Older Job Applicants: An Untapped Resource

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unemployment7As I close out my second month of my search for full-time employment as an “Over 50” Job Seeker, I am finding myself faced with, shall we say, “challenges”.

An article found at TheLadders.com touches on these issues…

“It’s a complicated issue and, yes, it is a problem,” said Laurence J. Stybel, co-founder of Stybel, Peabody & Associates Inc., and executive in residence at the Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University in Boston. “It’s becoming an acute problem because many baby boomers who thought they were going to retire at 59 1/2 to 62 are now dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of their job security and the collapse of their retirement funds and are saying, ‘Now I have to work till 68 or maybe 70.’ But employers aren’t interested in that.”

What recourse does an older job seeker have?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects people 40 years old and older from discrimination based on age. But that doesn’t mean that such discrimination doesn’t happen, said Stybel.

Many people try to hide their ages on their resumes, by leaving off years of graduation and including only the last 15 years or so of work experience. Unless you appear exceptionally young for your age or have resorted to some kind of plastic surgery, this strategy will be effective only until they meet you.

Instead of trying to obfuscate your age, said Stybel, address it head-on.

“Because of the legalities, employers and potential employers are not going to bring up the issue of age,” he said. “If you as the job candidate don’t bring up the issue, it’s not going to be discussed. And, if it’s not discussed, it works to your disadvantage.”

Emphasize the experience and work ethic that come with age, while demonstrating the flexibility and hunger to succeed that are often attributed more to younger workers.

“A lot of companies want young people because they’re hungry,” said Stybel. “The assumption is that somebody 55 or older has got the retirement all set up, the kids are out of college, they don’t need the money, they aren’t hungry. [Potential employers won’t] ask you how hungry you are. It’s a rude question, and it also indirectly deals with age, so it could be an illegal question. It’s up to you to bring it up. Say, ‘I’m hungry; I really want the money, I need the money, I’m going to work my ass off for you.’ ”

Carrell Chadwell, a psychologist and the author of “Changing Careers in a Changing World,” noted that many employers will question (at least to themselves) the length of time an older worker will be with an organization. Again, the best defense is a strong offense, said Chadwell: “They’re likely to wonder how long you are going to stay. You want to mention that. Tell them what your goals are and that you will be there at least several years.”

A more complicated issue is that of health insurance, or, from an employer’s perspective, how much will this person cost our company?

“As people get older, they’re going to use health insurance more,” said Stybel. “And, particularly in small businesses, the cost of health insurance goes up every year, and it’s a major cost. So, when an employer looks at a candidate over the age of 55, they’re going to say, ‘If I hire her, won’t my health insurance costs go through the roof? Because there’s her, there’s her husband …’ But they won’t bring it up because of the legal issues and because it’s awkward.”

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA permits employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.

Now, all of that is great. However, as I have written in the past, employers are looking to hire younger candidates, as they feel that they are more technologically savvy, more energetic, and will fit better into their “Company Culture”.

What employers sometimes fail to realize, is the fact that business veterans, such as myself, have a wealth of experience which will benefit their company, both externally, through and internally, through wisdom gained from decades in the Business World.

Additionally, Business Veterans, worth their salt, have kept up with the New Technology.

Most of us even know how to program a DVR.

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

-Allen

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Memorial Day 2014: Honoring Our Brightest and Best

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memorialdayToday is a day of solemn remembrance, during which we honor our fallen heroes.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860′s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50′s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”

On a night in 1966, a 7 year old was laying on his family’s den couch in Memphis, TN, watching his favorite TV Series “Batman” with a fever of 105, brought about by a severe bronchial infection. Tending to that sick child were 3 veterans of World War II: his Daddy, a Master Sergeant with the Army Engineers, his Uncle “R” (Robert), US Air Force, and his Uncle Perriman, a full-blooded Indian from Albuquerque, who was an Army Corpsman.

Those three veterans, now all gone, took turns putting cold washcloths under the child’s arms and on his forehead, until his fever finally broke, sometime during the night.

That child was me.

I was privileged to be raised by members of the Greatest Generation. The legacy that they gave to me of love of God, Family, and Country is a heritage that I hold very dear.

It is today that we pause to remember their sacrifices at home and abroad.  Not only theirs, but the sacrifices made by our Brightest and Best, and their families, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

May God bless them all and may He hold them in the hollow of His hand.

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

-Allen

How to Dress For a Job Interview: Decorum or Duckheads?

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Job Interview 1As I continue my quest for Full-time Employment, I actually had an interview last week. As I strode up to the office building where my interview was, it hit me:

In this age of “Business Casual”, is it still appropriate to wear a suit or, at least a coat a tie to a job interview?

So, I did some research (Hey, I’m a Marketing Guy, what do you expect?), and I came upon a page on Virginia Tech University’s Website, upon which they advise their graduates on how to dress for a job interview.

According to them,

In an interview your attire plays a supporting role.

• Your conduct, your interpersonal skills and your ability to articulate intelligent and well-thought-out responses to questions are the most important elements.
• Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed.
• Be aware that in some industries, customer contact and image presented to the customer is critical. In such industries, your attire will be judged more critically.
• Your attire should be noticed as being appropriate and well-fitting, but it should not take center stage.
• If you are primarily remembered for your interview attire, this is probably because you made an error in judgment!
• Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet, so if in doubt, err on the side of dressing to a higher standard than you might need to.
• Even if you are aware that employees of an organization dress casually on the job, dress more formally for the interview unless you are specifically told otherwise by the employer. The interview is a professional meeting and thus a more formal occasion than daily work.
• Never confuse an interview or business function with a social event. Don’t dress for a party or a date.
• Not every contact with an employer requires interview attire. For some occasions business casual is appropriate. See business casual for when to wear it and what it is.
• Changes in fashion may change some things, like the width of lapels, the cut of pants, or the colors of blouses, shirts and ties available in the stores. Basic professional attire does not change with the whims of fashion. A good suit should last five to ten years, depending on its quality, how hard you wear it, how well you care for it, and if it continues to fit you well. You can express fashion’s whims in your off-the-job clothes, and to some extent in your accessories.

This advice came as a relief to me, because that is how I dress for interviews, anyway. However, being over 30 tears older than these graduates, it is reassuring that I haven’t lost what remains of my mind and that I am not out of touch…even though I listen to Sirius XM 60s on 6 and 70s on 7.

But, I digress…

The University goes on to list Attire Guidelines for Men and Women…

Suit:
A two-piece matched suit is always the best and safest choice.
• What if the JOB is in a NON-SUIT-wearing WORK ENVIRONMENT:
Even if you would or could wear jeans on the job, or the work environment is outdoors and a very non-suit environment, wearing a suit to the interview shows you take the interview seriously as a professional meeting. Dressing well is a compliment to the person(s) with whom you meet. If you think the industry in which you’re interviewing would frown on a suit, or the interview will involve going to a work site where a suit would be inappropriate, look for advice through professional organizations, your professors who have been employed in that industry, and/or by asking the employer directly and politely. One alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket; less formal than a suit, but still business-appropriate for both men and women.
• Conservative colors / fabric:
Navy, dark gray (and black for women) — are safe.
Other color trends may come and go; avoid the extremes.
Solids or very subtle weave patterns or plaids (the type that look solid across a room) are safest.
Wool, wool blends, or other good quality natural and synthetic fibers, are generally the best fabrics in all seasons. Avoid lower quality acetate / rayon blends.
• Cost / quality:
You are not expected to be able to afford the same clothing as a corporate CEO. Do invest in quality that will look appropriate during your first two or three years on the job. One good-quality suit is sufficient for a job search if that is all your budget allows. You can vary your shirt/blouse and tie/accessories.
• Details:
Everything should be clean and well pressed.
Carefully inspect clothes for tags, dangling threads, etc.

…Because, after all, you don’t want to show up looking like Cousin Minnie Pearl of “Hee Haw” Fame

That’s a joke, kids…ask your parents.

So, there you have it.

When it comes to interviewing for a job, class and decorum still rules the day.

Now…I wonder if I should go to the store and grab some “Just For Men”?

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

Allen

“Funemployment” Ain’t No Fun

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unemployment6Going into my fifth week in my journey through the wonderful world of unemployment as a 55 year old, I am finding out that, even though I have an impressive LinkedIn Profile, employers are reticent in hiring Business Veterans, such as myself.

In the process of banging my head against my computer desk last night, I said to myself,

Self, why don’t you do like others your age and older, just give up?

Then, I read the following article and found out that I am not the only crazy old coot out there, who has not dropped out of the Work Force…yet.

Foxbusiness.com reports that

For the last 20 years, the economic landscape has been changing as more people work later in life. But this trend, whether it is for need or enjoyment, was happening well before the Great Recession – and it continues, though older workers have found reemployment more difficult than their younger counterparts.

“From the 1950’s to the 1980’s, there was a decline in labor participation on the part of older Americans,” says Sara Rix, senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “But in the early to mid-1990’s, we saw a reversal and participation rates [among this group] started inching up…. Many aren’t aware that this is a trend that has been going on for a while and was not caused by the downturn.”

There are many reasons to want to stay in the jobs market, and according to a 2014 AARP report, financial need is at the top of the list – driven by personal or familial health care costs, the need to financially assist aging parents or children and the desire for future financial security. But, the report points out, psychological reasons are top of mind, too.

“With the economy weighing so heavily on people’s minds, it is easy to downplay the personal satisfaction that workers derive from their work,” said the report. “Many older workers see their job as an integral part of their identity.”

In March, the average duration of unemployment for older job seekers (55 and older) was 47.7% weeks, which is higher than February, when it was just 45.6 weeks, the Department of Labor reports. Job seekers under the age of 55 were unemployed for an average of 34.1 weeks in March, down slightly from 34.7 weeks in February.

“People see wisdom in working longer and on top of all of the real financial benefits you receive for every extra year you work…. They also say: What else am I going to do for the next 30 years?”
– Sara Rix, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at AARP

Joan Cirillo, the CEO and president of Operation A.B.L.E., a Boston-based organization focused on helping older displaced workers get back into the labor market, says over the course of her 19 years with the organization, the jobs market for older workers has gotten increasingly tough.

“We are dealing with an economy that is not robust. Employers are not hiring like they used to, so it’s important to do your homework,” she says. “Look at what industries are more open to hiring because many people 45 and older do run into issues where they are a great candidate, but are ‘overqualified,’ and the implication there is that age is a factor.”

In the last year, Cirillo says Operation A.B.L.E. has seen the number of people seeking help almost double, going from 535 people in 2012 to 1,000 in 2013.

It makes sense that people, many of whom are Baby Boomers, are looking for added resources.

In March, almost 45% of older job seekers were long-term unemployed, which means that they have been out of work and looking for a job for 27 weeks or more. That March number is up from February’s 43.5% but is below the 51% for the previous March.

“The system in this country is chaotic and there isn’t good education for job seekers,” says Maria Heidkamp, senior project manager at The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “We’ve just done research looking at whether older job seekers need more education and training to help them get reemployed. It may seem like an obvious finding, but in some cases, it’s probably a good investment, but certainly not in all. We found there is very little data on employment outcomes or return on investment for older job seekers who do pursue training.”

A while back, some idiot coined the term, “fun-employment” as a way to desensitize Americans to how awful and harmful to self and family, being unemployed actually is.

It is true that if you are unemployed when you are, say, in your 20s, there is a support system readily available for you, i.e., your parental units’ pocketbook, and, of course, “Government Benefits”, When you get my age, your parents have passed on, and you have responsibilities to family and debtors.

Unfortunately, the bills still have to be paid, and while receiving Unemployment Checks weekly certainly helps, they usually amount to only a fraction of what you were making, while employed.

Being a responsible adult stinks on ice, sometimes.

My solution?

God helps those who help themselves.

Never give up. Never surrender.

Allen

Where Has All the Work Force Gone? (Long Time Passing)

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unemployment4Last week’s Job Report, issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics presented some figures that evoked some serious questions..

The local CBS affiliate in Washington, DC reported that

Despite the unemployment rate plummeting, more than 92 million Americans remain out of the labor force.

The unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in April from 6.7 percent in March, the lowest it has been since September 2008 when it was 6.1 percent. The sharp drop, though, occurred because the number of people working or seeking work fell. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count people not looking for a job as unemployed.

The bureau noted that the civilian labor force dropped by 806,000 last month, following an increase of 503,000 in March.

The amount (not seasonally adjusted) of Americans not in the labor force in April rose to 92,594,000, almost 1 million more than the previous month. In March, 91,630,000 Americans were not in the labor force, which includes an aging population that is continuing to head into retirement.

“The labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 62.8 percent in April. The participation rate has shown no clear trend in recent months and currently is the same as it was this past October. The employment-population ratio showed no change over the month (58.9 percent) and has changed little over the year,” the bureau said in a statement.

So, if the “economy is improving” what have so many Americans dropped out of the work force?

According to The Washington Post, there are 3 reasons:

…1) The aging of America. One major reason the participation rate dropped involves long-run demographic trends that have little to do with the current economy. Baby boomers are starting to retire en masse, which means that there are fewer eligible American workers.

Demographics have always played a big role in the rise and fall of the labor force. From 1960 to 2000, the labor force in the United States surged from 59 percent to a peak of 67.3 percent. That was largely due to  more women entering the labor force. But it was also due to improvements in health and to the fact that the types of jobs available allowed Americans to work more years.

Since 2000, however, the labor force rate has been declining steadily as the baby boom generation has been retiring. That’s why, in 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago predicted that the labor force participation rate would be lower in 2020 regardless of how well the economy does.

Americans over the age of 65 are much less likely to work than prime-age Americans. And since that subset of Americans is expanding its ranks, that drives the labor-force participation rate down. Note that this shift is happening even though older Americans are staying on the job for longer than they did during the 1990s.

Economists disagree, however, on exactly how much demographics are responsible for the current fall in the participation rate. The Chicago Fed estimated in 2012 that retirements accounted for one-fourth of the drop in labor force participation since the recession began. Other analysts, including Barclays, have suggested that aging Boomers could account for more than half the drop.

Meanwhile, a recent paper by Shigeru Fujita of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia staked out a more nuanced view: Demographics, he argued, didn’t play a huge role in the labor-force drop between 2007 and 2011. But since then, retirements are responsible for basically the entire fall of the participation rate. One possible reason is that many older Americans postponed retirement immediately after the financial crisis to rebuild their battered 401(k)s. By 2012 or so, they began retiring en masse.

2) The bad economy is keeping workers in school and out of the labor force. Demographics can’t entirely explain of the labor force slide. For one, the number of Americans working or actively seeking work has actually fallen faster than demographers had predicted.

And here’s another clue that this isn’t just a demographic story: The participation rate for workers between ages 25 and 54 fell sharply during the recession and still hasn’t recovered. Obviously, retirements can’t explain this.

…3) More workers are going on disability insurance: There are now roughly 8.8 million Americans receiving disability benefits, a number that has doubled since 1995. Could that be a factor pulling people out of the labor force?

Possibly, although this is likely a smaller part of the story than the other two factors. Back in 2007, about 5.3 percent of working-age Americans were disabled and not in the labor force. By 2012, 6 percent of Americans were in this category. That’s an increase of about 1.8 million people. But it’s still less than one-third the total number of people who left the labor force altogether during that span.

Okay…so what’s the deal?

If somehow…someway…the economy is “recovering”…why are more and more Americans giving up on ever finding a job, again?

Here is what I think (After all, this is my Blog.): This economy is in a “false recovery”.

If you visit the Internet Job Boards, the jobs that are available are either “Beginning/Unskilled Jobs”, i.e. , “You want fries with that?”  or “High End Jobs” requiring specialized technology or company-specific training, i.e, “We’re looking for a Six Sigma Black Belt.” I once read a book on Judo. Does that count?

America’s Middle Class has always been the engine that drives America’s Economy. Without a healthy Middle Class, employed by the Private Sector, resulting in both its healthy participation in the work force and its purchasing power, giving back to the economy, America’s EconomicOutlook will remain bleak.

That being said, I am not about to give up in my job quest.

You do the same.

Allen