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Career choices late in life. At a crossroads AGAIN at 55


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Yup...I'm 55. And I do not have a "career' per say. My parents never guided me towards college or any kind of profession. So I have just taken on various jobs throughout my life in order to pay my bills. Never could afford real college as I went to the local community college for 1.5 years and stopped because I could no longer afford it. 

My partner has a career as a mechanical engineer. He has been at his current employer for over 10 years now and has always held pretty much the same position in other companies he has worked for. He makes a great salary, one that I know I will never make of course. 

Since we have been together (5 years) I have switched jobs countless times for a couple reasons. When he met me I was making good money and supporting myself and paying my mortgage. That job became so stressful I had to quit. My work load increased and cause me to have panic attacks on a regular basis. So that ended that. I found another job within two weeks and worked there for 3 years. It also paid well but I was not happy with the work I was doing. The company was a small family owned business that OVER OVER charged their customers INCREDIBLY for their services. I hated myself while I was there as I felt so horrible about the work I was doing. I was helping this company to rake money out of peoples pockets for simple repair services they could have had done for HALF and it wasn't right. Their technicians were so horrible and irresponsible with the work they did I couldn't continue working for them. So I quit. I needed to find a job that ENRICHED the lives of others and also made me feel good about what I was doing. Something that I truly believed in. SO I decided to get into caregiving services. I started working for this agency a year ago now and although I love what I do, the agency is HORRIBLE to their clients and their employees. The pay is horrendous and they provided literally NO training. No one to call for support if you need help with a client. The first client they set me up with was a woman with severe depression and mood swings (which they failed to tell me about in her assessment). However over the past year we have bonded and we really truly enjoy each other and I have learned to deal with her issues and try to help her through them. 

Well just last week she was admitted to the ER for cellulitis and I am now being told she will be placed in assisted living so this will be the end us. I was the only one who cared for her over the past year as her sister is older and worse off than she is. Her nephew comes by once a week to grab her bills and write her checks out and that is it. Not the nicest family I have to say and they seem quite uncaring regarding her. Anyway. Here we are. She is no longer under my care and I worry about her. Now I am struggling with whether I want to stick with this agency and take on more clients or move on to something else. 

Talking to my partner he is supportive. He tells me to not worry and that I will find something else. How many times has he had to tell me that over the past 5 years though. I feel stupid. So I am left questioning myself and why I can't seem to find my "niche" in life. I have never known what it means to NOT work for a living and have always had at least one full time job in addition to part time work. I expect for anyone to pay my bills never have. 

I'm 55 and I don't know where to go from here. I feel stuck. 

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You can always recreate yourself. I left my former employer and went into business for myself. 
 

Why not create a business such as getting groceries or necessities for the elderly or disabled etc for a fee? Or there is a fellow in my town that will pick up take out for people for a $5 fee. 
 

Think outside the box. 

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I just started a new job at 54. It's not a new career but it's not easy to job hunt when you're our age!

If you enjoy caregiving, could you work independently instead of through an agency? I would presume there would be licensing and insurance requirements so that might not appeal to you. My plan is when I get older to do part time work, probably two jobs, to make ends meet. Like in a hotel gift shop and maybe do deliveries. 

I hope you find something you enjoy.

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So I am 54 and I hope you don't blame your parents for your choices the last 30 years- you're an adult, you make your own choices and yes some people have more obstacles to professional growth because of upbringing -for example if parents can't help with college tuition or won't let their child live at home without working full time after high school which makes pursuing college harder, etc.  I think having a job and making your own money is an accomplishment in and of itself. 

So here's what I would do - I would find volunteer work that you find fulfilling - soul lifting, rewarding.  That might lead to a paying career/job (I mean keep your actual job but find fulfillment through volunteering) but even if not you'll feel like you're making a real contribution.  My parents were always supportive of my career ambitions and paid for college but college was extremely inexpensive (about 4k total for the 4 years which is of course much less than most college tuitions) - but I had to make my own way/face my own fears and challenges especially about grad school. 

My parents were equally supportive of my sister's education and career and she ended up taking a very different non-career path (but she did raise 4 kids in 20 years - quite a career in itself, despite being non-paying!) and remade herself as a health care provider in her late 40s/early 50s.  People have all sorts of paths like the song by the (Dixie) Chicks "taking the long way around".

Please don't compare yourself to your boyfriend -different person/different skills/different choices.   

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How about starting your own business doing something you like?  I have been self employed for about 25 years and would not have it any other way.  The thought of working for someone else makes me sick.

My husband and I run an online business that is quite successful and it lets us work our own hours, take time off when we feel a need and to go on a vacation in the winter when things are slower.  It's the best of all worlds.

 

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 I am 50 now but worked a number of years in Healthcare as well.. Had some really nice people I worked with, a cpl with physical disabilities, a few with mental and a good amount of elderly and/or palliative (end of life).  Could be stressful for sure, but like you, I had a good few who became like my fave's  😉 .

If you are not working well with the company you are with now, don't have choice to goto a different one?  There were a number of one's around here.

 

Especially if you really like that kind of work ❤️ .. Then that's something to consider .

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If you have to ask yourself or here on this forum whether or not you should remain at the agency, then obviously, you're not completely satisfied.  Since you can afford to quit your job due to your supportive partner, then try a trade school or vocational school which doesn't take long to complete their programs. 

Since your tend to gravitate towards helping people which I commend you for, vocational education is a quick way to enter the healthcare field which will always be in high demand.  Perhaps try medical assisting (back office), medical administration (front office), pharmacy assistant, dental assisting (back office) or dental administration (front office), dental  hygienist, medical billing / coding, respiratory therapist and if you're willing, surgical assistant.  However, it's ultimately your decision.

 

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Sorry this is happening. Do you live together?

Unfortunately, you seem depressed. So it's not about your neighbors or jobs or friends or partner or childhood.

Don't be afraid to get to a physician for an evaluation of mood s, anxiety and sustained, pervasive unhappiness in several areas of your life.

Get a referral to a therapist for ongoing support.

 

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My FIL became a nurse in his early 50's and makes bank now, after endless odd jobs his whole life.  At 45, my mom started a now multi-million dollar business out of her garage after being a housewife for 25 years.  People can start over as many times as they want.  But always remember, it's not any place or work's responsibility to make you feel fulfilled.  Nor was it your parent's job to "guide" you on going to college.  Self Initiation (Self-Starter) that's the magic ingredient that you can't teach - it's either you are or aren't - you are accountable for your life.  You are accountable for your happiness.  Blaming your parents, a business for your own inability to keep a job, it's not on them.  You just have the luxury of falling back on a supportive husband.  I guarantee if you didn't have your husband to take care of you, you'd probably be a lot more motivated to keep your job.  I don't mean to be harsh, but try gratitude.  Accept the fact you may never find a job fulfilling.  And do things that don't equate to doing passion = paycheck.  Like another poster suggested, volunteer, get a hobby you enjoy, start a club.  Find happiness in other outlets.  And let a job be a job.  

If you are having nervous breakdowns from a job you think makes you look good, maybe getting a fancy job is not right for you.  Get one that is okay, gets you out of the house, and you can save with your pay, a vacation or two with it that's on your bucket list.  Travel can be something to look forward to.  As archaic as it maybe, it's okay for your hubs to be the breadwinner.  And it doesn't make you stupid!!!  Comparing yourself to others is a lost cause.

Edited by tattoobunnie
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My parents never emphasized education either.  They were too overwhelmed just trying to survive day to day without any long term goals for the future. 

My late father punched my mother's teeth out and left her heavily in debt ($350K), a young widow of 3 small children to raise all by herself which she did.  She worked 3 jobs 7 days a week to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.  My mother never filed for bankruptcy and saved her house!  Her house value increased by 400%. 

There was no time, attention nor energy for pity pot moods or the "woe is me" indulgent luxury. 

When I was 18 years old, I financially supported my single parent mother and helped raise my younger siblings while employed full time night shifts while enrolled in school by day.  I did this for years and it was a miracle that I was never assaulted nor robbed while making a mad dash to the dark parking lot at 1AM and never carjacked as I was the lone car commuting all the way home. I subsisted on 3 hours sleep for many years.  I typed term papers on the kitchen table at 3AM and reported to my first class at 7AM. 

My mother was made out of steel as was I.  I think in many ways, some women are much tougher than men. 

My mother taught me to be a financially strong and independent woman. 

I was subject to layoff by a mean supervisor and within 24 hours I attained a new job in another department, outranking and out earning my previous colleagues and management. 

Within a few years, I married, have two amazing sons and the white picket fence in a coveted suburb. 

I could've felt sorry for myself.  I could've blamed my parents for my painfully tumultuous  childhood yet what good would that do?  Would it help my situation?  If all I did was constantly ruminate, today, I would've been stuck in an apartment in a crime riddled city making minimum wage and living an abysmal, hopeless, miserable existence.  I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet and marry my husband and reside in my current house.  I would've remained in my very low socioeconomic class forever.  I didn't want that type of life for me because it wouldn't suffice and it wasn't good enough.  I've always wanted the best in life always ~ despite not starting out idyllically.  

You always have to pull yourself up in order to succeed.  Then when you enter a party or cocktail party, you, too can be one of the winners of an exclusive membership to a club of hard workers who are moving up in the world.  No one can wish their life away.  You have to take action in order to live the dream.  It is very possible if you have a vision and become serious about becoming a high achiever. 

Edited by Cherylyn
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I think you have a couple of options: To keep it simple, you can either obtain the required training for caregiving services and healthcare or you can channel your need to help through volunteer work and find another way to earn a paycheque (that doesn't drain you).

It's going to be tough working anywhere if you become so attached to your clients on a deeply emotional level. I understand empathy is crucial anywhere a person goes but you seem very upset about systems that may be hard to change. I find it very hard working at a close level with people especially one on one because I'm affected a lot by what people say or what they feel so I understand what you're saying. I see my younger brother regularly and he works in a hospital. When he's down, I can feel it and he tells me about his day or who he lost that morning or what's going on. He is trained to deal with this and although it bothers him, he's able to put it in perspective and still carry on functioning as a professional. I think if you're very certain about wanting to work in caregiving or healthcare, then consider vocational training. You may be better able to manage the stress in that field.

This part stood out to me below because I also think it's important or vital to express some meaning in life. If that means enriching the lives of others through volunteering or giving back to the community, that may be far more rewarding than earning a paycheque through it at the same time. 

Quote

 I needed to find a job that ENRICHED the lives of others and also made me feel good about what I was doing.

 

 

Edited by Rose Mosse
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Is health insurance important to you, and does the agency offer this benefit?

I've worked as a consultant or a contractor for various firms, and regardless of what I though of them, my focus was always on the assignments they offered and what I could bring to those.

There will always be something 'wrong' with an employer. So it's up to each of us to weight the pros and cons of the experiences they offer, and that's a checklist that nobody here can prescribe.

Big thank you for your investment in care and concern for others. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you. No benefits. I am finding that most of these small little home care agencies don't offer benefits due to the fact they don't have enough employees to make it affordable. And you are right. There is no perfect job. I think I will just keep doing what I am doing and see if I can just take on more clients. 

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18 minutes ago, Willowgirl55 said:

Thank you. No benefits. I am finding that most of these small little home care agencies don't offer benefits due to the fact they don't have enough employees to make it affordable. And you are right. There is no perfect job. I think I will just keep doing what I am doing and see if I can just take on more clients. 

I am lucky to be covered under my husband’s benefits so I can afford to not have a benefit plan of my own. but I would keep shopping around for something you would like that has benefits. 

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I think one thing you should get used to in caregiving is that people will come and go and you can't take it personally. You can't get too attached to your clients or be friends with them. If you lose one client for whatever reason, you should try to get a new one. End of the day this is a job and once a client moved on is when your work with them is completely over. If you don't like this agency then apply for a different place. If you enjoyed being a carer then why not give it more of a chance, but somewhere else.

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On 3/16/2021 at 5:13 PM, Cherylyn said:

You always have to pull yourself up in order to succeed.

Yup.  And I see it as my obligation to help pull others up (which was underscored over 20 years ago when a famous person -not a corporate type -a public servant - gave a speech at my grad school event and implored us to help others up the ladder -and not necessarily "corporate ladder" -I took it to heart.  I am 54 and just a month ago I helped my friend's son's new girlfriend with job advice and resume advice.  I do that regularly and I suggest to you - even though you are now the one who needs assistance do what you can for others.

I was a teacher so I get a little part of the helping others part but I wanted to add - I have heard so many health care workers speak about their pandemic related experiences this past year - authentically, genuinely and yes how some of them became so emotional, cried, were overwhelmed.  Wow - I mean of course - I cannot imagine!! -especially those women who left their family to go to let's say NYC and help there, etc etc.  But overall I was in awe of their inner strength, their resolve not to let it get to them so they could be present for their patients, for the patients' families who couldn't even say a proper goodbye or any goodbye to their loved ones.  I am so thankful for them but I write this because it showed me how very important it is for the health care workers to stay strong so they can serve their patients and help their coworkers.  It's not for everyone.  It's not for me, for sure. So consider your purposes in doing this work and whether you're up for the battle of having to maintain that strength.

No job is perfect.  Mine doesn't give benefits- like Seraphim I get those from my husband.  For 15 years I worked more than full time in amazingly intense corporate america - made the big $$ had benefits, but could rarely take my vacation time.  I have no regrets -even though it was so stressful, sometimes took a toll on my health, I was harassed at times, it was trial by fire, etc.  No regrets  I amassed my nest egg, became financially independent, stretched myself, learned a lot about myself and being a manager (not my favorite role) and it helped me be a better mom (I quit 9 days before I gave birth).  It wasn't perfect at all.

  I never thought any job would be and my thank you was my paycheck - I know these days I see a lot of younger people feeling entitled to a level of work-life balance, a level of care while on the job, that it never would have occurred to me was something to ask for let alone feel entitled to.  Maybe they are correct since like I said it can take a toll on your health  But there's something about pulling yourself up and showing yourself what your'e made of no matter who your parents were or weren't etc - it's quite satisfying and I pay it forward often!

Good luck and I don't think this profession is right for you if you are going to mix business with pleasure to this extent - if you think you can strive for that inner strength and compartmentalizing that would be great because you're so caring and giving and we need more people like you in that profession!

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2 hours ago, Tinydance said:

I think one thing you should get used to in caregiving is that people will come and go and you can't take it personally. You can't get too attached to your clients or be friends with them. If you lose one client for whatever reason, you should try to get a new one. End of the day this is a job and once a client moved on is when your work with them is completely over. If you don't like this agency then apply for a different place. If you enjoyed being a carer then why not give it more of a chance, but somewhere else.

Same in my business.

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You seem to have a lot of empathy. Empathy itself is a good thing but too much of it in caregiving fields will suck you dry. I think you'll continue to struggle with finding your niche and finding a job that isn't too stressful if you don't rectify this. I work in healthcare and no, I don't "love" my patients. I do what is right by them and then I go home. If you internalize people's emotional struggles, problems, and dramas, you are in for a very rough ride no matter where you work. Ultimately, you'll get burned out or too stressed and you'll be pressed into leaving. 

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