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Employment Frustrations

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

I have recently received letters and e-mails about the difficulties and frustrations in finding employment, particularly if you are a “bit older.”

Therefore, this week I would like to share a newly published report by David DeLong, commissioned by the MetLife Mature Marketing Institute,  titled,  “Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?”  The title is a takeoff from the Depression-era song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” written in 1931. 

The study is based on a survey of 1,200 individuals 55 to 70 and interviews with job seekers and employment experts.  Results indicated that many older job seekers are trying to find work with false assumptions:

“I’ll just do what I was doing before.” There’s been too much change to have the same job you had at age 50.

“I know,  I’ll become a consultant…” This requires discipline, marketing experience, a network and an ability to work on your own.

“Of course I’m good with computers.” If you don’t know about LinkedIn, a 40-year old manager will likely eliminate you from the running.

“My experience speaks for itself.” This can be overvalued.

“I’ll just use a recruiter for some career coaching.” The instinct is correct but expectations may be unrealistic.

To be successful in finding employment, new solutions are needed to compete, reports Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Here are five strategies the author recommends as being critical to success:

Be aware of the new realities of the job market. Know opportunities still exist and will increase as the economy improves.   Try the following:  Identify local industries and organizations that are stable or growing; look for a workplace culture that respects all workers.

Reframe your work experience and apply it to current workplace values. It is important to identify and articulate the value you will bring to an organization.  Determine how you will help the company meet its objectives and be current in what you can offer.  Internet marketing was new eight years ago; today it’s a prerequisite for any marketing position.  Clarify what you have to offer.

“Nurture your network.” Networking is not only connecting with people who share your interests or passions. It’s also about learning.  For example, find a volunteer job that you believe in and work with younger people.  An employer will likely be interested to know that you have experience with a multigenerational workforce.

Update computer technology skills. The most consistent finding from interviews was that older job seekers need to update their computer competency.  “Older job seekers who aren’t familiar with Facebook or LinkedIn need to learn about them – fast.” Be prepared if an interviewer asks, “Are you on Twitter?”

Manage your ambivalence. Many of those interviewed were ambivalent about staying in the labor force.  Job counselors shared stories about job seekers sabotaging themselves in interviews because they weren’t completely sure they wanted to continue working.  The report suggests, “Do the math.” Determine your financial needs and be clear.

Delong summed it up:  “Older job-seekers who don’t recognize they are viewed differently in the job market are in for a rude awakening.”

I would add that age should not be viewed as an albatross.  Regardless of age, most employers are looking for computer literacy, flexibility, initiative to learn, the ability to be a team player and potential for high performance.

AARP’s National Employer Team recognizes that older workers make up an important part of the work force.  Members of the team include: The Home Depot, Borders, CVS/Pharmacy, Walgreen’s, Toys R Us/Babies R Us, Staples, Home Instead Senior Care, IRS, Office of Disaster Assistance and Avis Budget Group/ABG.

Visit Internet job sites such as,, and

Change is an essential element of life.  Charles Darwin captured the message: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Best wishes to each of you seeking work that is meaningful and pays.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

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