I’ve worked in the mortgage business for more than 30 years. Finding, and keeping, a job in this industry has always been a struggle, even before my profession provided the shove that helped send our economy over a cliff. I can almost feel millions of my coworkers all over the country nodding in agreement. Layoffs and sudden office closures are a routine occupational hazard. After one layoff, I was hired a couple months or so later by another company that presented 15 of us with our last paychecks a mere two weeks after my first day. It is not a career path for the faint of heart.
The upside of “the biz,” as we veterans call it, is the amazing community of beaten and bruised warriors who rise up to help when dispirited colleagues leave their office buildings, clutching their cardboard boxes filled with their belongings. The newly unemployed start contacting those lucky enough to still have jobs. The employed, in turn, e-mail their HR departments, seeking any open positions for those in need of one. E-mails go out, e-mails are returned with resumés attached. If there are no positions available, other leads are offered. The city is abuzz; a mortgage industry emergency has been declared; the safety net spreads.
I was last laid off in October 2007, one of thousands of victims of the beginning of the collapse. It was my fourth layoff in 10 years, and I was getting weary of the constant uncertainty, of dipping into savings and of collecting unemployment. I was 57 years old, not a prime age to be looking for work, especially in an industry in a tailspin. But the fact remained that I have always enjoyed this business. I started out 30 years ago, helping people buy a home or refinance with mortgages that were prudent and that they could afford. Times have changed.
I reached out to the community once again, touching base with a contact in the reverse mortgage industry. They had no openings. He passed me on to the head of business development, and I kept knocking on his door until it opened. He let me in. Now, I’ve found the personal satisfaction that had long been missing in my job, actually helping seniors brighten their financial futures and, in some cases, save their lives. It is now an unaccustomed pleasure to get up in the morning and go to work.
AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Linda Olson is a reader from Littleton, Colo.