For older adults, unemployment remains high, job searches long
While the economy takes tentative steps toward recovery, for older Americans, that recovery is elusive. With high unemployment rates already, their time spent looking for a new job is much, much longer than average.
Study after study have declared that the economic recovery is underway.
The unemployed will be forgiven if they're not so sure.
While unemployment rates are dropping and spending is up, for those who are unemployed and over age 55 the news remains bleak. More than half of jobless seniors, about 1.1 million people, have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent four years ago, according to a government report released last week.
But these aren’t just numbers — they’re people all over the country.
David Kurtzer is 56-years-old and has been out of work for about two months after more than a decade in technology marketing. He would love another senior level technology marketing position. Susan Price is 52-years-old, and was unemployed for all of 2009 and again from September 2010 to May 2011. She has since landed a job as a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry.
There are numerous others.
"I've been extremely active," Kurtzer said, "contacting a lot of my colleagues from years past. Looking on job boards and contacting a lot of companies about opportunities."
Kurtzer blames the difficulty of his job search, in part, on his age, but also on where he is in his professional life right now. He's advanced and has experience, he said. As you get further into your career, there are fewer jobs out there and more people going after them.
"At the same time, I think a lot of companies say 'Do we need that kind of person or can we go with a younger person and get 80 percent of what we can get with that older person,' " Kurtzer said.
That saves businesses money.
Price too says age is a factor in finding a job, and that experience can also make it more difficult.
"Companies are looking at how they can do the best with what resources you have," she said. "The cue line is when you hear, 'You're over-qualified.' And that tends to be the secret word for you're older than we wanted."
Kurtzer said he's heard that phrase in the last few weeks.
He counters, though, that with that experience comes not just business know-how, but also time spent leading a team to get the job done. Price said, in general, companies do better if they hire people with more experience.
Price said the challenge for older candidates can be presenting themselves in a youthful, energetic manner. Just having energy, she said, can make a huge difference.
"Your attitude has to betray your age," she said. "You have to be aware of what the technologies are, you have to be aware of what's going on in the industry. Just because you're out of work, doesn't mean you stop reading."
Even a youthful appearance, with new clothes, can make a difference, she said.
Kurtzer echoed Price's sentiments, but also emphasized the importance of contacts and using the people you know.
"They help an amazing amount as well," he said.
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