For the last eight months, Jan Browning, 54 of San Diego, searched the Internet, networked diligently, and used all the social networking tools available to find a job.
After 347 applications and 45 interviews she finally landed a well-paying gig as a program director for a healthcare organization.
“I wanted to give up, I really did,” she said. “But I couldn’t afford to give up. When they told me I had the job, I cried. I never thought it would happen.”
Jan’s son Devon, 30, is still looking for a job as an engineer and has been for two years.
“I’m glad my mom found a job,” he said. “I thought I would find one before she did, but I guess things (in the job market) are crazier than anyone knows.”
The June employment report released July 6 showed dismal growth of just 80,000 jobs but contained a silver lining for older workers: Those 55+ who were seeking work were jobless an average of 55.6 weeks - down slightly from May.
An international outplacement company — Challenger, Gray & Christmas — used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine that people aged 55 and older account for more than half of employment gains since 2010.
“I thought I would have to start getting Botox injections to look younger so I would get hired, Jan said. “I couldn’t afford it though.”
Although older workers are finding a few jobs more than the youngsters, Boomers and the like need to take a look at what they are presenting to a prospective employer. Gone are the days of a five page résumé touting all the wonderful experience you bring to the table.
“You need to shorten and tighten up your résumé,” said Mark Schrader, an employment counselor in Seattle, WA. “Don’t list every job you’ve had since college if you’re over 35. Two pages max or they will think you are really old and toss it in the trash.”
It might be hard to part with, but if you’re still using the same résumé format you used 30, 20, or even 10 years ago, your résumé may be working against you rather than for you. Quintessential Careers’ (quintcareers.com) resources for mature and older job seekers include several helpful articles on such topics as crafting a résumé free of references to outdated technologies, preparing several different versions of your résumé in various formats (such as plain text for submission via a Web form), and strategies for handling illegal age-related questions during job interviews.
Also provided are capsule reviews and links to more than a dozen sites with information about jobs, volunteer opportunities, and careers for people over 40. The site features guidelines for students and workers in the midst of a career change, as well as its own job search engine and a form for posting your (recently updated) résumé.
RetiredBrains.com is a great source for older job shoppers.
The National Older Worker Career Center (nowcc.org) administers two programs that provide government jobs for experienced workers: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Senior Environmental Employment and the Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Conversation Experienced Services.
The jobs are available only in Alabama, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. You then have to complete not one but two applications. Considering it’s government work, that’s likely only the beginning of the paperwork involved. Contact information is provided for the center’s field offices in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia.
While you’re sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, make sure your computer skills are up to date. Everyone needs to be computer literate. If you can’t send an email, or don’t know what an instant message is, take a computer class. If you need to brush up on your Excel or Google Doc skills, ask a friend or your children for advice. Or grandchildren. There are also classes offered, free or low-cost, by continuing education centers, churches, libraries, and schools. The more current your skills, the better your prospects for finding employment.
It all boils down to perseverance. It will happen, but there is no crystal ball to tell you how long it will actually take to find a new job. It might be hard to believe when you’ve been out of work for a year or two, but it will happen. There are employers who understand the value of an older worker with maturity, life experience, and skills. And those who don’t? You didn’t want to work for them anyway.