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The Challenges in Taking on a New Career

Bob Edwards talks with people that have overcome problems when changing careers

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Bob Edwards: Hello. I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP take on today. Taking on a new career can be both exciting and overwhelming. While some take the leap on their own initiative, the reality is many older workers aren't always choosing this path on their own. Of those who do choose to follow a new path, the challenges can be many, but so can the upsides. In either case, jumping into a new pool might require learning how to swim again. Joining us today is Wilma Consul with two career changers who planned and prepared to overcome the challenges of starting fresh.

Sylvia Moreno: ... as deeply as you can through the nose. Good. Nose is a passageway. Fill your lungs. My name is Sylvia Moreno. I just finished teaching a 90-minute Bikram yoga class down. I was a journalist for 34 years. My last 11 years were at Washington Post, but I worked in Austin, Texas, New York City for 16 years, Dallas, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, and then Washington D.C. I never thought I'd be a fitness instructor. Now did I engage in fitness group classes? Yes. I've been an exerciser all my life and I enjoyed it, but I never thought of doing this for money, and that's what I do now.

Wilma Consul: Can you tell me about your transition, what you did before you got into fitness?

Sylvia Moreno: I just started exercising more regularly when I was not going to the Washington Post. I had took a buy out, so it was an early retirement package in 2008, so the height of the recession. The mood was very doom and gloom. Everybody thought newspapers were going to be dead by the end of the year and the Post offered a good buyout. I thought really long and hard because my biggest issue was who am I going to be? I'd been a reporter all my life. That was my complete identity. First thing I did was I volunteered cause I've never had the opportunity to volunteer with a hectic work schedule, that was volunteering, teaching ESL classes at with a nonprofit. I was also exercising on an almost daily basis. That was a water aerobics class and that instructor said, "You're here all the time, you're good at what you do. There's a training coming up and I need a sub from time to time, so why don't you take the training?"

I continued with my ESL volunteering, which turned into a part-time job for a year. I continued exercising and indeed I became a sub for that instructor, and then I got my own class. That was in 2010. Subsequently, I took various trainings and then I started my own hot yoga practice at the beginning of 2012.

Wilma Consul: You have a milestone a next week. How do you feel?

Sylvia Moreno: Yes. At the end of September I will be 66 years old. I feel great. I really do. Frankly, since I left the Washington post, which was in August of 2008 and we're now 11 years later, I'm about 40 pounds less than when I left the post. When I look at pictures, I feel like I look younger even. I've been getting older, but I look younger, much fitter. I feel absolutely wonderful. I don't have any health issues at all. I am going to be 66 but, what does that mean nowadays? I don't think it means anything for me.

Wilma Consul: What is your advice for people who are at retirement age or have retired and thinking about doing something like another career?

Sylvia Moreno: The only thing I could say to anybody, and this is rather obvious or self-evident, is you're going to need to do something that you really enjoy. I've always enjoyed fitness classes. Now I'm teaching them and I participate. My ESL part of what I do, I also now substitute on a paid basis with a public charter school in Washington that teaches only adult immigrants. I love teaching that group of students just because they want to be there. They're motivated, they love their teachers. They're very respectful, and I enjoy that very much. I really like the two things that I do.

Do I make a lot of money? Not really, but the fortunate thing for me, which was what helped me also be able to take the buyout at the Washington Post was, I did not have a lot of debt. I didn't have kids in college. I was financially stable, had a mortgage. That was my only debt and that was it. I had the luxury that many people don't have. Now I do try to live within my means paying for my living expenses with these two part-time jobs I have, teaching ESL and teaching my fitness classes. It's tight, and I really try to maintain my living expenses like that. Sometimes that gets a little worrisome, so I'm sort of looking forward to taking my social security. Exhale, push the chin back. Hips slightly forward, elbows ...

Robert Rice: Stewart Funerals. This is Robert. May I help you? My name is Robert Rice. My title is embalmer, which basically requires that I preserve that human remains, dress and casket for final arrangements. 16 years, 10 months I worked at NPR in various roles. There came an opportunity that employees were offered a buyout, and I decided that I would take that. I had already began to look at m next chapter in life because we had heard for years, revenues are down, revenues down because the age of technology. You don't make the amount of money you used to make. Jobs go away.

Wilma Consul: Tell me a little bit about your transition from what you used to do to the funeral service profession.

Robert Rice: Knowing that I was too young to retire, I'm like, "What can I do if I have to get a degree of some sort that will land me a job?" As we were hearing in the news, a lot of students were graduating from college with mounds of debt and unable to find a job in their chosen field. My due diligence kept leading me to funeral service. It's regulated by the federal government and there are a limited number of programs across the nation. That's the crux of what got me into the industry, needing something to do to get me to that retirement space. Since I've been in the industry, I'm like, "I think I've missed 30 years of my life working other jobs prior to this" because it sounds morbid to some people, but I actually love the work that I do. One example was we had a case where the lady's necklace was too short to properly be displayed at her neck and because of the shape of it, if you turn it upside down, it looked like a tiara, so I framed her hairline with it so the family would see that everything that they had presented to us was with their loved one. They raved.

Wilma Consul: How about how was it financially and not being young in the business?

Robert Rice: Being a nontraditional student was a challenge because I had to get back into that mode of you need to set aside x number of hours per day to get your papers written. It was kind of a culture shock after so many years of not being in structured classrooms. Being back in college after that hiatus was a challenge. For the most part, I was a procrastinator, but this kind of rejuvenated in me, there's something that you have to do to serve others.

Wilma Consul: What would you advise people over 50 and above who might be thinking of going to a new career in their, what we call sort of a retirement age, or trying to change their life and do whatever they wanted to do at what other people call it like a later age?

Robert Rice: I would say this. We have been told all our lives, you're never too old to learn. Be willing to step out there. Do something that you feel would be a passion for you, and it won't feel like work. Although I'm relatively new in this industry, it doesn't feel like work to me because I like it. Presenting someone in their best light to the family one last time, so just rise up to the occasion. Do what you need to do. Look at what opportunities are out there. Explore them and then jump in where you think your biggest passion will be, and it won't feel like work.

Bob Edwards: Wilma?

Wilma Consul: Yes.

Bob Edwards: What an interesting combination. You found one involved in sustaining life and the other not so much.

Wilma Consul: He sustains his own life.

Bob Edwards: Exactly. I like the idea that they're both involved in things that they had an interest in, that they like to do.

Wilma Consul: I think that's the key in talking to, I've spoken with other people. They always say going to work now doesn't feel like work and that's what you should do. I think all those years we all do it, we're working because we need to work. Now for their second life, third life, whatever, they just want to enjoy what they're doing. Yeah, they're not rich like what Sylvia says, you have to live at your own means. It takes a lot of planning to have a second career.

Bob Edwards: They still had to make financial adjustments. It wasn't like the good old days.

Wilma Consul: No, no, no. I don't know how. They both took packages from the company, but I'm sure that didn't last for a long time, so they have to work. At one point, Sylvia was teaching like 13 classes a week of fitness.

Bob Edwards: They knew this day would come. They were planning. That's extraordinary. I had never had a plan with anything. Some people are like that.

Wilma Consul: You and me both.

Bob Edwards: They thought ahead.

Wilma Consul: That's a good take out of this, is that you don't just ... Being artists, for me, if I'm unhappy I would quit, and then I find myself working eight different jobs. No plan, but they thought about it. They thought about it a lot and made plans. For Robert Rice, he even researched the mortuary science and found there were 5,000 people enrolled in mortuary science in the whole nation. He thought, "This will be lucrative" and also because he knew that people are always passing away.

Bob Edwards: Exactly. It's a growth industry.

Wilma Consul: It's a big business, right? It's one of those things that we can control and there always have to be better service and it's getting competitive, and he is there. I think for a while he wanted to be a funeral director and found that he enjoys the embalming.

Bob Edwards: Best thing of all is they both sound happy, happier than they were in media.

Wilma Consul: You see? No miserable, no complaints. They both look good. They're happy, they're smiling. That's what's the most important part.

Bob Edwards: Get a plan, folks. No, but she could see a buyout coming, so that helped plan. She had some resources too.

Wilma Consul: Yeah, and so did Robert. People who take buyouts. that's what they do, they have plans. In the future episodes, I've talked to someone who also worked in the journalism business and doing a lot of coaching and now deciding to be her own business person. Talk about plans. She had plan A, B, C, and D. I've never met anyone like that, and so she's getting clients right away.

Bob Edwards: Join us over the next few weeks to hear how new job seekers are making the transition into new fields or staying in the lanes they know best. We'll talk about some career changers who went back to school to work in a new field and how student loans are impacting all generations. We'll also hear how some job seekers were forced out of their jobs, have overcome the challenges of finding a new role and address the inevitable financial setbacks that older workers might experience. To learn more about the AARP Foundations back to work program, call 855-850-2525 or visit Visit for resources including AARP's job search tool, resume advisor, and online job fairs. For more, visit Become a subscriber and be sure to rate our podcast on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening. I'm Bob Edwards.

Taking on a new career? Listen in to hear how some have overcome challenges to successfully plan and pursue a new career.

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