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“I’m Over 60 and No One Wants to Hire Me”

I’ve had many clients who, in essence, have said, “The world doesn’t see a use for me anymore. But I still have plenty to give.”

True, many employers prefer younger workers: On average, they’re less expensive, more energetic, and more open to new ideas.

That said, older workers have real, perhaps more important, pluses, and when my clients explain those to prospective employers, they’re more often hired. True, the job search may take more effort, but it can succeed.

The following example embeds some effective tactics. I change irrelevant details to protect my client’s anonymity.

He had been president of a brokerage firm, which got bought out by a larger one. That made him expendable.

His first reaction was anger, and he spluttered something like, “They could have found a place for me. They’re just being ageist, racist, and sexist!” When he calmed down, he admitted that plenty of executives of his race, gender, and age are well employed. I asked whether, in his next job, he wanted to approach his job differently so that he became more resistant to termination.

He admitted that he had relied too much on being a great networker, which brought in lots of business but that his quantitative skills weren’t what they should have been, so he missed significant problems within the brokerage.

Thus, he realized that he had something to learn and he’d take an appropriate online course. He took one offered by the famed Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Next, we mapped out his job-search strategy.

The Elder Edges

But first, he needed reason to believe that, even though he didn’t quite have the energy, memory, or tech-savvy of a young person, he brought what may be an even more important set of pluses: what I call The Elder Edges. Here is how I described them.

  • Experience. All those years in the workforce have taught you more than most young people have yet acquired.
  • Perspective. You’ve seen a lot, so are in a good position to decide what is and isn’t worth stressing about. I’d imagine that all your experience also taught you that, in the long run, it’s wise to make ethics primary.
  • Connections. Even if my client didn’t have a rich network, anyone who has been around for 60+ years has what sociologist Mark Granovetter calls, distant ties. The chances of one of your close friends having a good lead for you are small, but because you have many more distant ties, the chances are greater. So get systematic: Make a list of everyone, current and past, near and far, who like you, and decide how you’ll reach out to each: email, phone, or an invitation to get together.

Dr. Mark Goulston, who discussed this topic in a YouTube conversation with me today, suggested sending a brief YouTube video to even distant ties, saying something like, “You popped into my head. I recall the time we hung out until 3 in the morning, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.”

My client ended up deciding to make part of his job search to have at least one in-person breakfast per week with one of his connections. As appropriate, he’d cite Elder Edges.

What happened? Within a month after completing that online course in finance, it was his breakfasts that paid off. He ended up getting hired by the president of a small but prestigious food manufacturer to modernize its finance system and supervise its implementation. The job has pluses and minuses compared with being a brokerage president, but he’s grateful to have, at 67, landed a good and remunerative job.

The Takeaway

By not jumping to an “ism” explanation and instead upping a skillset or attitude, plus stressing the Elder Edges, even older job seekers have a decent shot at getting on base, maybe even hitting a home run.

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