Rutgers University offers long-term unemployed workers 45 years and older in New Jersey a range of services to find work. Early last week I participated in an engaging webinar on being an older job seeker in a pandemic. Among the questions asked: “What is your best advice for how to remain optimistic while job hunting while over 50 or 60 in this environment?”
My answer largely emphasized reaching out to people in your network, including family, extended family, friends, colleagues, former colleagues and others. Our network is a critical part of our emotional safety net. Checking in on them and seeing how they are doing reminds us about the importance of connections and relationships.
I want to expand on that advice by echoing an exhortation from a friend who recently called from his rehabilitation facility. “It’s time to put the kids first,” he said.
The financial fallout from confronting COVID-19 is widely shared with an unemployment rate hovering around 20% for April. But the shutdown is particularly difficult for the younger generation. Recent college graduates expected to launch their careers in the best job market in a half century. The job market is now shuttered. Students will miss out on the income and experiences from summer internships as offers dry up. High school seniors planning on heading off to college or trade school don’t know if there will be classes in the fall.
The best investment the older generation can make is in the younger generation. The wealth of the nation lies with knowledge, skill and education — the endowments economists call “human capital.” Their worth is some four times greater than the value of all stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets, Nobel laureate Gary Becker calculated.
While those of us in the second half of life can’t control the course of the economy, we can take our experience and mentor young people to help them do well in life. Scholarly research supports the benefits of mentoring for both the mentor and the mentee.
The legendary entertainment executive Jeffrey Katzenberg recently told the Wall Street Journal that his most valuable life lesson came from his mentor, actor Kirk Douglas, who told him, “Jeffrey, you haven’t learned to live until you’ve learned how to give.”.
These are hard days. Many of us are dealing with loss of income, security and, most sadly, loss of loved ones. Mentoring is an investment that is not only good for them but healthy for us and our communities in anxious times.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for “Marketplace” and a Minnesota Public Radio commentator.