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Being an Older Jobseeker Ain’t No Picnic

June 29, 2010 6:54 PM

“Companies are starting to hire again, but many are turning their backs on older job seekers.” That’s the opening line from an article yesterday on CNN.com, which ran a headline announcing Job Blues for Gray-haired Workers.

If you’re over 40 and out of work, that’s hardly a news bulletin.

Even though the national unemployment rate among older workers is lower than that of younger workers, none of the recent gains in hiring have occurred for the older bracket.

Where are all the equal-opportunity employers and why don’t more (or any) business leaders truly embrace the philosophy of the founder of outdoor clothing giant Patagonia?

"I'd search out older women as employees. Ones that have already raised families and are looking for something to do. These people have lived with a budget. They are aggressive. They are honest. You can't find better employees. They are one of the most underused resources in America," Mr. Yvon Chouinard told Inc. Magazine when asked what he’d do to create a top company if he were just starting now.

I posted this quote on Facebook.com/Tory and received more than 50 responses. Clearly my follows agree. (See a small sampling below.)

We agree on something else too: Too many employers give lip service to this concept—and it’s got to stop right now. What good is a country—or a company—that abandons its older workers?

Don’t get me wrong: We’ve built Women For Hire based on the premise that many organizations are very serious about diverse women of all ages and we have celebrated thousands of successful hires over the years. We salute those employers and the daily decision makers who open their doors to diversity.

Yet, for all the progress, we still receive frequent calls from recruiters and headhunters who ask for our help in hiring single women. “You know, women without kids and other baggage, who can work long hours and travel as needed.”

We don’t respond too kindly. I’m a married woman with kids and I travel often and work long often, often seven days a week. On the flip side, I have plenty of single friends who are slackers on the job. Marital and parental status certainly don’t define career commitment.

There are many phenomenal organizations devoted to career development of older workers. (By the way, I’ll turn 40 in September and I can’t believe that qualifies me as “older.” Yikes.) I’m a big fan of Encore Careers, iRelaunch and AARP. Inspiration can be found in a variety of places. Merrill Lynch recently launched a series called help2retire that’s moderated by my old GMA pal Charlie Gibson and focuses on reinventing retirement. Job-Hunt.org offers a whole section on job searching for older workers.

We’d like you to share your best advice and resources. What’s helped you to overcome the stereotypes of older workers?

Another smart solution we're seeing: More and more women, especially older women, are starting small businesses. Sometimes called boomerpreneurs, they're refusing to pursue another traditional position, only to be laid off again, except at an even later age. So they're securing their financial future by using their collective wisdom, experience and contacts to launch new ventures.

If you're one of those current or aspiring "hip old ladies" as one blogger put it, I'd love to see you at next month's Spark & Hustle National Conference. Let's loudly and proudly get you going to greater success as a business owner or solopreneur.

(If you need help financially, email me at tory@sparkandhustle.com for partial scholarship details.)

The more we talk and act constructively about this issue, as opposed to saying "nobody hires older workers" or believing that all hope is lost, let's get the dialogue moving in a positive direction. Share your thoughts here.

Smile while scanning the comments from Facebook.com/Tory below—and then let me know how we can get you to Spark & Hustle and/or post your comments here.

Cheers to YOUR success at EVERY age!
Tory Johnson

P.S. SPARK & HUSTLE Bulletin Board
One of the conference registrants from New York City is looking for two women to drive with her to the event in Atlanta. If you’re in the New York City area, and you’re interested in attending especially since you could avoid airfare by contributing to the drive, please email info@sparkandhustle.com and we’ll discuss scholarship options with you.

Check out the tips from some of the speakers.

Gigantic thanks again to our sponsors Walmart, Staples and Constant Contact for their generous support of this program.

Comments (22)

I would love to say my experience has been different than the previous posts but no such luck. I am 55 and have worked in office environments since I graduated from high school. I have worked for the Federal Government, private industry, and my ex-husband and I owned our own company. I decided to change my career and took a medical transcription course and am in the middle of a medical coding/billing course. I have been unemployed for almost two years and cannot understand why I can't even get my foot in the door considering all the experience I have. I'm young for my age, in excellent health, and have no baggage. Surely there are employers out there that realize the value of a mature, energetic, responsible, dependable worker. Give us a chance!

Nothing makes sense. I have 25+ years in education. I hold both a B.S. and an MEd. I left my job to become the full-time caregiver to my late husband who was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. I thought I was doing what was "right." Now I am on my own, no job, no health insurance, nothing. The worse part is not one school, not one company, anywhere, will even look at me. Go figure, I can run circles around my young college graduate children. On top of that, I never complained when I had a job!
So are older women such an intimidation to these companies that we are now being discriminated against? Come on, give us a chance!!

Listen, not to sound like a christian crusader, but the reality is lot of us who have come from a sound background forgot about the discovery of the truth process.Agism and sexism, in any arena, is a weapon in spiritual warfare.
As always there will be a group that will come in and put a stop to all this non-sense, we're just sitting back and observing.I never seen such beautiful soft women be so present and helpful in their vulnerability it helps me to stay non-bitter. To add there, are a lot of beautiful women over forty who give any person a 'run for their money'.
Because the stereotype of younger is better, will not tolerate when the going gets rough and it will get rougher because of the stereotype; that's not going to stand in the near future. We all need a good dose of realism and intelligence from the root of our gift to really pull us out of this mess.
Tory quit playing girl 40 is when you can really get things done. I just turned forty and I look younger (not bragging), but now people listen as long as I say that I'm forty. I don't wear makeup so I can handle business, I got tired of people saying that young b**, "She thinks she's something", therefore I embrace my tenure with loving arms.By the way you better watch out I listened to you when I thought you were forty now you are back to being a little hottie :), I dont know now...:) I hope I'm not offensive.

June 30th was my last day on the job. At 59 years young, this is not what I expected to happen. At first I was angry, even hurt but those feelings soon gave way to logic and reality. In this economy none of us are immune to drastic, and sometimes severe changes. One of the things I realized is that women over 40 have an adavantage over younger women. We have experience whether work or raising a family, we have contacts, but above all we know how to adapt to change. What else is a woman but an agent of change? We need to pool our resources (as we have so many times in the past), make a plan, and move forward. I am focusing on creating networks of 40 plus women and brainstorming ways to "think outside of the box" in terms of work. One of the really important things I have learned is that if you don't want to be treated like an antique, don't act like one. Fix yourself up and look like an energetic, talented, capable woman.

I am in my 60's and returned to school to get a degree in Health Information Technology. I have been looking for a job (PT or FT) for 3 years. I have 27 years working in the medical field in trauma medicine and when I apply, I am told I am not qualified for the job. I have made it a policy now to wait for about two months after I have been told I am not qualified for the job, to go to the business and see who was hired for the position. Most of the time, the person that is hired is right out of high school and has never worked in trauma medicine before. What I see if a older person applies is they say you are over qualified, under qualified, not qualified or they want someone who has 30 years experience and should not be over 20 years old. The job performance of the younger workers in my field is not something you learn in a day. The companies that hire are told to get the cheapest worker they can even if they don't have the experience and the public is paying the price in the medical field. I will not give up my goal to re-enter the working class and so when you see the very young people who are working in the medical field, asked them how much experience have they had. Hope they don't say less than a year because they are very green in the knowledge of medicine.

I have been unemployed for almost 11 years -- since I was 43. I have been getting by by working as a temp. Thank god I am an excellent worker as they have called me back these past nine years. As a matter of fact, I lost an assignment to a 64 year old.

Everyone knows that companies do not like old people.

I don't look my age except for some gray hair, but corporate America does not want to hire us!

I'm underemployed-57 yrs old with a Master's Degree. I carry a portfolio of 14 years of Outstanding performance on my job interviews. I've been offered 1/2 of what I'm currently earning, which is 1/2 of my salary 2 years ago. I have practiced all the interview tips I could possibly read on Linkedin. It is hard staying upbeat and positive.

I'm a change addict, business artist, and a very proud boomerpreneur. In 2001, after 25+ years in corporate roles, I took what I learned and started my own business - a decorative arts studio and midday cafe. In 2009, I reconfigured that business taking the best from it and launched Chef Joe's Cookies, a specialty cookie wholesaler, and online gift retailer. One year later, our cookies are in 6 Midwest states, and this is a down economy. Age and experience have just added to my creativity, confidence, patience, drive, and business savvy. I don't wish, I act. I believe in me. Do you believe in you? See where we've come: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/06/prweb4183134.htm Thanks Tory for encouraging women like me to make their own destiny. -- Sue

The federal govn't hired a friend of mine at age 62! With OPM finally changing the laborious app form in November, I'm going to keep my eye out for one of those 500,000 jobs they're going to be filling over the next few years.

I just turned 45 on June 20th and although I have a job, it isn't enough to pay the bills. I'm looking for a part-time job to supplement my income and possibly save something. I have a college degree and over 25 years experience in the Legal/Commerical Collections field. I was severed from my previous position with a prominent bank after 13 years and have a lot of adminstrative and legal experience. Yet, when you apply for jobs, it appears employers are not trying to look outside of the box; in fact its almost as if you're sterotyped for one role. The worst thing about being unemployed and underemployed is that you can do everyting right: pay your bills on time, maintain good credit, get an education, and be hardworking, yet the thought of losing everything can very well become my reality.


I'm very disturbed by a new trend I have been hearing about - and that is that companies looking to hire are now requesting "only candidates who are currently working". I find this very disturbing. The belief is that if someone has been out of work since 2008, even if that person has been working on project assignments, they may be "out of touch". This is absolutely ludicrous. I would concur had it been 10 years. But we have been in a deep recession since 2008, which has had a disproportionate effect on the job market. It's simply the luck of the draw. If a person had a job at the time the recession started but was hoping to make a change - that doesn't make them better or more qualified than one who didn't have a job at the time. It only makes them more resilient. That person probably hung on for fear of not being able to find another job. Resilience is not always a virtue. Read more on my blog http://openyourmind-today.blogspot.com/
at 8:50 PM

After reading the posts I am thinking maybe a temp job or a minimum wage job for now is the way to go for a 50 year old female? It is just a hard pill to swollow after working so hard for so many years to get ahead to be relegated to this. Isn't that what we were told growing up? Work hard, get good grades, show up ontime, do your job well? It is so puzzling and depressing. I am not asking for my previous 6 figure salary, I am looking for 1/2 of that and I cannot seem to get the time of day. So puzzling, I try to put myself in the hiring managers seat and the only thing I can come up with is my age not qualifications.

So maybe what WFH should do, is publish a list of companies that do hire seasoned veterans like myself who spent 35 years in the Entertainment Business, from NBC to ABC/Disney.

I would love to see a list of companies, of all kinds, that do hire women like us. I am 61 years old and have dealt with Music and TV royalty, and traveled all over the world for ABC/Disney.

I suspect that I will have to go back to work, when my circumstances change. I am a caregiver now.

Please help.

I was just wondering if we are seeing this issue more in one industry than another for older people? Do we see this problem in the medical industry? Are there as many older struggling doctors or nurses trying to find jobs as there is in business focused careers?

The older worker is treated like senior citizens in the U.S., one of the countries built on the
theory of young and rich I am beginning to think. If you are 50+ drop dead or get out of the way is the concept. That is NOT the concept of some countries where seniors are cared for by their family, they are valued and HAVE value, just because I am 50+ don't count me out. I have over 25 years' experience in the Legal Field, 8 years being a Medical Secretary and 3 years being a Flight Attendant. Please do not insult me because I am healthy and made it to this ripe "old age" of 62, and not retiring. My mind still functions thank you very much. So why
on earth am I still looking for a job after 2 years? Good question, Could it be that AGE
thing??? Well if it is, I will just put down
39 on my next application OK??? Just sign me
Jackie Benny.

I definitely agree older workers are often better workers than younger workers. It takes at least 10 years of experience to have the right kind of knowledge and instincts to work well in business. Older workers are often more reliable - coming in on time, focussing on their work to get it done within normal business hours. Many younger workers are too distracted by their life in general and have difficulty focussing solely on their work. Older workers do have an edge over younger workers in having been there, done that, and seen that. This helps a great deal in business. You don't need to micromanage older workers to get the work done. The work will just be done at the end of the day. When something isn't working out the way it should - there's a technology problem or analytical problem - younger workers spend a lot of time discussing what's going wrong and trying to figure out how to fix it. Meanwhile an older worker just fixes the problem, gets the work done without much fuss.

Well this article only confirmed what I have been experiencing. I am a well educated female with solid experience in my industry. I have been unemployed now for 15 very long months. The strange thing is at 50, I never thought of myself as old. I am in good shape (I run 2.5 miles daily) dress well, probably look 10 years younger than I actually am, and keep up with the most recent technology. Still here I sit scratching my head, but not giving up.

The judge ordered a subpoena at my job to please my ex-husband.
After that I lose my job. I was 48 years.
Now, it is 3 years ago, I couldn’t find any jobs. I haven’t unemployment benefits.
I just survive day by day. The judge said it is a comfortable life.

Those of us that are born in 55 will turn 55 this year. We have done more in life, and had to reinvent ourselves many times, we can run circles around the 35 and under in our workplaces. We may not get the cash to start our businesses as quick as a 20 something, but many of us have the MBA's that meant something, and the outsourcing experience that was hands on, not from a computer, and we learned how to deal with folks face to face not through e-mail (how brave is that?) We have so much to offer so many, do not pack it away into the retirement boxes and leave the knowledge to fade. WE ARE THE GENERATION THAT OPENED THE DOORS AND GAVE EVERY GENERATION THE ABILITY TO DECIDE WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO WITH THEIR LIFE,,, Do not ever forget this.

I took a part time job a few years ago doing very low-level clerical (filing) work while I was building my coaching business. One day when there was a small snow storm (3 inches)the only people who showed up were John and I -- the two temps over 55! Although I was pleased for a little income during that time, I thought it was such a waste that the two of us were doing such menial work, when we had so much experience, talent and a great work ethic.

I have posted on facebook that a good place to look is in the Yellow Pages Phone Book that is sent your house not online. It has more information on jobs looking under "E" for Employment and in the front of the phone book they have a job website

I'm 59 yrs young per se, with over 20 yrs in a legal setting, and some 5+ yrs in a claims environment, and a year ago graduated from a business school in NY for billing/coding/med bus adm, and I've yet to get in!!!!!!. I am also one of those who has been out of work for almost 2 yrs!!!! due to the recession and my age, I do believe. There was a newspaper article awhile ago in which the article went on to say, the gov't was hiring the older worker as they were looking for the worker who had no small children at home, etc etc to keep them from coming to work. Well I've applied and applied to no avail, let us in!!!!!!, Trust me, I will let any employer know when I am ready to retire!!!!!!

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