Aging Today November–December 2019
How to land that late-life job: tips from a nonprofit executive
may do the same for many others. “Volun- teering says a lot about your character,” writes career expert Kerry Hannon in the article “Six Reasons You Should Volunteer Your Way to a Job” ( tinyurl.com/y32w3djt ). “It’s a clear indication of your willing- ness to learn new things, contribute and provide hands-on help in situations where organizations are understaffed and lacking resources. In fact, Hannon writes, “four in ten professionals that LinkedIn surveyed stated that when they evaluate candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.” I started my nonprofit job search by defin- ing a clear goal and an easy-to-remember talking point: “I’d like to work for an orga- nization supporting women’s develop- ment.” I made sure friends and colleagues knew I was on the hunt. That combination of articulating my mission and activating my network worked beautifully. An FWA colleague sent me The Transition Net- work’s job description, another FWA col- league encouraged the leaders to inter- ‘My off-the-job experience and connections made all the difference for me.’ Articulate Your Mission, Activate Your Network view me and a third provided a strong recommendation. People with decades of experience in the workforce have a wide professional network and many connections from their daily lives. A doctor, former boss or fellow food bank volunteer can make a life-changing introduction when they connect your “ask” with their networks. A casual conversation also can lead to a job offer. True story: Earlier, I had men- tored a graduate student who earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs. She was standing in a checkout line with her dog, chatting with the woman behind her. She happened to mention her job search to the woman (a fellow dog-lover and nonprofit While access to competent, confiden- tial and compassionate care is vital for all patients, too often long-term-care facili- ties ignore their older adult residents’ mental health and social needs in favor of focusing solely on their physical health needs. This must change. Strategies for Change In 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, assisted by the EDC, developed a comprehensive resource, Promoting Emotional Health and Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for Senior Liv- ing Communities ( tinyurl.com/yytat5z9 ). The toolkit contains resources relevant to any type of senior living community, in- cluding nursing homes, assisted living fa- cilities, independent living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. The toolkit’s sections detail specific goals and steps staff members, depart- ments and residents at a facility can take to prevent suicide. Information is target- ed to professional and paraprofessional and isolation can be modified with proper diagnosis, treatment and attention.
By Betsy Werley I n April 2005, at age 49, I shook hands with Chase Manhattan Bank on a sev- erance package for my 18 years of ser- vice and set out to launch a nonprofit ca- reer. Amonth later, I shook handswithThe TransitionNetwork ( tinyurl.com/y5p9jvrh ), a nonprofit for women ages 50 and older whowant to explorewhat’s next, as its first executive director and only full-time employee. Eight years later, I moved to Encore.org, where I’ve been ever since. I admit that transitioning from the corporate world to the nonprofit sector isn’t as easy as I make it sound. For many people, it seems an impossible feat. How can they show a future employer that they can translate their skills from a prof- it-driven organization to one with a more altruistic mission? In the past decade, I’ve talked with hundreds of people looking to make a midlife career transition. I’ve thought about what worked for me and learned what worked for others. Here is my analysis: Those who are successful mix several elements: they vol- unteer—both on the job and off the job; they articulate what they’re looking for— the missions that inspire them and-or the skills they want to use; they rally their network and their network’s networks; they get a foot in the door; and they’re willing to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Volunteering Has Value In my 30s, I had decided to invest time in volunteering to learn new skills, meet people and create opportunities. I volun- teered for start-up mentoring programs at Chase. And I became a leader, then presi- dent, of the Financial Women’s Associa- tion (FWA), a professional development organization with an active mentoring program. These experiences provided the skills and connections I had hoped for— and inspired me to look for work with a nonprofit organization. My off-the-job experience and connec- tions made all the difference for me—and While certain specific characteristics of suicide may not always apply directly to long-term-care facilities, other means of suicide that may apply include refusal to eat or take medications, intentional fall- ing and lack of engagement. These means often are preventable and require the at- tention of trained, capable staff to ensure older adults in long-term-care-facilities are closely monitored for physical, social and mental health needs. Although it may be beyond the EDC’s purview to decrease access to lethal means, it is important to increase aware- ness of the fact that depression is not a normal part of aging. In fact, aging is associated with increases in emotional well-being and improved relationship sat- isfaction. In contrast, internalizing age- ism and negative attitudes toward aging are associated with poor health and well- being and even premature mortality. Depression is diagnosable—there are treatments that work and recovery is pos- sible. Similarly, pain, substance misuse Suicide prevention in LTC › continued from page 1
board chair), and eventually was hired as that nonprofit’s executive director. A Raised Hand, a Foot in the Door Volunteer projects and a foot in the door led to my job at Encore.org. During my time at The Transition Network, I raised my hand for an Encore-led committee and supported an Encore teammember’s book launch, becoming a valued collaborator. Thanks to those connections, I was invit- ed to join the Encore team as a part-time fellow, and later to become an employee. The “foot in the door” approach re- quires strategy—networking to connect with a target organization, defining a proj- ectwith impact, engagingwith teammem- bers and showcasing results. Special proj- ects, start-up programs and fellowships (internships for grownups) open doors. One of my favorite success stories: A friend volunteered to help a local hospital launch a pet care program. Seeing the program’s success and appeal to potential patients, the hospital hired her to manage its expansion. Swimming in a Smaller Pond Organization size matters in your encore job search. My jack-of-all-trades back- ground (corporate law, business, volunteer leadership roles) provided hit-the-ground- running skills to The Transition Network, a fast-growing organization with a $0 training budget. staff across all departments, from the ex- ecutive director to social work staff to groundskeepers. While everyone in a se- nior living community has a role to play in promoting emotional health and prevent- ing suicide, each component of the toolkit Older adults are more intentional when they make a decision to end their lives. has a specific target audience and includes instructions on how these components should be used ( tinyurl.com/y6fbjvxj ). Also sorely needed is data-driven evi- dence to inform suicide prevention strate- gies in long-term-care facilities. It is known that older adults are more inten- tional in making decisions to end their lives, often using highly lethal means such as suffocation, poisoning or firearms. (In contrast, among younger populations there are 100 to 200 suicide attempts for each death by suicide; ( tinyurl.com/y3en kyeq .) For older adults, there is one death for every four suicide attempts; and in-
Experienced professionals have deep knowledge and connections that let them contribute to a smaller organization as mentors, advisors and connectors to their networks, as well as in their areas of ex- ‘A doctor, former boss or fellow food bank volunteer can make a life-changing introduction.’ pertise. If they want to move from a big job to a more defined role in a smaller or- ganization, their experience gives them negotiating leverage for flexible schedules or part-time work. Lots of my friends say I got lucky with my job search. And there’s an ele- ment of truth to that. But my luck was built on a simple foundation—volunteer experiences, multiple networks, an ea- gerness to step right in and the humil- ity to start small. That’s a foundation available to many late-life job seekers when they unearth the buried treasure of their volunteer service and a lifetime of connections. n Betsy Werley is the director of network expansion at Encore.org . She is an ASA member and a member of ASA’s Corps of Accomplished Professionals (CAPs), which offers a ready-made network and resources to define next steps in any such transition. For information on CAPs and resources from Encore, go to tinyurl.com/y6p8ex88 . stances of recovery from these attempts are less likely, given that older adults are more isolated and often in frail health. In truth, the simplest measure for pro- fessionals who work with older adults liv- ing in long-term-care facilities is to treat these elders as if they were their own par- ents, grandparents or neighbors. Connect- edness, engagement and compassion, plus a focus on people’s mental and physical health needs, are vitally important for resi- dents’ recovery andwell-being. Profession- als must remain mindful that care transitions are a time of enhanced risk, either when entering a long-term care- facility or upondischarge, and suchperiods call for heightened awareness. These vul- nerable older adults deserve nothing less. n Jerry Reed, Ph.D., M.S.W., is a senior vice president for Practice Leadership at the Education Development Center, in Wash- ington, D.C. He is an executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public−private part- nership formed to advance the goals and objectives of the U.S. National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
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