Q: I separated from my job after more than 14 years and have been looking for work. I was called in to do a few interviews, yet each time someone younger was hired. I'm 59 and when I say younger think 25 to 35 years old. Right now, I am rethinking whether I have anything to offer a prospective employer. I have several degrees, management and administration experience, budget oversight experience, etc. I am in good health, physically fit, and am computer literate. Any suggestions on how I can approach a potential employer?
A: Your experience is too typical. Age discrimination is real. Hopefully, a tightening labor market will improve your odds of finding a job, assuming the unemployment rate continues to decline.
Writing about how to find a job is easy while actually landing one is hard. That said, the most valuable asset people in their 50s and 60s have when looking for work is their network, the ties and connections created over a lifetime. The research shows that more than half of all jobs come from network contacts, including former colleagues, vendors and acquaintances.
For instance, the first episode of my new podcast Unretirement carried on American Public Media, tells the story of Tene. She lost her job at age 56. Eventually she settled on becoming a social entrepreneur focusing on women and poverty. Her social venture concept has evolved as she tested out her idea with her network. "I used the wealth of contacts I had built," she says. "I met lots of people for coffee."
Job seekers in their 50s and 60s often take their skills and experience into another part of the economy or a different industry, say, from a for-profit enterprise into the nonprofit sector. Volunteer work is a potentially rich resource for job seekers. These volunteer activities also offer a chance to check out an organization to see if there's a job opening to pursue.
A large number of people decide to tap into their experience and form their own business. For example, nearly 26 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2014 were in the 55 to 64 year age group, up from almost 15 percent in 1997, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
If it's any solace, you have a lot of company. Many people like you are looking for work that offers both purpose and a paycheck well into the traditional retirement years.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace," and economics commentator, Minnesota Public Radio