, if caring for others is a strength of yours and you have a passion for it, you may be able to find different ways to channel that strength. What opportunities are there in your community for helping people and caring for them that don't involve physical labor? Get creative about finding where those opportunities might be.
While online applications are a crucial part of any job search today, don't stop there. Consult the contacts and connections you built up over your 20-year career. And don't forget to take advantage of resources available for older workers through organizations such as the AARP. Their website features tips, strategies and information about free job fairs for people in your situation in cities (including yours) across the country.
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