Help give my Mom advice for a new career
December 27, 2011 11:51 AM   Subscribe

My wonderful mom has been watching her grandchildren full time but is looking for a job this fall after the kids are in school. She first mentioned a retail job but she has so many marketable qualities and a lot of time to look so maybe the hive mind can come up with some better ideas? Inside, I brag about how awesome my mom is.

My mom is such a fantastic person that I wish that more people were like her, including myself. She has an iron built will power and is amazingly empathetic, caring, and easy to get along with. I think the biggest thing holding her back is a little less self confidence than she deserves. She is looking for a job to get out of the house for the day and also for some extra money. I don't think money is the biggest concern for her because her living costs are in order and she first mentioned working at Wallmart or something similar.

Most recently she has impressed me by going back to school in her sixties and getting her associates degree at a local community college. I am amazed how hard she worked and seemed to have a great time of it. She was a bit overwhelmed taking algebra but she worked hard and really killed it. That really impressed me. She just finished this semester and is looking to keep taking a course per semester working towards a bachelor's degree. She has wide interests including history, art, and literature.

She has also worked through so many computer obstacles for school. She has a Mac and really invested the time in learning as much as possible. She has enough computer prowess to take online courses, email confidently, make simple presentations, etc., although she has a lack of confidence - understandable for her generation I think.

For the past six years she has been a full time caretaker of the grandchildren but before that she was an administrator for a small law firm and is the go to person to ask about real estate transactions, wills, etc., and is obviously comfortable with general office tasks. She learned all the office programs at the time and I told her that not only have the basic programs not really changed, she has learned many new programs since then so learning new things should be no problem I am sure.

She is also in above average physical condition for her age. My mom does some yoga every day and is really in better shape than me.

I also think she would be great at any kind of service industry as she is very friendly and great with all people. While my grandmother was in a nursing home, it seemed to me my mom knew everyone in the whole place and was so good at visiting everyone.

She really has never put herself first so I would love if she could find a new career that she finds exciting and rewarding, rather than just a job. Does anyone have advice on getting into a new career? She lives in Morris County, New Jersey if there is a local with a specific idea.
posted by JayNolan to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like she would be a huge asset to any small or local nonprofit whose mission matches her interests. She has the admin and basic software skills to do database management, mailings, etc. And the social skills to herd volunteers or develop members.
posted by headnsouth at 11:59 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

My first thought was that some start-up or small entrepreneurial company would be lucky to have her as chief cook, bottle washer, and herder of the less-than-well-organized.

You mentioned (a few times, actually) that her confidence level is lower than it should be. Nothing builds a person's confidence like teaching others, so perhaps tutoring high school or community college students in study skills would be a good fit for her. She sounds like a really positive and uplifting person; it would be a shame for her to work in an environment where she wasn't intimately involved in pumping up others' enthusiasm and drive.

It seems to me that a good strategy for you to follow would be to share the ideas generated by your fellow MeFites, then encourage her to pursue the one (or ones) that makes her eyes light up.
posted by DrGail at 12:00 PM on December 27, 2011

Beyond retail or office manager (office "mom") roles, both of which she'd probably be great at, I'd consider the HR arena based purely on your description. Iron will and empathy are both key to many of the things required of a good HR generalist.
posted by bz at 12:22 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like she would be a great fit for most offices. why doesn't she start looking in areas that interest her, since this isn't a must have a job situtation. You mention art - are there any museums in the area? If the legal system interests her, then law offices or county government (judges offices for example). if she loves books, maybe libraries. If she loves kids, schools (and this can mean from the school site level to the board office level).

She would probably be great at retail but those hours can suck. Encourage her to be choosy if she has that option. It sounds like she is in a position to do so.
posted by domino at 12:43 PM on December 27, 2011

Retail is hell on your body. I did retail in my early 20s and I cannot imagine it being pleasant for someone of her age.
posted by k8t at 12:56 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing k8t. My mom worked retail for about 10 years in her 40s-50s, and it's really wrecked her legs. Even though she exercises regularly, she finds walking more than a mile painful (now in her mid-60s).

I think the nonprofit admin job idea is fantastic.
posted by smirkette at 1:04 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if your mom is asking about retail because she wants to work with people? In that case, perhaps she could work as a receptionist for a local yoga studio or wellness center, something like that. Or maybe she'd like to get a job as a part-time receptionist at the community college or local college or at a doctor's office. Sometimes these places might want part-time folks.

And a job at a college could lead to something else, eventually.

It sounds like she's a great people person and might like the interaction from this job more than she'd like working behind the scenes in an office.

Also, does she want a career? Or just something to keep her busy? Because I'm worried that you might be pushing into something more than she wants. And if she's ambivalent and gets a few rejection letters, would that make her confidence worse?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:34 PM on December 27, 2011

Your mom does, indeed, sound like a fantastic person who would be a great asset to any workplace. Willpower, persistence, initiative and good people skills should take her a long way.

Does the community college where she got her associate's degree have a career center? Many, if not most, colleges do, and while a CC's career center is usually bare-bones due to budget considerations, they are often a great help with resume writing, aptitude testing and targeting industries and job categories.

Have her sign up with some temp agencies. Temp jobs are a great way to try out various job descriptions and industries, get some experience and often one can leverage oneself into a permanent job through temping. Basic office skills (typing, MS Word and Excel) can get your mom in the door.

A website I have found helpful is Career One Stop which has industry outlook, job descriptions, job titles, tips on job hunting, everything you need in one place.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:02 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

What struck me about your description of your mother is that she'd be great interacting with people who are undergoing stressful experiences... that combination of empathy, organization skills and the ability to give direction with tough love might be great in somewhere like an emergency room, woman's health clinic, old age home, funeral parlor, addiction treatment center, etc. where she would interact with harried professionals, troubled clients and worried friends/family. My concerns revolve around your comment that her confidence might not match her skills... some of those folks wouldn't necessarily be in a place to show gratitude or provide positive feedback on a regular basis.
posted by carmicha at 3:20 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

What about a job at the community college? She could work at the financial aid/admissions & records counter or in one of the departments as an administrative assistant. It would be so much better than retail. Plus, she already knows her way around the campus.
posted by wherever, whatever at 3:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I bet there are thousands of people near her who are 50 years or older who would really like to go back to school, may not even yet know it, and could use her positive example to give them the impetus to do this. If I was her I would look for a local college or community college for some type of marketing position to recruit this potentially large money flow. Taking math classes and becoming computer literate at that age is a singular accomplishment. Her age peer group folks must think she is like a goddess.
posted by bukvich at 3:38 PM on December 27, 2011

Or what wherever, whatever said!
posted by bukvich at 3:39 PM on December 27, 2011

2nding recommendation to look at non-profits, she'd be a huge asset in a small non-profit office. If I could afford to hire someone to manage volunteers, she'd be the type of person I'd look for.

How about hospice care? They often need support people, folks to help with outreach, etc. Lots of people work (talking to families, volunteers, etc.) - and folks I know who've worked in hospice enjoy it.
posted by hms71 at 7:00 PM on December 27, 2011

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