Jan. 19--Alice Fisher was a highly educated and experienced public relations coordinator when she lost her job. Getting back into the workforce at 55 took tenacity and a willingness to try new things.
Fisher, of Monrovia, started at Carmax in early December as a sales consultant in training. Before landing the job, she said she had been out of work since June 2010.
She had decades of experience and a master's in public relations when she was let go. She had worked with a variety of nonprofits, international and federal clients.
"With the downturn of the economy, I found myself unemployed. But not only unemployed, I am an older, long-term unemployed veteran who has served her country," Fisher said. She served in the Air Force.
Some of her former colleagues were surprised that Fisher found it difficult to find a job given her experience and education.
"I know that it was not for the lack of her trying," said Rita Rich, of Rita Rich Media Services.
Fisher applied for public relations positions at the Swiss Embassy, she said, the YMCA and with government agencies. She also applied at stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.
Rich and Fisher worked together when Rich subcontracted on a project of Fisher's. They stayed in touch during her unemployment.
Rich said she thought perhaps Fisher's age and background put up a roadblock on the job search. People may have been intimidated by her experience, she said, or not known how to manage an employee with her history.
"Why hire somebody who is well-qualified to be your boss?" she said.
Fisher recommended that job seekers remove references to age in resumes to avoid ageism. She colored her hair, she said, to cover up her gray.
To make ends meet after losing her job, she relied on skills and a work ethic she said she inherited from her parents growing up on a farm in upstate New York.
She started a chicken coop and planted crops to lower food costs. She invested $110 in seeds the first summer, she said, and took up canning. She began selling the eggs, too. To keep up the farm, she would work all morning, then spend the rest of the day looking for jobs until she went to bed.
Fisher refinanced her home to lower her mortgage payments and appealed her property taxes after the market crash to save about $600 or $700 in taxes.
To reduce her bills, she also dropped her cable and Internet. She would apply for jobs at the library, she said, or use their Wi-Fi when it was closed.
Her family also looked for ways to cut expenses. When one of her daughters wanted to go to college, she helped pay for it by serving in AmeriCorps.
In the end, Fisher said that networking and staying in touch with old colleagues was the key to keeping up her morale and finding job opportunities.
She heard that Carmax was hiring when she went to cash an unemployment check at the bank. A teller told her that the company was coming to the area and would be hiring.
"Don't be afraid, don't be embarrassed if you're unemployed," she said, adding that jobseekers should always keep an eye out for new businesses and see if they need employees.
Fisher was so happy to be back at work that she cried when she was hired, she said. Telling the story, she got choked up.
"Everybody here (at Carmax) is down to earth and they're such phenomenal people," Fisher said, "I'm not through the woods yet ... but I have hope."
Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.
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