TAMPA — Hundreds of job seekers age 50 and up braved a stormy morning Tuesday to attend a job fair organized in part by AARP.
"Boy, do we want a job or what?" said MaryAnne Cunningham-Ismael, 58, as she dodged puddles in the Museum of Science and Industry parking lot, an umbrella in one hand and briefcase in the other.
Cunningham-Ismael of St. Petersburg has been on the job hunt for about a year after her latest position as a suicide prevention counselor was eliminated. Through the years, she has worked as a director of parks and recreation in Norfolk, an assistant professor in Virginia, a grant writer, even a motivational speaker.
The hunt has taught her to be flexible. "You can't look for what you had before because it's not out there," she said.
Amy Hoster, an event organizer with WiserWorker.com, said that 200 to 300 people had arrived an hour into the four-hour job fair, which began at 10 a.m. Some were clustered outside before the fair began; some waited in their cars during a downpour.
"I'd say this is the biggest turnout we've had for a Florida event … in spite of the rain," Hoster said.
Elizabeth Hmel, 59, of Parrish said it was a pleasant change to go to a job fair where most of the employer interest wasn't focused on 20-somethings. "Imagine the amount of experience in this room," she said.
In addition to booths set up by prospective employers and career-change schools, AARP conducted workshops dubbed "The Power of Promoting Yourself at 50+."
"Our main objective is to try to retool people," said Victoria Funes, associate state director with AARP Florida. "Many of them have been out of the job market for a while. Many of them have been in a job for a while. The business of looking for a job has changed."