Wandering In The Desert Of 50-and-over Unemployed

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It isn't a question of skill. It isn't a question of whether older employees can handle a rapid pace in their workday, or whether they can make snap judgements. They were doing the job and doing it well before they were laid off because of the recession, and there's no reason to expect them to do otherwise if they're rehired.

Except they wander the halls of those unemployed and over age 50. In the hiring world, the older applicants are generally filed in the 'undesirable' folder in the drawer of last resort.

New York Times:

Being unemployed at any age can be crushing. But older workers suspect their résumés often get shoved aside in favor of those from younger workers. Others discover that their job-seeking skills — as well as some technical skills sought by employers — are rusty after years of working for the same company.

Many had in fact anticipated working past conventional retirement ages to gird themselves financially for longer life spans, expensive health care and reduced pension guarantees.

Um, yep, that more or less tells the tale. Interesting comments posted on my post on Bill Clinton's comments yesterday expand the narrative:

Different Anonymous:

I don't know where Bill is hanging out but here in northern California the only jobs are entry level caregivers.Was chatting with a 54 year old former realtor and she said even the manager at McDonalds told her "don't call us, we'll call you." What kind of skill set do you need at McDonalds? When there are (at least) five people for every job, one of those five is going to have a sufficient skill set.

And, I might add, they're going to be younger than 54.

Tax the Rich:

I know a lot of 40 - 50 aged professional people who have never been unemployed a day in their life until Chimpy's reign of fascism.

They are almost all college educated, many have graduate degrees, and they were making $$$$$$$$ until their jobs got outsourced. Engineers from top level Big Ten Schools, nurses, computer experts, you name it. Many of these folks were tops in their companies for years.

It's not that they cannot find qualified people in America. They just can't find people who will work for $5,000 a year.

Yes, the other experience common to all of us, including me, is that we cannot find jobs that paid us what we were making before we weren't.

PJ70:

I have over 15 years customer support/network management experience and have had nothing but "consulting"/contract work for the last 3 years. Being 57, as soon as the interview process get's started and they find out my age it's "sorry, but we have found a more qualified candidate." These are desktop support positions I'm going for! Anything! As soon as they find out my age that's it. Heaven forbid I ever get any further and they find out I'm a lung cancer survivor. I feel like my working career is over.

ThatDeborahGirl:

I'm tired and I feel like I may as well declare myself obsolete and live ghetto fabulous on the public dole. There is no reward for being an honest citizen and I'm tired of being unemployed, broke and hungry.

Beyond the financial is the emotional. I have never been as jarred as I was the day I was laid off. I had worked from the time I was 15, had been through other recessions that felt worse than this one (of course, I was one of the first to go in 2008), and had always received glowing appraisals. They let me go with sorrow and the promise that they'd give me the highest recommendations, gave a decent severance package and I started looking. That was December, 2008. This is September, 2010. Imagine what that does to someone's confidence. Just imagine. For some of you, imagination is unnecessary. You know it.

But even middle-class people who might skate by on savings or a spouse’s income are jarred by an abrupt end to working life and to a secure retirement.

“That’s what I spent my whole life in pursuit of, was security,” Ms. Reid said. “Until the last few years, I felt very secure in my job.”

As an auditor, Ms. Reid loved figuring out the kinks in a manufacturing or parts delivery process. But after more than 20 years of commuting across Puget Sound to Boeing, Ms. Reid was exhausted when she was let go from her $80,000-a-year job.

Stunned and depressed, she sent out résumés, but figured she had a little time to recover. So she took vacations to Turkey and Thailand with her husband, who is a home repairman. She sought chiropractic treatments for a neck injury and helped nurse a priest dying of cancer.

Most of her days now are spent in front of a laptop, holed up in a lighthouse garret atop the house that her husband, Denny Mielock, built in the 1990s on a breathtaking piece of property overlooking the sound.

As she browses the job listings that clog her e-mail in-box, she refuses to give in to her fears. “If I let myself think like that all the time,” she said, “I could not even bear getting out of bed in the morning.”

As do we all. But I don't want this to end on a sour note, because I have been lucky in two ways. First, my spouse was able to find a full-time job with benefits and a decent salary. In order for him to take it, I had to take over the day-to-day responsibilities for running his small business, which was suffering from the recession as it was, but at least deserves to have someone oversee the daily responsibilities and keep work flowing through. He is over 50, but his employer doesn't seem to care. So here's encouragement #1: There are some good guys out there and there is a reason to keep trying.

The second encouragement I have for older workers: Try to leverage your skills into something you can do as a self-employed person. If you're going to be unemployed anyway, might as well try out your writing skills or sales skills or something related and see where you go with it. Not everything will work, but something might, and you just never know.

If you've been reading here for awhile, you know I'm an optimist who can't be discouraged for very long. Besides, I've never forgotten the advice a trusted relative gave me: Roses grow best in sh*t. And they truly do. As depressing as the prospects seem, all it takes is one good employer to turn the whole thing around. They are out there and one of them will want you.

In the meantime, maybe a little water in the desert in the form of a 5th tier unemployment extension is in order, hmmmm?

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