The Platinum Program at Jewish Family and Children’s Service is for individuals 50 and over who fall within 200 percent of poverty guidelines and live within Hennepin County. Janet Flam, Program Manager for Career Initiatives at JFCS, said she was “anticipating that in the Platinum Program, I’d see a lot of people who were no longer ready to be in the workforce — that they wouldn’t have the skill sets. What I learned is that a large percentage of these people have so much to offer. There’s no way they shouldn’t be working.”

Flam said the participants in the program, now in its second year, include “a little bit of everything. If a person’s only been unemployed for three months and they’re in their 50s, they might be able to look at something lateral. But there are people who have been out of work for a year and a half, or they want to get back to work because they retired and then their retirement income went belly up, and now they have to reinvent themselves.”

What are the options for someone over 50 who is unemployed or underemployed?

Someone with a long-standing employment record and very valid credentials could talk to us about training or programming to make them more employable — we can help them earn those certificates. If it continues on for a long time, we start to talk about “What else can you do? Where are you financially? Do you just need a job? Do you need two jobs?” Some people are willing to work for $15 an hour because it supplements their retirement. They need to think about what they can do at this point in their lives.

Are there things older workers can do to make their job search easier?

They don’t know how to present themselves. They start out with “I worked for this company for 20 years, and I thought I was doing a great job, but they let me go.” They talk about their age. They might not have that “elevator speech” until they’re in the program for two months. They’ve got to think about the things that made them an asset. They’ve got to think about what they take into the workplace.

What are some newer strategies for job hunting in 2013?

Don’t sit at home and think that if you send out 30 résumés in a day, you’re doing good job hunting. You’ve got to get out and do the networking — open yourself up to meeting new people. We do training on LinkedIn for every individual who comes into the program. Volunteering is something you should be looking into — it gets you out there, feeling that you’re making a difference. And it adds to your résumé. We talk about how they present physically. When they haven’t been working, some people become a little sloppy. We brought in someone from Dress for Success about how to update their look.

Minnesota’s overall employment is back to prerecession levels. Is the job market opening up for older workers?

The job market is changing slowly. I think there are opportunities out there. I don’t think individuals should give up, but they have to be careful to assess where they want to move to. If the industry in which they were looking is no longer viable, they have to look at where their skills would be best matched and retooling themselves.