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Over 50 and Unemployed. There is Hope!

Although it is often more difficult to get a job after age 50, donít despair, there is hope. You should feel encouraged by your years of acquired knowledge and depth of experience. Following is a brief picture of the realities in todayís marketplace, the myths and truths facing the older American worker, and what you can do to enhance your employment opportunities.

The Realities:

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and The Older Worker Benefit Protection Act Amendment added in 1990 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. This protection applies to both employees and job applicants. By 2005, there will be about 55 million workers age 45 or older, or about 37% of the labor force. According to Susan Imei, ERIC Clearinghouse, by 2005 people age 55 and over are projected to be nearly 20% of the working age population compared to 12.5% in 1990. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2005, there will be 30% more older persons working and 30% more older workers unemployed. By 2010, the aging Baby Boomer generation will have dramatically increased the number of unemployed over 50, many of whom will be economically disadvantaged.

Myths and the Truths:

Myth: Older workers are unwilling or unable to learn new skills:

Truth: People over 50 are consistently enrolling in self-improvement and skill enhancement courses, and are usually willing to embrace new ideas.

Myth: Older people are more likely to become ill or disabled and take more sick days.

Truth: Attendance records are actually better for older workers than younger professionals. In their book Successful Aging, authors John W. Rowe, M.D., and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D reported that older people are much more likely to age well than to be dependent. In the age group between 65 and 74, an amazing 89% reported no disability of any type. Extensive research has found no link between increased age and decreased job performance or absenteeism.

Myth: Older workers will not stay with a company very long.

Truth: In 1998 the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out that workers between the ages of 45 and 54 stayed on the job twice as long as those 25 to 34.

Myth: You donít teach old dogs new tricks.

Truth: In order to grow and become successful older workers have learned to adapt and accept change. They have acquired the knowledge Ė the seasoning Ė to better deal with failure and disappointment bringing stability and maturity to new situations.

Myth: Older workers are going to cost a company more money.

Truth: Older workers tend to be more stable and thus remain on the job longer than their younger counterparts. This translates to lower recruitment, hiring, and training costs. Older people also tend to be more consistent and are less likely to require constant supervision.

Myth: Older people have poor memories.

Truth: A Stanford University study found that, regardless of age, we lose about 75% of what we learn within 48 hours Ė unless we utilize the information. Workers over 50 are as apt to retain information as are younger workers.

What You Can Do:

  • Donít allow yourself to be a victim. Your skills have helped you to be successful in the past. They will help you to be successful in the future. Believe in yourself and donít become discouraged.

  • Empower yourself with optimism and embrace change. Let employers know that you are adaptable, versatile, and welcome challenge.

  • Focus on smaller companies, even if youíve spent your entire career working for large corporations. Smaller companies are less likely to discriminate based on age. They are more concerned with your ability to help them solve problems and make money.

  • Concentrate your efforts on networking and recognize that you can network with people you donít even know. Many executives are receptive to networking if you are not abusive of their time.

  • Consider a different job function or different industry. Be prepared to identify your transferable skills and package them so they can appeal to someone in a different field.

  • Do not apologize for your age and donít patronize a younger manager.

  • Consider doing consulting or project work. Companies donít usually extend benefits or pay Social Security taxes for consultants. You can save them money. Look at part-time opportunities and Temporary Agencies that specialize in your area of skill.

  • Emphasize your achievements and stress examples of loyalty in your previous employment. Show the employer that you will not have a long learning curve and that you can grasp and accept new concepts easily.

  • Be energetic. Try to look and act young. Exercise, get enough sleep, and eat sensibly. Show excitement about the opportunity. Employers will not hire you if you appear lethargic and lack enthusiasm. You can be 65 and look and act as if you are 50.

  • If you are being interviewed for a position you want, ask for the job. Send a thank you letter within 24 hours and call to extend a personalized thank you within 2 days.
  • - Lawrence Alter

    "Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques. Send ideas or questions via email to: Website address: www.EmploymentClinic. © Copyright 2008 Lawrence Alter. All rights reserved.

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