Jacquie Johnson, 54, lost her job by choice — the kind of choice most of us wouldn’t hesitate to make. When it came to getting back to work, she made another choice she won’t ever regret.
Jacquie was working as a supervisor of environmental services at a major hospital in Indiana when she made the difficult decision to resign her position so she could help take care of her ailing mother in Oklahoma, who had chronic kidney failure and had developed dementia.
Having previously experienced a layoff, Jacquie had learned to put money aside for an emergency, and this certainly qualified. Her personal savings, she says, “allowed me to not only eliminate the stress of relocating, but also allowed my mother to not feel guilty about me leaving Chicago to come and take care of her.”
Jacquie was away from her home, relying on savings and family support for almost a year and half, until her mother died. Then it was back to her home in Chicago in early 2020, and the search for a new job began.
It was tough going, even in the days before COVID. She tried to find work on her own but couldn’t get any interviews. While attending a program that offered computer classes, she heard about a program being offered by AARP Foundation through the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership: BACK TO WORK 50+.
How a coach helped make getting back to work happen
She signed up for a BTW50+ workshop but wasn’t hopeful, figuring “I’m just a number to them.” Then she met Sherri Chrisman, a job search coach, who “changed my perspective on the whole program.”
She learned to “embrace the little things”: fine-tuning her résumé, becoming more active on LinkedIn, doing mock interviews, networking. “All those little things helped propel me to where I am now,” she says.
She was able to connect with a temp agency, something she counted on only as a stopgap. But Jacquie puts her all into everything she does, so she got offered an assignment fairly quickly. Still she was discouraged: She didn’t like the work at all, and was ready to give up on the temp agency altogether. That’s where Sherri really proved her value; she pushed Jacquie to stick with it and said, “You don’t know what doors it might open.”
After that, Jacquie got an assignment as an administrative assistant with a psychiatry practice, right downtown in Chicago. She liked the people, and everything was going well. Then, less than three weeks after she started, COVID struck, and Jacquie figured her luck had run out again. But her professionalism was shining through, and the practice decided to set her up to work at home. She hadn’t felt that valued since she’d been caring for her mom.
Still, the job was a temporary one. When she got offered a permanent position elsewhere, she felt she couldn’t turn it down, even though she felt very much at home with the psychiatry practice.
So she told the practice she was leaving. They begged her to stay: “What do you want?” They liked her so much that they offered her a permanent position. “I’d never had an opportunity to choose where I wanted to work,” says Jacquie. And Sherri was right there to guide her, helping her weigh the pros and cons of each job. Her good feelings about the psychiatry practice sealed the deal, and she accepted their offer.
Jacquie credits both Sherri and another career coach at the Workforce Partnership for helping her focus on what really mattered. “They got me back to myself,” she says.
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