Job Searching at 55: “Would You Like Fries With That?”

Standard

starbucksThis week marks one month since I lost my job at age 55, due to a Budget Cut. While I will not give up in my quest to find a new position, the job market looks pretty bleak.

Startribune.com reports that…

It has never been easy to get older, need a good full-time job and not have one. But that’s the predicament now for more Americans than ever, and the challenge has gotten steeper in the prolonged recovery. Millions of workers in their 50s and 60s are drifting into the perilous intersection of unemployment, underemployment and retirement.

“The situation is worse today than it has been in past recoveries,” said Sara Rix, a senior strategist at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “These men and women have little time to recover, and working later in life may be the only way some can make it.”

The unemployment rate for workers over 55 — while falling — is still higher than it was for 25 years before the Great Recession, at 5.1 percent. Older workers remain jobless on average for about a year, far longer than younger workers. Almost half of those over 55 who are unemployed have been so for six months or longer, a total of 761,000 people.

But unemployment is only part of the unwelcome picture. The number of workers over 55 who have dropped out of the labor force but say they still want a job is about 1.6 million, a 67 percent increase since 2007.

Fair or not, some employers question older applicants’ energy and enthusiasm, their technical knowledge, and their willingness to work with young people. A general bias against the long-term unemployed also works against older workers who have been jobless for months or years.

“If the economy were roaring ahead, it would be an easier sell,” said Kevin Cahill, an economist at the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College.

For decades, older workers commonly moved into what Cahill calls “bridge jobs” between their careers and retirement. But today, those jobs are less desirable, so more older workers are ending up in “bridge jobs” they didn’t want.

“The difference, now, post-2008, is that a lot of these transitions are involuntary,” Cahill said. “It’s a huge shift, and it’s the impact of the Great Recession.”

According to a second article published on startribune.com,

The median hourly wage in the United States fell 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012 after factoring in inflation, according to analysis by the National Employment Law Project. Some 43 percent of all U.S. job growth in the recovery years of 2011 and 2012 was in the generally low-wage categories of food services, retail and temp agencies.

This is not unusual after a recession, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, but it’s also a long-term trend.

The economy has for decades been disproportionately shedding middle-skill jobs that command middle-income wages, researchers at Duke University and the University of British Columbia have shown. The most recent decade was the worst of three bad ones in a row for the middle class. Between 2000 and 2011, the economy shed 11 percent of its middle-skill jobs, according to the researchers’ analysis, while low-level employment increased 16 percent.

“We’re just seeing more of what we’ve been seeing over the last 20 years, but it accelerated over the recovery,” said Mike Evangelist, an analyst for the National Employment Law Project. “The real net job growth has been in these lower-wage occupations, in retail and food services, so I think those jobs are indicative of what’s available.”

So, in other words, “Over-50’s”, such as myself, are more likely to find a job at Starbucks or McDonald’s, than one with FedEx or Proctor & Gamble?

Although that may be the reality of the whole situation, I don’t believe that I am quite ready to buy into that defeatist philosophy, just yet.

At 55, I am still of sound mind, plus I have decades of business experience to go with an old-fashioned “give my employer his money’s worth” work ethic.

That HAS to be worth something to somebody.

However, in order to hedge my bet, perhaps I had better start practicing how to say,

Would you like fries with that?

Advertisements

Job Search 2014: It’s a Brave New World

Standard

40s businessAs I continue my quest for gainful employment, it has become very evident to me that America’s Job Market has drastically changed.

The impatience of a technology-driven society is very evident…even in a job search.

Employers nowadays want to know what you can do for them today, not a couple of years down the road. And, with the economy headed down the ol’ porcelain receptacle, they want you to be able to do it with a limited or non-existent budget. Additionally , if you are being interviewed by a smaller company, Health Insurance for you and your family may not be included, due to the launch of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

This ain’t our parents (or grandparents for you young whipper-snappers out there) Job Market.

My folks were members of America’s Greatest Generation. I was born when they were 40. That being said, I can remember my Mother and Father, going to work everyday, to their jobs with Sears and Roebuck.

That’s right. They both worked for the same company…for 20 years!

You see, boys and girls, back then, unlike our impatient present society, employers hired you for the long haul. These employers were adept, through face-to-face interviews, at recognizing future employes’ potential, and were willing to invest the time necessary to cultivate that employee in order to realize a Return on that Investment (ROI).

Beginning in the 1980’s, the employer/employee dynamic began to change, as older employees, seemingly overnight,  became viewed as liabilities, not assets.

Take Sears and Roebuck, for example. As I mentioned earlier, both my parents put in 20 years with Sears.  In the early 1980s, after the Corporate Offices moved into the Sears Tower in Chicago, the young, hungry executives up there decided that the old model of employment with Sears was no longer viable.

Sears Employees, at that time, had a very nice Benefit Package, which included profit sharing, paid vacations, health insurance…the whole deal.

In return, at the store level, the employees were very happy, hard-working, and loyal assets to the company.

For example, my Father managed the Suburban Shop in a Sears Store, here in Dixie. His department consisted of a combined Farm Store and the Garden Store. He sold fencing, storage rooms, chain saws, tractors, go-karts, Sakrete (concrete mix), fertilizer, flowers..you get the idea. I still remember him, in his 50s, loading bags of Sakrete onto a dolly.

The employees would also hold monthly management/recognition meetings before the store would open for the day. There would be skits, motivational speeches from management, and awards given. My Father, in fact, was Sales Manager of the Year, at least a couple of times.

The results of the way that Sears treated their employees, back in the day, showed up in their sales…and their reputation. When you walked in the door of a Sears Store, you were immediately greeted by the employees, and made to feel welcome. Their reputation ranked right up there with Macy’s Department Store in the Northern States and Goldsmith’s Department Store down here in the South. In other words, they were considered THE TOP OF THE LINE.

And then, it happened.

The bean counters and the young, hungry executives decided that taking care of their employees was interfering with their Revenue Stream. They began to “tighten the screws”, if you will, and started offering “Early Retirement” to their veteran, knowledgeable employees, so that they could replace them with part-time young employees, with reduced benefits, thereby increasing their corporate Revenue Stream.

So, how did that work out?

Not so well.

Sears had to close a lot of stores, before finally selling out to K-mart, which still finds itself in a precarious position, being trounced in the marketplace on a regular basis by Walmart.

So, you’re asking, what does that have to do with today’s Job market?

I’m glad you asked.

Nowadays, in our impatient society, powered by an universal quest for immediate results and gratification, employers and job-seekers alike have forgotten the old adage,

Good things come to those who wait.

Employers need to realize that there are skills you can teach employees and that the job seeker who is presently interviewing with you, can be cultivated into becoming a worthwhile ROI.

And, on the job seeker’s part, young seekers, just out of college, need to realize that, while universities can teach you knowledge, they can’t teach you experience. You may have to take a lower job than you had set your hopes on, in order to achieve greater success in the future.

To summarize, in today’s “microwave-version” of the job seeking/hiring process, perhaps both employers and potential employees need to slow down, move in a more deliberate fashion, and think a little more about what they want, in both an employer and in a job situation.

Prepare for the long haul.

Be Flexible. Be Adaptable. 

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

 Allen

Okay, Ol’ Codger. You’ve Lost Your Job. Now What?

Standard

unemployedTwo weeks ago today, on April 1st, I joined the ranks of the unemployed, due to a Budget Cut.

In years past, this would have been tough. Now, it is tougher. You see, I’m 55 years old.

Being a writer, and someone to whom performing research comes as naturally as breathing in and out, I immediately performed a Google Search, on “Being Unemployed Over 50”. I found an article on the subject , posted in 2012 on forbes.com, which included this hardly-inspiring little ray of sunshine:

For older workers who lose their jobs, the statistics are not very encouraging. Though the unemployment rate for people over 55 is just 5.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several points lower than the overall rate of 8.1%, when older workers lose their jobs they are out of work for a long time, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. In May, 54.9% of job seekers over 55 had been looking for 27 weeks or more. According to the Institute, on average, unemployed people over 55 have been out of work for more than a year—56 weeks. Also, as my colleague Ashlea Ebeling wrote in May, the Urban Institute released a report showing that median monthly earnings fell 23% after an unemployment spell for reemployed workers aged 50 to 61, compared with just 11% for workers aged 25 to 34.

Yeehaw. Okay, so what should I do? I mean, I can only watch “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “In The Heat of The Night” reruns so many times. Besides, I keep remembering the mug shots of the late Howard Rollins, from the time he was arrested for Substance Abuse while wearing women’s clothing. It was not a pretty sight.

But, I digress…

The Forbes Article goes on to feature stories from  Renée Rosenberg, a career counselor who specializes in over-50 job seekers. She is the author of Achieving the Good Life After 50, and a coach with the national career coaching organization.

According to Ms. Rosenberg, and the writer of the article, Susan Adams,

Often older workers need to adjust their expectations and consider jobs outside their area of expertise. Sometimes this means swallowing a pay cut, but it can also mean taking a job that is more low key and located closer to home. One of Rosenberg’s clients, at 68, lost his finance job in a downsizing. He realized he wanted to walk to work in his New York suburb. While poking around his neighborhood he saw a help wanted sign in a storefront. He inquired, and landed a job as a dispatcher for a limousine and car service. The job isn’t glamorous but it meets his financial needs and keeps him close to home.

In other words, grab whatever you can. If I was in my late 60s, I would probably follow those ladies’ advice.

However, I am not. I am only 55. I believe that I still have a lot to offer an employer.

The only problem is, will the employers see it that way?

I believe, as a “Marketing Guru”, that it is all a mater of how you package…or repackage yourself.

“Back in the day”, I was extremely proficient at what is now known as the “Old Technology” (“B.D.” : Before Digital).

I realized, at 50 years old, that I needed to “catch up” with Technology, in order to make myself more marketable, so, I accepted a job as a Computer Intern with Digital Opportunity Trust.

Digital Opportunity Trust was a Non-profit Organization which originated in Canada. When it came to America, it located in Picayune, Mississippi, as a part of AmeriCorps.  It’s mission was, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to go into the public schools in Louisiana and Mississippi, and teach the Administrators, Teachers, and Students how to use the New Technology (Twitter, Facebook, Skype, blogging, etc.) as Educational Tools, in order to improve the educational process.

While DOT is no longer with us, due to their funding being eliminated by the Federal Government, the importance of their mission lives on, as many school districts now have their own New Technology Instructors,

By taking “one step back” and becoming an Intern at 50 years old, I was able to re-invent myself, making my job skills more marketable.

If you are my age, and you, too, are in search of a new job opportunity, my advice to you is…

If there is an opportunity to update your skills, take it. You are never to old to learn and to grow from the learning.

Never give up. Never surrender.

Allen