By Marie Fricker
“I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up,” joked Marshfield resident Kathy O’Neil as she introduced herself to other group members at a recent 50+ Job Seekers Network meeting, held at the Scituate Public Library. O’Neil had been a corporate project manager before her unemployment, but is considering a number of fields for her next career. The 2-hour session, facilitated by group leader Debbie Raymond, is one of 17 free, bi-monthly workshops for out-of-work seniors throughout the state.
Raymond, an experienced career counselor who leads the Marshfield and Scituate networking groups, said the biggest challenge for many baby-boomers is to believe in themselves. “Many people are feeling pretty isolated since losing their jobs said Raymond. “They are experiencing fear and self-doubt about finding a new position at their age. But I’m happy to be their cheerleader. It’s great to watch people go from ‘Who would want to hire me?’ to “I’m a perfect match for this job.’”
The 50+ Job Seekers Regional Network was created by Milton native and longtime global career coach, recruiter, and mentor Susan Drevitch Kelly, who sought funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs to bring her dream to fruition in 2015. The program, which is managed by the Massachusetts Councils on Aging and supported by AARP, is seeking new host sites for expansion of its groups in 2020.
“Thousands of baby boomers were laid off during the ‘dot com’ crash followed by the economic recession of 2007-2009,” said Kelly, who recently moved to Scituate. “These people had major debt from putting their kids through private colleges, refinancing their mortgages, and losing money in the stock market. When they applied for new jobs, many of them encountered age discrimination and were forced to accept less pay and fewer hours or to retire prematurely. They came to me for help, but I knew the dynamics of a group coaching program would be even more supportive for unemployed seniors facing the same obstacles today.
Kelly serves as the statewide Program Director of the expanding 50+ Job Seeker’s Regional Network and promotes the value of the “mature worker” at events throughout the Commonwealth. A senior herself, she directs her considerable energies (she is a Yoga enthusiast and a competitive international Latin ballroom dancer) to helping her peers develop the tools and connections they need to re-enter the workforce.
“Baby boomers experience insecurity and low self esteem after a layoff or a big gap in their employment,” said Kelly, who was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Scituate Council on Aging. “They need help with updating their resumes, developing networking strategies, interview skills and elevator speeches, and using Linked In and other social media venues to connect with potential employers and recruiters.
Individual success stories from the 50+ Jobseekers program are plentiful. Raymond recently heard from three graduates of her groups who have found full-time work within the last month. “Each of them thanked me for the networking skills they gained through our sessions,” she said. “I love hearing news like that!”
Jim Dakin, a talent acquisition specialist for Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Quincy, was the guest speaker at Raymond’s November 14th group meeting in Scituate. He talked to the 34 seniors in the room about how to best use LinkedIn as a job search tool.
Before the session got underway, people in the room were asked to introduce themselves and mention their past professions. From architects and construction workers to teachers, scientists, engineers, and arborists, their backgrounds were as varied as their ages, which ranged from 50 to 67.
“I’m so happy to be able to attend a networking group like this right in my own hometown,” said Terry Johnson of Scituate. “It’s helping me make connections and explore new options. The motto of this program is ‘Your age is your edge,’ and I really believe that.”
“For more information on the 50+ Job Seekers Network and a list of the 17 sites in Massachusetts, visit mcoaonline.com/50plus, or contact Susan Drevitch Kelly at 781-378-0520.
Marie Fricker is editor of the South Shore Senior News.
This article reprinted from the December 2019 edition.