By her own admission, Consuella Broome was in search of a miracle. The day she turned 59, she found it.
"I signed my contract on June 11," Broome said recently, recalling the day she became a permanent employee at Bowie State University. Instrumental in helping her get her new position in the university's Department of Educational Studies and Leadership, she says, was virtual job coach Steve Wechsler, a volunteer with the AARP Foundation's WorkSearch program.
Broome, a Washington, D.C., native who lives in Bowie, Md., had worked for the U.S. Government Accountability Office for more than 30 years before retiring. She decided she needed to go back to work and about a year ago she started her search for another job. After several months of looking on her own, Broome learned she could get help from AARP Foundation WorkSearch, a program designed to help workers age 50 and over with job-seeking skills and training.
She telephoned the AARP Foundation and was connected to Wechsler. From the start, says Broome, Wechsler was fully committed to her success — even though the "virtual" program meant the pair communicated only by telephone or email, never face-to-face.
"He took his time," she said. "I'll tell you, he gave me a lot of interview tips."
Wechsler, a psychotherapist in Greenbelt, Md., advised Broome not to come across as anxious in an interview because potential employers read anxiety as a sign of desperation. He also told her to dress conservatively, to be the first with a handshake when meeting an interviewer and to always follow up with the interviewer after a meeting.
Broome said Wechsler also helped her improve her résumé and told her to continue her volunteer work driving older people to the doctor or to the pharmacy for a prescription. A number of the people she drove knew she was unemployed and gave her tips, which helped her pay her bills.
"I did not want to stay home, so the volunteer work really helped me out a lot to stay busy," she said.
Just as important as the information he provided was the fact that Wechsler was a nonstop cheerleader for Broome. He worked with her weekly and always encouraged her to keep going. Broome said he gave her confidence.
"It had a lot to do with his personality," she recalled, adding: "You could tell he was caring; he was concerned."