One of the reasons for high unemployment for those 50 and older is age discrimination in the workplace. Employers sometimes wrongly assume that these candidates lack necessary skills. Additionally, job seekers may be hesitant to adjust to a lower salary range or unable to do the work they did when they were younger. For example, at 65, you may no longer be deemed fit to work in construction or carpentry.
Candidates need to identify their transferable skills. Often, people don’t realize that the job they held in the past equipped them for work in a wide variety of industries.
Additionally, the recruitment and job search processes have changed dramatically, compounding the problem. Job seekers 50-plus, some of whom may not even have an email address, must learn to look for jobs and submit resumes online and, ideally, understand social media sites like Linkedin.
Older people are unemployed for longer than any other age group, but there are steps to take, and resources to utilize, to help you find work when you’re over 50.
“Applying for jobs and getting employment is a lot different than it was five years ago,” explains Jonathan Leslie, executive director of the Institute for Workforce Innovation. “People need to understand technology to expedite their job search. You cannot even apply for a job on paper anymore. For a significant amount of people, this is a barrier,” he says.
Leslie explains that every state has workforce development boards with career centers where people can get help with every step of the job search. “One of the first steps when assessing a new applicant is determining what he or she wants to do. Some people need to work full-time and have full benefits; others need to work part-time to offset unanticipated expenses. Narrowing down your goals and objectives is one of the first things we do.”
So perhaps you’re no longer physically able to work in construction. That doesn’t mean your leadership skills and ability to multi-task and work well on a team couldn’t benefit employers in a seemingly unrelated field. Candidates need to identify their transferable skills. Often, people don’t realize that the job they held in the past equipped them for work in a wide variety of industries.
“We look at what candidates have done over their lifetime, see what is transferable to today’s market, and teach them how to market that,” says Leslie.
Gone are the days of five-page C.V.s, detailing all of your work and attributes. “Potential employers want to see bullet points, not a laundry list,” says Leslie.
Career centers help 50-plus job seekers convey their skills succinctly and professionally.
These days, employers use a wider array of interview techniques, including personality assessments. Leslie references an episode of ABC’s The Middle to illustrate the issue: “The TV show character, a father, loses his job. His son shows him how to apply for a new job online. He gets to the interview and they ask, ‘What superhero would you want to be?’ He says, ‘I don’t know, I just want to work!'”
Candidates need to be prepared to answer these less orthodox questions, and to practice emphasizing their relevant skills in all of their responses.
Kristina Payne, workforce investment manager at Lane Workforce Partnership, a business-led forceful development program, prefers the term “skill upgrade” to job training. For example, you may be familiar with Microsoft Office, but there are always new versions and aspects to master. Taking a series of classes “demonstrates you are serious and willing to learn new things,” she explains. “The word ‘training’ can scare people.”
Together with GoodWill Industries and Lane Community College, Lane Workforce Partnership has launched the PLUS+ Program to train older, unemployed people for call center jobs in Lane County, Oregon, thanks in part to a grant from AARP Foundation. Participants partake in a free eight-week training program to prepare for the work. Those who successfully complete the classes are guaranteed an interview with one of the program’s partners, including Royal Caribbean International, which will hire 140 employees for their call center by the end of December.
Of course, the program not only benefits the potential employees but also the employers. The 50-plus age group has a lot to offer. “They tend to have a lot more dedication to their job and better attendance and attention to detail,” notes Leslie. “That means a lot to employers right now. It’s about being able to sell yourself, your skills and your dedication.”
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