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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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March 13, 2011 at 11:37 am

Have been unemployed just over two years. I am 57 , male. The interviews I go on are great, but then I get the "sorr you are overqualified" response. I am having trouble understanding that, if I apply for a job, after researching position, and am willing to accept work, shouldn't my experience count for something rather than a deterrent?
Beginning to believe the younger bosses are afraid to hire anyone who may know more than they do, INSECURE?
Age descrimination is alive and well in Illinois.

March 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Just interviewed with a BRAND NAME hotel chain for an entry level/trainee position (stated that on my application), was granted that coveted interview, was brushed off by HR lady (25??), sent an email today saying my experience was in wrong area. PLUS I did take a specialized course that fit the job, so Entry level/trainee request meant nothing.

As far as starting my own business, please tell me where o where I should go to receive monetary assistance. My finances dried up long ago.

P.S. I am over 55 and am shocked at what America has become. Not a nice place to live anymore.

March 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

yeah being over 55 and job hunting is so depressing. does not help the price of gas is stupid and the price of groceries is even stupdier, all of you businesses out there, keep hiring the youn g that call off every other day, dont have customer service skills, you get what you pay for. Wouldnt it make more sense to hire someone who is experienced, that is faithfull to there job???? guess not!!! thanks for nothing

March 03, 2011 at 7:05 pm

While I am retired after teaching for 33 years, and 58 years old I am greatly disappointed in the fact that I have been unable to find a part - time position! I have posted my resume for over three years on a regular basis and in all this time received only one response. I have many skills and a lot to off but the water seems to be dried up! I have solid computer skills with both PC and MAC but no calls.

March 01, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Although I'm nowhere near 55, I spent a lot of time being rejected for higher-level jobs because I didn't a have graduate degree. The minute I get my MA, I am now "overqualified". It's a big scam.

February 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I have been out of work since 2008 .. I am 41 I have a ton of experience in office work from mailroom to assisting and making travel arrangements for top executives. I have worked for major companies since 1995 so I am a stable worker. Go figure, I am so discouraged each day it makes me sick. I hate each day of searching for at least an entry level job at this point. They say don't give up but I think I have already.

February 17, 2011 at 11:40 am

Older workers should look into contract or consulting roles. These kind of jobs are temporary, yes, but age is less of an issue because they're paying for your experience. You will have to pay for your own benefits, but most staffing firms offer some these days. Companies won't have to worry about increasing their health care benefit costs by putting an older worker on the payroll if they hire you on contract, plus the pay is usually higher to make up for the lack of benefits. It a win for both sides.

Ben Hammer
February 16, 2011 at 9:03 am

If you are a middle aged white guy with a lot of senior-level experience, its rough. Your value is a millstone as you are over-qualified for the use that today's "managers" want to put you to. The other problem is that it's perfectly ok to discriminate against this group.

The experienced have to accept the fact that they are not going to be offered a job, where you used to be no longer exists and the only way out is to create a job for yourself through sweat equity with an emerging company that needs your skillset but has no cash. You need to find the erstwhile entepreneur with a solid concept. Offer to get him off of the ground for a contractual/equity guarantee that you will not be separable from the going entity and use your experience and contacts to make this happen.

As risky as this sounds, the chances of an individual opportunity coming together are greater than those of getting hired in an Internet-driven hiring process. In this upside-down world, your chances of realizing your dream are literally greater than those of getting hired at a middle of the road job.

February 14, 2011 at 7:15 am

We now live in a work culture that embraces youth and older workers are shunned. That is true outside the workplace as well. The youth are not taught anymore respect for and to learn from olders people. And, HR types are almost all women. Women dominate this department, why, I don't know. I read a news article not long ago is that women look for "hunky men". If you are not "hunky enough", a man will not get hired. Most of the unemployed are black and white males.

February 14, 2011 at 12:31 am

This is all well and good that 55+ individuals should justify (based on the information provided here) that based upon statistics and polls, it will take 2 years to find work. What about 1099 employees? I'm out of work since June 2010 and I have no income coming in at all!! I have a friend who has been out of work for 2 years and recently took a temp assignment just when her unemployment benefits ran out. Employment agencies have told her she needs to spend alot of money to buy an expensive, name-brand suit, new shoes, get a new hairdo, put on makeup (that she never wore), and NOW she is told that because she has been out of work, her computer skills are obsolete!! What other excuse can they come up with? Newsflash: typing is like riding a bike. As soon as you get back into a job, the speed comes back too! It's not rocket science here. A clerical job is a clerical job, is a clerical job. It's like bloomers: does the same thing, but just comes in different colors and shapes! Let's call it like it is: there is age discrimination and no matter what articles come out, if it quacks like a duck, wadddles, like a duck and swims like a duck . . . IT'S A DUCK! Companies ARE NOT hiring anyone over 40-50 years old. That's a fact!