Looking for a job is usually a task accompanied by anxiety. Looking for a job at an older age can be downright discouraging.
Diana Hinton, who is in her 50s, estimates that she’s applied for more than 250 jobs since a downsizing at her company left her with a severance package. But a couple weeks of extra time to walk her dog Maxwell has long since turned into years.
And she’s still looking.
“I think the first few weeks, [Maxwell] was looking at me like, ‘Aren’t you going somewhere?!’,” Diana quipped.
But while she hasn’t lost her sense of humor, Diana often turns to Maxwell to soothe her fears.
“He calms me down, really,” she said. “I’m pretty strong but I’m getting to the point like, I’m almost sliding down, you know? And I have to keep telling myself ‘Come on, Diana, you can do this’.”
Of course, she’s not alone. As the entire Baby Boom is well into its 50s and older, the overall population in that range is the greatest in history. And, the statistics are less auspicious for them than their younger peers when it comes to job searching.
“The average duration of unemployment nationwide is 22.7 weeks,” Claire Turner of Senior Source in Dallas explained. “But for older adults, it’s 32 weeks.”
Candace Moody at CareerSource in Jacksonville offers a different rule of thumb.
“[A job search] takes about a month for every $10,000 of income that you’re trying to replace,” Moody told First Coast News.
In her 21 years with CareerSource, Moody has seen a lot. She says on one hand companies are wary of losing older talent.
“A lot of institutional knowledge is going to go out the door with the Baby Boomers,” she said.
But there’s a flip-side.
“[Age] is a proxy for your longevity in the workplace, how long you’re going to last, your flexibility, your comfort with technology.”
Moody said many job seekers undermine themselves by being long on expectations and short on flexibility. Specifically, she said older job seekers sometimes carry a damaging air of condescension.
She described it as “looking down your nose at the younger interviewer and saying ‘Young kid, we used to know how to do it’.”
And while age discrimination is illegal, Moody pointed out that employers can – and must – consider how they perceive an applicant fitting in with their team.
“Those are all things that are not discriminatory,” she cautioned.
The good news is, she said experience – minus arrogance – can become a big plus.
“Your ‘been-there-done-that’ attitude is going to be an asset if you have the ability to blend in and work as part of a team,” Moody said, even if that team doesn’t have a lot of gray hair.
Knowledge is power, of course, including what to do in an interview.
“Prove your energy … prove your flexibility … really invest in technology so you can honestly answer that you’re comfortable,” were among her encouragements.
But also, the knowledge of what an employer might be thinking or even fearing. Moody said many employers are wary: an older applicant targeting a higher salary than they can offer might have thin loyalty.
“That if somebody comes along in a few months with an offer that’s commensurate with my experience, of course I’m going to leave you,” Moody said, taking on the assumed perspective of the candidate.
Asked whether any particular industries are hotter than others for older job seekers on the First Coast, Moody said the service industry is the best bet for many.
So, if you’re an older job seeker, you have plenty of company. You also don’t have to go it alone. CareerSource offers its services free of charge. For information about its office in Jacksonville, click this link: