Customer graduates from college and starts new career at age 42

It’s Workforce Wednesday, when we tell Power of a Job success stories. This week, we bring you Carolyn Wiggen, who works for Employment Security — a partner in the WorkSource system.

I’m a web application developer at Employment Security. About four years ago, I found myself going through a divorce. I lost the business I was helping to run and build. I lost every financial source I had and I lost my home. I had two children to support and didn’t know what I was going to do.

I immediately got on every assistance program I could while looking for a job. I hadn’t had a job for years because all I was doing was working at our business. Without a job, I went, “Oh no! What am I going to do?”

While looking for a job, I was on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) because I had children and needed to get back to work. TANF told me I had to go to WorkSource. There, I met with a lovely woman while doing check-ins every day. It didn’t take me long to start looking at all the different programs and options available to me.

One of my girlfriends already had suggested going back to college. My previous career was just not going to sufficiently support me and two children. It just wasn’t going to do it. I knew I had to make a change.

One of the things available to me was college.  If I was enrolled, I’d still qualify for different assistance programs. Sounded good to me! I always had been drawn toward websites and design, but I didn’t have the knowledge and experience to get a job doing that. Computer programming was one of the qualifying programs, so I started my college career while still working with WorkSource to meet the requirements to stay on the program.

It was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. I graduated from college, which I had never done before. Forty-two years old and I graduated from college! That’s crazy! Who would have thought?

I ended up getting a job at Employment Security, where the WorkSource program is. I started as an [information technology specialist]1, and I just became an IT3. I couldn’t be happier!

It was a struggle. My kids were very patient, very understanding and supportive. I have an 18-year-old daughter, and while it was tough to go through all the things I did, I think it really set a great example for her. I see her starting college this year and it means just a little bit more because she got to see her mom go through the same thing. She knows the importance of bettering yourself and taking advantage of these wonderful programs out there. And she’ll know what it feels like to do something awesome and be able to say: “Hey, look! I did that!” I hope that someday my youngest daughter will be able to see the value in all of that, as well.

And if there’s anybody out there like me in a similar situation, I hope they can see the value in these programs and think: “I can do that, too. It’s achievable. I can do anything I set my mind to do! There’s this wonderful program out there that’s going to help me do it!”

As a partner in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job.  We also work with businesses, which are Powered by Jobs, to help them find employees.

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