When Lisa Edmond was just shy of 18 years old, she started working at Sears, Roebuck & Co., in the still-under-construction Sears Tower in Chicago. It was 1974, and she was fresh out of high school; bright-eyed, loyal and ready to work. In 2016, more than four decades after she joined the company, Sears laid her off. At 60 years old, Lisa Edmond was looking for work.
Lisa had always been happy in her job, even after Kmart bought out the company and started laying people off. Starting in 2005, there were layoffs once a year, but she never felt like she was at risk. Her turn eventually came, though, and she had to leave the company to which she’d devoted her entire adult life. “It took me a couple of weeks to stop waking up crying,” she says. “I never expected to be unemployed. I wasn’t prepared.”
Sears paid for Lisa and other laid-off employees to take an eight-week course on getting back into the job market. She felt overwhelmed; she didn’t even have a résumé, since she’d never needed one. After a few weeks of grieving, she picked herself up and went to an orientation at Arlington Heights American Job Center where she was paired with a career services adviser. When she opened up about how disheartened and hopeless she felt, the adviser told her about AARP Foundation's BACK TO WORK 50+ program and helped her sign up for a 7 Smart Strategies for 50+ Jobseekers workshop. After the workshop, Lisa knew immediately that she wanted to forge ahead and participate in the program.
When asked to describe the experience, she jumps right in. “It’s AWESOME —that’s all I can say.” There were only seven people in her group, which she found out later was lucky, since other groups could be much larger. The small size made for a highly personalized experience through which members could really get to know and support each other. They learned to create their own “elevator speeches,” one-minute statements to sell themselves and their job searches, and practiced them in the group. Lisa says she would have been intimidated to do that in front of a large group, but she found confidence in their shared experience. “We all had similar stories, looking for work at an older age. We learned a lot about each other and ourselves.”
Most of the material covered in the workshop was new to her — except for the technology part. “My work at Sears kept me up to date on technology,” she says. “I was training the young employees on the tech stuff. I may not have had a résumé, but I had a LinkedIn page!” What was new was how to prepare for a job search, and especially “how to figure out what you really want to do next.” She had worked her way up to assistant buyer at Sears, but she knew that wasn’t for her anymore. “It was way too many hours. I wanted to have a life. I have a family.”