Alice Isidro's unemployment checks were nearly exhausted. As was her self-confidence.
In April, when the 59-year-old Tampa resident lost her job as a data entry operator, she transformed from a diligent employee into a statistic: one of the 8.3 percent of Floridians 55 and older who are seeking a job.
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"I was depressed and didn't know where to turn. I didn't have a lot of savings and was competing against younger people with more up-to-date skills and better résumés (pdf)," Isidro said. "There were some horrific moments."
Her salvation? The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older get paid on-the-job training; improve interviewing (pdf) and technical skills; write winning résumés; and find jobs.
The U.S. Department of Labor funds the program, administered in Florida by the AARP Foundation and other agencies. The more than 30 SCSEP sites provided free assistance to about 4,000 Floridians January through September.
"I am learning things that will help me in my next job and put me ahead of other candidates," said Isidro, who has worked part time at SCSEP's Tampa office since July while training to be a payroll clerk and looking for a full-time job.
It takes longer to find a job
"The days of losing a job, coming home and picking up the paper and finding another job in the classifieds are over," said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director.
Unemployed people 55 and older tend to be out of work longer than their younger counterparts (57.7 weeks compared with 37.8 weeks, on average). One in three is jobless for more than a year, the federal government says.
That's the situation for many applicants, said Maxine A. Haynes, project director at SCSEP's Tampa office, one of the AARP Foundation-administered sites.
"Their biggest concern is that they aren't being hired because of their age," (pdf) she said. "We help them update their skills and résumés and instill confidence."
Next page: Great tips for entrepreneurs. >>
Haynes said she emphasizes that "they bring maturity, real-world good sense and life experiences that translate to a solid, long-lasting employee."
As the economic downturn continues, other programs offering help to unemployed people 50 and older have emerged.
For instance, help can be found at one of nearly 100 One-Stop Career Centers in Florida.
The no-cost program, sponsored by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, offers job search assistance, access to labor market information, career guidance, training and other services to job seekers in all income and age brackets.
Tips for entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs — and would-be business owners — can get tips from the Encore Entrepreneur program launched in October by AARP and the Small Business Administration.
"The groups joined forces to provide Americans over the age of 50 with the real-world, actionable information they need to start and grow small businesses," said Victoria Funes, AARP Florida associate state director for community outreach.
"More and more older workers expect to go into business for themselves, and the two groups plan to jointly counsel, train or mentor over 100,000 new and existing entrepreneurs nationwide during the next year," she said.
The emerging reliance on social media to locate jobs prompted AARP to launch Work Reimagined, a free interactive networking program using LinkedIn to connect more than 100 employers nationwide who value experienced workers with those searching for employment.
The Work Reimagined website also has a "discussions" section so job seekers can post questions, ideas and encouragement.
Linda Haase is a writer living in Boynton Beach, Fla.
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