A later-in-life career at Work Opportunities means you can have your cake and eat it, too

Mary Craumer is at an age when most people wind down their careers and start enjoying life. Mary, though, decided that it was the right time to go back to school for a master’s degree and start a new career. She wasn’t going to settle for any career, though. She wanted one that satiated her need to feel purposeful while also allowing her the flexibility to live her life to the fullest. She found both at Work Opportunities.

Where do you work?

I’m a Career Resource Specialist in the West Palm Beach, Florida office of Work Opportunities and have been here for a year and a half now.

What brought you to South Florida?

When I was younger, I went to Alaska because it seemed the last venturesome place in America. I started out working in the National Parks System in the summer, and when I decided I wanted to stay, I got a scholarship to get a teaching certificate. I taught in the Alaskan Bush above the Arctic Circle for 11 years and then got married and was a stay-at-home mom while I followed my husband’s career. We lived on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and then moved to Massachusetts, northern Virginia, Austin, and finally ended up in South Florida.

What brought you to Work Opportunities?

When my children were at the age when they didn’t need the same level of attention and care, I decided to go to school for my master’s degree in social work. I knew I wanted to work in the field, so I went to a social work job fair at Florida Atlantic University just as I was finishing up my MSW and met WOU CRS Jenni Paine. I learned about Work Opportunities and liked its mission and commitment to employment for all. I also liked the fact that I didn’t need to make a full-time commitment to the job; I could work part time and still have the flexibility to enjoy my hobbies.

Do you think being of a more mature age helps or hinders your career at Work Opportunities?

Oh, it definitely helps. The learning curve on the technology side was a bit steep for me, but the support from the other team members and from my manager, Sue Abel, has been terrific. Like other people my age, I have a lot of wisdom and life experience, but retirement can be boring. I mean, there’s only so much time you can spend at the gym or playing Mahjong. My job makes me feel purposeful and meaningful, and everyone I talk to about my job says, “That’s cool! I want to do that!”

What has working at Work Opportunities taught you?

I work with people who are absolutely thrilled to have their jobs, and I see joy in their joy and in their happiness in doing that job well. It’s helped me redefine happiness and I’ve learned gratitude from them.

Do you still feed your adventuresome spirit?

Absolutely! During a recent trip to Europe, I followed the trail of the WWII western liberation battles and attended the D-Day 75th anniversary memorial in Normandy. I then went onto Ireland and hiked. I like to go places that are meaningful. Portugal and Spain are next.