Help for people over 50 (Baby Boomers, listen up!) in finding a job…
POSTED: Sunday, September 13, 2015
Over 50 and looking for work? Blake Nations, a former recruiter who lost his job during the financial crisis, launched Over50JobBoard.com this year. It’s a site dedicated to connecting baby boomers with employers seeking older workers.
Nations, 59, has been on both sides of the hunt.
“I worked as a recruiter since 1990. After I was let go, I then worked briefly with a start-up that collapsed,” he says. “Finally, I took an entry-level position with a recruiting firm.”
He had a hard time finding employment and had to supplement his income with little jobs, such as working at a grocery store on weekends.
“I felt a lot of pain. But in the store, I met people who had all kinds of great careers. They were also over 50 and working there, too,” he says. “I realized it’s a struggle all over.”
“Extended unemployment can be a slowly unfolding nightmare,” says Nations. “I experienced it, and that’s why Over50JobBoard is a safe haven for job seekers age 50 and above.” The site has larger print, so applicants can read job postings easily and present work experience without fear of age discrimination, he says. It’s free for employers and applicants.
Unsuccessful job searches can drive baby boomers out of the workforce, imperiling retirement and decreasing chances for reemployment later in life. According to the U.S. Government Displaced Worker Survey, job seekers 50 or older are likely to be unemployed for 5.8 weeks longer than someone between the age of 30 and 49, and 10.6 weeks longer than people between the age of 20 and 29.
“If you’re 55 or 60, you don’t have the kind of outlook that a young person has,” he says. “You start to feel hopeless. There’s a lot of emotional ties with this transition time.”
Start out, Nations suggests, by volunteering and seeking part-time work related to a favorite pursuit or hobby. Both can lead to full-time work.
“If you’re a wine snob, look for work in a local wine store or café. If you worked as a plumber for 30 years but can’t physically do that job anymore, pursue sales at Home Depot or Lowe’s,” he says.
“People over 50 tend to lay back and expect jobs to come to them. That’s just not true.”
What goes unsaid
Generic job boards such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder “don’t make it clear that they’re open to hiring people over 50,” Nations says. Ageism in employment ads can be subtle. He reads between the lines.
“Recruiters post jobs saying they’re looking for someone with five to 15 years of experience. What that really means is someone between 25 and 40 years of age. That’s the legal way they define who they’re looking for. It’s what they don’t say that’s key.”
So it’s important to put other networks into action, he says: Call old friends and colleagues and let people know that you’re looking for work.
“People over 50, when they get laid off, it’s a real issue for them. They’re embarrassed. . . . They keep it quiet. That’s usually not the best thing to do.” Nations suggests MeetUp.com groups, churches and synagogues as excellent networking places.
Smaller companies may offer bigger potential for the older job hunter – a “really good area to work with,” Nations says. “They value your experience more than large corporations.”
Hiring is picking up among small businesses, says William Dunkelberg, chief economist with the National Federation of Independent Business.
On balance, Dunkelberg says, small-business owners added a net 0.13 workers per firm in recent months. Eighteen percent reported increasing employment at an average of 3.0 workers per firm.
Nations says his father was let go from a job at 63, “and my uncle was a fireman and painted houses. My dad joined him and did that for 10 years.”
His father then worked for a local Walmart for 10 years before retiring at 82.
Manage location expectations, Nations says. Larger cities allow career continuity, while smaller, suburban job markets may offer less opportunity. Job seekers over 50 should broaden their geographic perspective and be open to job prospects that could come about in other cities.
Avoid dressing “old” when you interview. Update your wardrobe with conservative-yet-contemporary clothing.
Never hide behind email. Get out and meet with connectors and discover opportunities before they open up to everyone else.
“If you don’t hear back via email, proceed with other options. It’s always helpful if you send in your information and then pursue it again with a phone call or visit [to] the location.”