5 On Your Side

Job market especially hard for older, unemployed workers

Posted September 21, 2009

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— It can be tough for anyone laid off from a job, but it is especially difficult for older workers.

The category of older workers applies to those 40 and older. Many people in that range are dealing with being unemployed after working for the same company for decades. They also have to compete with younger candidates for job openings.

“I have never been without work,” job seeker Mary Thornbury said.

“It's hard. It's a roller coaster. It really is,” job seeker Ken Hoadley said.

Thornbury and Hoadley were both laid off. Thornbury once held a human resources position, while Hoadley was a supervisor at a tool company.

“You've got good weeks. You've got interviews. You've got your networking connections and you're like, alright, here we go, something is going to happen,” Hoadley said.

“The hardest part is keeping your spirits up,” Thornbury said.

It is also hard since both job seekers are considered "older" workers.

“It's like wow, you know what I’m 49 now. I'm almost 50. Holy cow,” Hoadley said.

“It's something that crosses my mind on a daily basis,” Thornbury said.

In April of this year, the unemployment rate for employees over 45 was the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking monthly unemployment in 1948. Some fear they will be passed over for younger candidates.

“You kind of wonder (and) you try to put stuff in your resume that doesn't date you,” Hoadley said.

“We don't want to let them know we graduated in a certain year,” said Suzanne LaFollete-Black, with the American Association of Retired Persons.

LaFollete-Black agrees that on resumes, older workers need not focus on dates.

“We want to put what our accomplishments are; what value do I bring to that company; what's the company's purpose; show the passion you have for a job,” LaFollete-Black said.

She says to also stay focused on what you bring to the table and help the employer see it.

“You have to look at the value of the older worker. That person has this knowledge that those young kids don't have. They have built relationships and networking. They have also built experiences in the jobs that they have that they can offer that nobody else can,” LaFollete-Black said.

LaFollete-Black urges older workers to update computer skills, and expand their pool of targeted employers by considering part-time, job share and temporary positions. Older workers could also offer to work odd hours that employees with young families might not be able to do. Most importantly, take advantage of every networking opportunity you find.

“Don't give up. Keep a positive attitude and you'll be able to find a job,” LaFollete-Black said.

WRAL News and the Capital Area Workforce Development Board are teaming up for a Career Expo to help job seekers find employment. It will be held Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center.

More than 80 employers will be in attendance and various workshops will be held including, how to write resume, find a different career and advice for older workers.


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  • angora2 Sep 24, 2009

    I see young people who think they know everything making mistakes I made 30 years ago. When I caution them, they ignore me (no, I am NOT a fuddy-duddy). "You don't look that old!" they say. Well I AM that old and have the experience to prove it. But in their eyes, what do I know?

  • Newsjunkie Sep 22, 2009

    I have a saying - "I'm too young to retire and I'm too old to hire." I'll be 58 next month - out of work for a year with no prospects - trying to hold on to my house....