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How to Start a Job Search at 55: Part I

This is Part I of Glen Bradley's blog series. Read Part II here.

I have always had a job. That is, until six weeks ago. I came from a blue collar family in Kentucky that had never produced a family member that went to college. I was to be the first. Of course, no money had been set aside for college, so the first Monday following my high school graduation I went to work for a road construction company to begin to pay my way through school. The summer construction waned as fall approached and I went to work for an apparel manufacturer loading trucks during the day and going to the university at night.

For nearly 37 years I worked for that company, finally ending my career there as a Vice President in the Commercial Operations area. I was part of a company restructuring, and I still have intentions of working some additional years. But for the first time since high school, I was out of work.

On the one hand, after that long of a career, I was happy to take a break and just enjoy not having a deadline or fire to put out. On the other hand, after a couple of weeks, I was already feeling a bit antsy and decided to at least begin the journey to find my next career move. So, let’s frame the difference from my last job search. I was 18 and am now 55. In 1977, there was no Internet (or at least available to the public,) there were no personal computers, no email, no…. well, you get the picture. Today, I am learning that social media is the key to finding a job. I am in a new place!

I always had this feeling that if I were ever looking for a job, my considerable network of colleagues built up over the years would spring forward with all types of positions, allowing me to choose from multiple offers. My first learning is that while my network is helpful and supportive, they haven’t been sitting on jobs, waiting for me to become available. There has been the consulting offer or two, but I now realize I’m going to have to actually work at finding my next opportunity.

With some trepidation, I now begin the job search process. I’ve already learned a lot about an industry I wasn’t really aware that existed. I am absolutely blown away by the number of professionals and specialists that exist just to support and help people find employment. There are experts for resumes, interviews, LinkedIn, recruiting, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming to someone essentially going through this for the first time, and after already enjoying a long and fruitful career.

The irony for me is that while it seems to take a village to gain that elusive job, it is also very much an individual process. As an executive, I’ve been accustomed to having a team to actually execute the work.  Now I find I am my own administrative assistant and IT support desk. I have to go to Staples and search the shelves instead of having someone lay the administrative solution on my desk. I shout out loud at Word when it doesn’t format intuitively (at least intuitively for me,) but the only help I get is the mournful stare from my golden retriever who at least shows sympathy (or maybe pity) in her eyes. I’ve been the expert at my work for some time. I now find that I am constantly head scratching at the cacophony of advice (usually divergent) from the experts.

This is my new world. And despite the baby steps I am now putting down, I also have the anticipation that, in the end, this will work out for the betterment of my career and work satisfaction. I will continue to blog on what I experience and learn. I’ve found there is quite a society of fifty-somethings out of work for the first time in years and our encouragement for each other means a lot. Now if I could just find that darn stapler.

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