Ask Stacy: How Do I Find Work When I’m Over 50?

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When you're past your prime, finding work can be frustrating. But you can reinvent yourself. I know because I've done it.

Finding a job is never easy, but for some people, the older they get the harder it becomes.

Here’s this week’s reader question:

How about advice for us older workers who can’t find a job because of age? Those of us who are in late 50s and 60s who have been downsized or lost our jobs through no fault of our own. It’s like a game. You can’t hide your age on your application or resume.

We just want to work and contribute to ourselves and a cause. I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and been to job fairs and job-finding seminars and so have many others, but we are just not considered. Maybe you can do an article on this.
Thanks. — David

You can feel David’s frustration.

Well, David, from one older guy to another (I’m 59), I’ll try to help.

Let’s start with this news story I did a couple of years ago. Like me, it’s old, but also like me, it still works.

Forcing your way back into the labor force

For older workers, things aren’t as bad as they used to be.

According to a January 2014 AARP Public Policy Institute fact sheet concerning workers 55 and older:

  • The unemployment rate for the workforce aged 55 and older, which had risen to 5.1 percent in December, fell to 4.5 percent in January, a rate well below what it had been one year earlier, when 5.9 percent of older Americans were out of work and looking for a job.
  • An estimated 1.5 million people aged 55 and older were unemployed in January, approximately 200,000 fewer than in December and almost 460,000 fewer than the previous January.
  • The average duration of unemployment for older jobseekers fell slightly to 44.1 weeks from 45.8 weeks between December and January.

When we covered this topic back in 2012, the unemployment rate for older workers was close to 6 percent, 1.9 million workers 55 and older were unemployed, and the duration of unemployment was 56 weeks, more than a year.

Of course, this positive trend does little to help someone like David, so here’s some advice that might.

Play your age up, not down

As David points out, there’s no hiding your age in an interview, so make it an asset. Instead of focusing on the number, highlight what comes with it: your experience and reliability. Career counselor Vernon Bailey, interviewed in the video above, added, “Younger people might not have that experience, and you’re demonstrating you can do it, because you’ve already done it.”

Imagine being an employer and finding someone with the energy, flexibility and modern knowledge of youth, but with the vast experience of an older worker. There’s nothing stopping you from becoming that person. It’s a lot easier for us to develop the attitude of youth than it is for them to earn our experience.

Learn tech

If anyone thinks you’re “behind the times” or “out of touch,” prove them wrong. If octogenarian media mogul @RupertMurdoch can learn to use Twitter, so can you.

Behind on industry-specific skills and software? Brush up with some courses or teach yourself. AARP WorkSearch, one of the resources we mentioned in “4 Places for Free Job Training,” has an education and training section to help you decide what’s right for you and where you can get it. And don’t forget to use the resources your tax dollars are paying for at your state’s career center. That’s where we found Vernon Bailey.

Settle for less – at first

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