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The Question:

I am 45 and lost my job last summer – but it was a good thing. I was already planning on leaving but they beat me to the punch. They had to pay severance and because they did not let me go with proper notice I qualified for employment insurance. The break was welcome since in the past year there were several deaths in our family and I had been the caregiver for my father until he passed.

Since I started working at 16, I've never really had to look for a job, they just happened. I don't have any formal education but I do have 20-plus years of work experience. And I need to work, unless I win the lottery! I was with this last company since 1990 in different capacities. I worked in rentals and I was the jack of all trades, from showing suites, to checking in guests, billing, helping with luggage, fixing computer or Internet issues, plumbing and the list goes on. (The company didn't believe that we needed to service our clientele but if it needed to be done during business hours or evenings, weekends I made certain it got done).

I don't know where to look for employment or to figure out what other job I can do, or how to explain my year without work.

The Answer:

I am sorry to hear that you lost your position. But it sounds like you are comfortable with this decision – just that they released you before you left them. This worked in your favour though since you received severance and you qualified for employment insurance since they let you go.

It is not unusual to be released from a company these days. You will simply want to be honest with recruiters and hiring companies that you were severed from your previous position. They will not hold this against you. They will naturally be curious about what you have done for the last year. You will want to be able to indicate to them that you have used this year wisely to upgrade your skills and to look for another appropriate position or career.

Now you need to figure out what you are going to do with respect to your career. What do you love to do? What would be a career or job or business that you would love to go to each day? Take some time to get clear on what the vision for your career is. Imagine you have your dream job. Consider working with a career coach or counsellor to help you get clear on your vision for your career.

Take stock of all of your skills, strengths, experience, gifts and talents. Write these down. Think of careers and businesses where you could apply your skills, gifts, and talents.

Do your research on the job, careers or businesses that you are interested in. Check out job and career sites for positions that appeal to you. Make a list of companies that you are interested in and check out their websites for annual reports, position descriptions, blogs and company updates.

Find out what training individuals in the careers or positions you are interested in have obtained. Look online at job postings and ads. Speak to employees, employers and business owners about the training required.

Speak to employers and staff in these businesses or companies and find out their perceptions of the industry. Ask what they are looking for in good employees.

Get the training you need to enter the new job market. Find the training and education programs through continuing education programs, colleges, polytechnical institutes and universities. You can take many courses part-time and online so that you can work at the same time.

Volunteer or do co-op job placements through education programs in the companies that you are most interested in. You can also offer to do contract, part-time or casual work to get your foot in the door.

Refine your résumé and your cover letter. Practice your interviewing and presentation skills with a friend, colleague or career coach or counsellor.

Treat finding a new job or career as your business. Get clear on what you want, do your homework or research, get the training and experience that you need, and build the networks and relationships that you need to land the new position you want.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting in Vancouver.

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