October 24, 2020
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Finding a new vocation

By: Cindy Caruso
January 17, 2020

You’ll recall that in my last column we learned the story of Becky, age 64, whose layoff threw her into a state of shock and heartache.  Her questions to deal with immediately: how would she manage financially? Would she qualify for unemployment benefits? Should she keep working, or retire?  I know you are curious about how things turned out for her.

Becky knew she wanted to keep working. She had been in marketing for 13 years, but let’s take a closer look at the specifics of what her responsibilities had been. Becky’s specialty was traditional print advertising development and planning.  After considering all options, she ultimately decided to “up” her game and get the necessary training to obtain certification in “digital marketing.” This would allow her to stay within her industry, but it did two more things – it put a new spin on what she had to offer, and it provided her with skills that had now become critical in today’s marketing world.  

I like sharing this example because it offers two key lessons.  The first is that given her stage of life, she chose to stay within the realm of her professional experience. Why is this important? Let me tell you this - when a candidate is older, their years of experience and training in a particular field can be seen as a plus in their favor. This doesn’t mean that we can’t try something new. It just means that when we’re older, the more transferable our skills and experience are for a job we are seeking, the better.

The second takeaway is that although she chose to stay in her industry, she was willing to increase her knowledge and skills in order to expand her options and make herself more competitive.  More on this subject in a minute.  

Here are some important things I’d like you to consider when job-seeking in mid-life, or any other time of life:

Figure yourself out.  What do you love? Hate? What are your strengths or weaknesses? What are your skills? There are online tools that can help you answer these questions.

Be honest with yourself about things that may have been holding you back from achieving your life or professional goals. In my industry we call these “barriers” and they manifest in many ways:  addictions, mental or emotional disorders, unhealthy relationships. You get the idea. Let’s face it - life has been hard and we may have picked up some baggage along the way.  If so, it will serve you well to seek out help and deal with these challenges, once and for all.  

Identify your timeframe for when you need to be working. Do you need to start bringing in money right away, or do you have some breathing room? Is it realistic, or do you have the desire, to train for something new?

Know what industries in your area are hot, or what we call “growth” industries.  You may be the best in the west at shoeing horses, but if you live in Sonoma County, you’re going to find more employment opportunities in, say, hospitality and tourism.  A great site for researching growth industries in any area of the U.S. is

Remember that your social network isn’t just for having fun, it’s for helping you find jobs - duh!  Spread the word to family, friends, friends of friends, current and former colleagues and acquaintances that you’re looking for opportunity. Don’t be afraid to mine whoever you can.  While it’s not always the case, connections sometimes matter more than your experience or training.  

Keep yourself healthy and fit, as much as you can, both mentally and physically. You may not be the youngest job-seeker out there, but a healthy look and attitude will go a long way in your favor. 

Now this one really is important: remember it’s a new world out there.  Job search methods may have evolved significantly from the last time you were looking. If you’re getting hung up, get someone who can help you.  Additionally, there may be new skills you’ll need to learn for your industry, or new workplace culture or practices you’ll need to adapt to. This is a big topic – let’s talk more about this in my next column!

Whoa, there’s a lot to consider! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, fear not: help is out there and some of it is free.  Sonoma County residents can check out the Sonoma County Job Link office.  There you’ll find professional career counselors who can help you and workshops that cover great topics.  Here’s their link:  You don’t live in Sonoma County?  No problem! Every county in California has an America’s Job Center of California location.  

Life is rarely linear. Whatever your journey, I believe you have what it takes to face it well-prepared and with confidence. 


Cindy works as an employment development counselor and is a mother and grandmother.  She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.