Thank you for reading my blog. Please feel free to make comments and give your own opinions.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Over 60 and underemployed?

Companies are starting to hire again, but many are turning their backs on older job seekers. Here's some examples:

"I would love to say my experience has been different but no such luck. I am 62 and have worked in office environments since I graduated from high school. I have worked for the Federal Government, private industry, and my wife and I owned our own company until the market fell out of the building business. We lost all our saving due to two business partners who scammed us. So it is back off to work, hoping to make enough that we will be able to retire before I am 90.

I have been unemployed off an on for almost three years and cannot understand why I can't even get my foot in the door considering all the experience I have. I'm young for my age, in excellent health, and have no baggage. Surely there are employers out there that realize the value of a mature, energetic, responsible, dependable worker. Give us a chance! "

"I am in my 60's and returned to school to get a degree in business management. Even though I worked in the field forever, every company said that they wanted a degree. Did that help?  NO! Many businesses don't want to hire a man in his 60s, even though I have so much to offer. I have the experience and knowledge far beyond the young people getting out of college."

"When I do get  JOB, I'm underemployed. 62yrs old with a Bachelors Degree. I carry a portfolio of 14 years of Outstanding performance on my job interviews. I've been offered 1/2 of what I'm currently earning, which is 1/2 of my salary 3 years ago. I have practiced all the interview tips I could possibly read on Linkedin. It is hard staying upbeat and positive."

What I see, if a older person applies they say "you are over qualified, under qualified, not qualified" or they want someone who has 20 years experience and should not be over 30 years old. The job performance of the younger workers in any field is not something you learn in a day. The companies that hire are told to get the cheapest worker they can even if they don't have the experience and the public is paying the price.

It is wrong that companies throw out the older for the new. Too many employers give lip service to this concept—and it’s got to stop right now. What good is a country—or a company—that abandons its older workers?

I'm very disturbed by a new trend I have been hearing about - and that is that companies looking to hire are now requesting "only candidates who are currently working". I find this very disturbing. The belief is that if someone has been out of work since 2008, even if that person has been working on project assignments, they may be "out of touch". This is absolutely ludicrous. I would concur had it been 10 years. But we have been in a deep recession since 2008, which has had a disproportionate effect on the job market. It's simply the luck of the draw. If a person had a job at the time the recession started but was hoping to make a change - that doesn't make them better or more qualified than one who didn't have a job at the time. It only makes them more resilient. That person probably hung on for fear of not being able to find another job. Resilience is not always a virtue.

I definitely agree older workers are often better workers than younger workers. It takes at least 10 years of experience to have the right kind of knowledge and instincts to work well in business. Older workers are often more reliable - coming in on time, focusing on their work to get it done within normal business hours. Many younger workers are too distracted by their life in general and have difficulty focusing solely on their work. Older workers do have an edge over younger workers in having been there, done that, and seen that. This helps a great deal in business. You don't need to micromanage older workers to get the work done. The work will just be done at the end of the day. When something isn't working out the way it should - there's a technology problem or analytical problem - younger workers spend a lot of time discussing what's going wrong and trying to figure out how to fix it. Meanwhile an older worker just fixes the problem, gets the work done without much fuss.

You see where I’m going with this. Employers staffing based on age, gender, etc. are likely short sighted and compromising their competitive position. Job seekers, if you dwell on the issue of age discrimination (yes it’s there), then you, too, will be compromising your competitive position.

So what is the answer? I think as a refrain from an old (did I say old?) song “it’s blowing in the wind”. But if a company is true to its owners it will develop, execute and measure a strategy that doesn’t lose sight of a tremendous pool of experienced talent. But let’s not stop there. These elder statesmen/women can mentor, share or simply be observed in a multi-generational workforce that will, without question, enhance their competitive advantage.