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Over 55 and hunting for a job

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
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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22 Comments
MacBernac
March 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Affirmative Action, when it was in its heyday, addressed race and gender. It should be reinstated and specifically address AGE. I'm 60, have been looking for work for over a year, and can't get a foot in the door. It's basically, "What part of 'No' do I not understand???"

67carbman
March 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

There's a dirty little corporate secret out there. Get rid of the talented people when they turn 55. Too much overhead with salary, vacation, etc. If you hire someone young, they won't stick around to worry about such things.

It took five months for me to find a job after being walked out the door because the management of a major automaker had to file bankruptcy after 20 years of poor product decisions and accountants that could run a lemonade stand. Blame the managers! Not the executives!

Tony G
March 27, 2011 at 1:12 am

At age 62 I'm still working at any of the assignment opportunities that come along. Some last a year and others are over in a few weeks. In other words, I'm an independent businessman with plenty of drive and skills. I manage my life to provide me with interesting work and a comfortable living. Every time I start an assignment I know I have to finish it, so I'm always looking for the next assignment and not worried about losing my job. I've been doing this for over 30 years and expect to continue to find work because I have skills businesses need. There is work to be found but you have to confident that you can get it done and remain conpetitive. Age is on your side, not working against you, if you got the right attitude. When I'm old, say around 70, I might cut back and retire, whatever that means, but I'm still going strong at 62. Recently a went back to graduate school part time because I felt I needed to improve skills that were rusty. I'm working on my doctorate just to keep up with the technology and research methods. Its not difficult if you love to learn. So just do it. Your only as old as you feel.Tony

Tony G
March 27, 2011 at 1:08 am

At age 62 I'm still working at any of the assignment opportunities that come along. Some last a year and others are over in a few weeks. In other words, I'm an independent businessman with plenty of drive and skills. I manage my life to provide me with interesting work and a comfortable living. Every time I start an assignment I know I have to finish it, so I'm always lonking for the next assignment and not worried about losing my job. I've been doing this for over 30 years and expect to continue to find work because I have skills businesses need. There is work to be found but you have to confident that you can get it done and remain conpetitive. Age is on your side, not working against you, if you got the right attitude. When I'm old, say around 70, I might cut back and retire, whatever that means, but I'm still going strong at 62. Recently a went back to graduate school part time because I felt I needed improve skills that were rusty. I'm working on my doctorate just to keep up the technology and research methods. Its not difficult if you love to learn. So just do it. Your only as old as you feel.Tony

Esther
March 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

The media keeps talking about the jobs losses that are coming because the baby boomers will be retiring. Well I think the media should start playing up the baby boomers who don't want to retire and were forced out early. The media has a lot of power, so start helping us and telling the world about how many people are not employed. Why not give the positive news about companies hiring people over 50 and how well it works. Tell the world about our work ethic, we don't have to worry about child care, we can travel and we are seasoned and know technology.

Maureen
March 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I'm one of the over 55 who have been looking for work for well over the 99 weeks of unemployment. I want to start a business but people still try to shoot you in the foot for that. Or are they just jealous? I spoke to someone from the Planning and Zoning Dept. of one of my local cities the other day; he suggested I go get a job somewhere instead of starting a business, I guess he doesn't realize there are no jobs. I'm also going to start my business someplace else if the City representatives can't be respectful of me. I'm finding sexism still runs rampant in the world, it's not just ageism.

roaddawg31
March 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm

You should've gone into teaching Andy1. In that profession, you could be the most complacent, overentitled person and work forever. And sorry--child support, that kind of thing is your problem. You're only supposed to get married once.

Shelby
March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

Did anyone see the recent statistics on WHO got hired in 2010? Of the 1.1 million new jobs created only 146, 000 hired were women. The remaining were men. And who says that HR departments don't discriminate? Numbers don't lie! If they are leaning to hiring only men then we can safely say that age was ALSO a factor in hiring...wouldn't that be a fun stat to look at!

George
March 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Yes, age discrimination is alive and thriving. I was laid-off at 46 and spent 6-1/2 years looking for ANYTHING (1000+ resumes). College graduate, former business owner, and considered a leader in my field. Now, I worry that Obama is pulling the plug on the job I found (and love) and have been working at for 3-1/2 years. Ironically, the perenially employed see no problem, think only slackers and drug addicts are out of work and typically take 3-5 times longer to solve a problem than I do.

Andy1
March 14, 2011 at 1:31 am

I am 58 with daughters 22 and 17, with the 17 year old about to graduate this year. I need to find a job other than real estate agent and it is beyond belief the ageism in the work place. 65 should be wiped out as a retirement age and retirement simply isn't possible for many. A complete shift in thinking needs to occur regarding older workers who should have a right to work and support themselves. Also, so many owe child support with having children at a later age more common, that work should be mandatory if support is owed, no matter the retirement age many try to use as an excuse for a diminished income. We need an uprising regarding ageism. It is appalling that it is so difficult to find work for older workers.