How Can I Get and Keep A Good Job?


I have had five jobs in the last three years only to be fired from all of them because I couldn’t learn the job as quickly as the new employer expected me to. I am 60 years old, a substitute teacher, and trying to find a full time job with better pay.

It seems that I am not an easy fit for typical low paying common jobs at businesses. Employers today seem to have very little patience–they expect a new hire to catch on very quickly and perform almost flawlessly from the get-go.

I really need to increase my income–but I don’t know what job to try for next. And, I am very aware that there lots of unemployed people out there fishing for few unfilled positions. I don’t feel that I have ever found a successful niche in a work place. I don’t have a lot of time for more hired/then fired dead ends. I’m also broke. Suggestions?




Dear Searching:

If you have been fired from five jobs although you are educated and intelligent enough to be a substitute teacher, it could be that there is more to the situation than you realize or fully understand or accept.

Ken Blanchard has written in several of his books about the concept of work readiness. He said it takes two components: Willingness to do the work and Ability to do the work. He also writes about the two necessities for the complete picture of good work: Performance and Behavior.

You may be trying to work in jobs that simply do not fit your aptitudes or skills. Or, it could be that interpersonal issues create more problems than skill issues. There may be problems with use of sick time or punctuality. You know better than we do exactly what happened in each job and how long it took before things fell apart. So, your best advice will be from someone with whom you can fully explore your employment/unemployment problem.

You will benefit from working with someone closer to home who can get to know you, perhaps administer some skill and aptitude tests, review any materials you have from former jobs that might indicate more about why you were fired, and understand your overall situation better.

Check the Internet or phone book to see if there is job counseling provided by any government agency, perhaps by the Department of Labor for your state, or by a social services agency or retired person’s group. You are still young at age 60, but would technically be considered a “senior”, so consider if there is a group for seniors in your area that might provide some service. Recently the AARP had an article in their magazine about finding employment after retirement, so others have the same interest and concern that you do and there may be information that could help you.

An employment agency also has resources for finding out about job fit, since it is to their benefit for employees to do well after being hired, if employers work with them to find employees.

Or, simply talk to a trusted friend who understands the world of business and the professions and ask for his or her perception about what might be contributing to your work issues and how you might overcome them. If you are substituting in upper level grades, it might even be helpful to talk to a vocational counselor you know. One thing that occurs to me is that you are looking for work in jobs that don’t fit your type of thought processes or the approaches to work that have been your habits for decades. As a result, you have trouble learning the skills needed or adjusting to requirements that are much different than those to which you are accustomed. For example, a person may be excellent at creative work but not be able to make change or sell a consumer item. Or, someone may be considered a great employee for clerical work but not for work that requires complex decision making or a job that involves extreme time pressure. A substitute teacher or a full-time teacher, would likely have a different approach to a work day than someone who has worked in a clothing store for years or worked in a florist’s shop.

It may be that you don’t particularly like the jobs you take, even though you need them to make a living, and as a result you don’t try as hard to learn the required knowledge and skills as you might otherwise.

Those are just guesses on my part–which is why working with someone who could really get to know you would be most helpful.

One last thought: If there is a temporary employment agency near you, check that as an employment option. I have known people who stayed steadily employed with temporary work for years. I have also known several people who started out as temps and were hired full time later on.

Best wishes to you as you seek your niche. There IS employment for you that will help you feel more fulfilled and happy about life and work and in which you can be a strong contributor. It may not be what you expect and it may require something more from you than is convenient in the way of performance or behavior or commuting distance or similar issues. But, it’s out there somewhere. Easy for me to say, I know! I’m hoping you will make that optimistic vision a reality very soon. Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.