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Over 55 and hunting for a job

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

For some people, retirement planning includes finding a job. But if you're over 55 and looking for a job, plan on searching for a long time.

A report from the Congressional Research Service says that 11.51 percent of  unemployed adults ages 55 and over had spent the last two years looking for work. Among unemployed adults over age 65, 12.15 percent had looked unsuccessfully for at least 99 weeks.

(The 99-week mark is significant because it is the current maximum duration of unemployment benefits, although in many states that number is lower.)

Overall, older adult unemployment is at a near-record high, 6.7 percent at the end of January -- double what it was when the recession began in December 2007.

What can you do if you find yourself needing to augment retirement income with a job? A study by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College pinpointed three job-hunting handicaps that an older job hunter can do something about.

  • Old dogs can learn new tricks if they try. Only 12 percent of job hunters over 55 have done anything to update their skills compared to 20 percent of younger workers. Taking a training course or going back to school proves to a boss that you are still capable and in the work force for the long haul.
  • Stay connected. Slightly more than 50 percent of younger job seekers are using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to put the word out that they are looking for work. These networking sites are very effective ways to remind  people who already know you and your abilities of your  job search, but only 13 percent of older job seekers say they are using these tools.
  • Don't be bitter. Nearly 40 percent of younger workers contacted former bosses directly and used them as resources. That was only true of 23 percent of older workers, who tended to express resentment about their situation and be reluctant to reach out to former employers.

Unquestionably, job hunting is discouraging, but work is available. One of the authors of the report, Maria Heidkamp, senior research project manager at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, says older job hunters need to be creative. Employment doesn't necessary mean a conventional job. Starting your own business can be a profitable alternative. She advises you to get involved in community activities where you can broaden your network and prove that you are smart and skilled. That way, when job openings occur, you're much more likely to hear about them and be considered.

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April 01, 2011 at 6:35 am

I am just finishing up a bachelor's degree in psychology in August at 57 years old. I had been in retail and laid off, so thought a major in substance abuse would get me a job. However, I cannot be honest about my upcoming degree if I apply for a retail job because anyone with sense is not going to hire and train someone who will jump ship at the first opportunity. Nor can I find a job within my field without the degree, and so have no idea how to market myself with a resume. The ongoing education has put me in limbo, with no income.

March 31, 2011 at 8:42 am

i been looking for work since augest 2007 i am 54 years old dont have a wife or kids or it would worst for all of us.we be out in the street i hope they do pass that bill it is needed