Cynthia Fernandez had been in the hospitality industry for 27 years when the pandemic hit. Furloughed from her job as an “At Your Service” agent with Marriott in March 2020, she applied for unemployment and waited to be called back to work in July.
“It’s just a little break,” she told herself, confident that she’d return to her job in a couple of months.
It wasn’t until June, when she learned that her furlough was extended until October, that she started to worry. “Are they going to call me back?” she wondered. “Or is this the end of my career with Marriott?” She realized she needed to act.
As the saying goes, membership has its privileges, and Cynthia took advantage of the resources available to her as an AARP member. She learned about AARP Foundation’s BACK TO WORK 50+ program on the AARP website and through AARP The Magazine, and signed up for a Seven Smart Strategies workshop.
Then Cynthia was told that her position at Marriott was being eliminated. Permanently. The news hit her hard.
“That was the final blow. That's when the panic set in,” she says now. Like so many people over 50 who lost their longtime jobs in the pandemic, she was forced into a tough job market that was especially grim for older adults. Through AARP, she had read about ageism; now, at the age of 60, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find employment.
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“I think it does exist,” Cynthia says of age discrimination. “And I thought, well, if I don’t get anything permanent, then that is going to be the end. I would have to do early retirement, which I really didn’t want to do.”
Through BACK TO WORK 50+, she had learned to include keywords in her résumé and how to do an engaging job interview. Now, the tips and support she received helped her maintain her job search, she says, especially the materials that “helped me present myself to employers.” In addition to BACK TO WORK 50+, she joined a job program that trained her to use Microsoft Outlook. She also downloaded and practiced using a variety of webinar platforms so she could do job interviews virtually. When her internet dropped out — which it often did — she joined interviews from her phone.