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How older job seekers can avoid the ageism trap

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Despite the fact there are laws to protect workers over 40 from age discrimination, it is a well-known fact ageism is alive and well in most organizations.

The recession was particularly rough on older workers, many of whom were disproportionately targeted in layoffs. And while current unemployment numbers reflect a healthy economy with robust hiring, the truth is, thousands of older workers simply dropped out of the labor force because they couldn’t find work.

Older workers have been stigmatized for mostly invalidated reasons including: Not being as nimble, harder to train, hate change, stuck in their ways, can’t get along with millennials, etc. And the list goes on and on.

If you are still unemployed and want to get back in the game there are some things you can do.

1. Write a ‘Pain Letter’ instead of a cover letter. Liz Ryan, Founder of Human Workplace suggests sending a letter, using snail mail (yes you heard me correctly!) directly to the hiring manager (who you locate on LinkedIn). ‘In the Pain Letter, you congratulate your potential-new manager on something cool the organization is doing, and you mention the business pain your hiring manager is likely to be up against. Then you tie that business pain to your own background.’ See Ryan’s example here. By using the Pain Letter approach you also by-pass the dreaded Applicant Tracking System, which we all know is anything but applicant friendly.
2. Get curious. Learning must be a life long pursuit. Maybe some of your skills are out of date. With the digital age in full swing, skills come and go like fast food. If you don’t get ‘em while they are hot, you are out of luck. Assuming you are unemployed you have the time to learn a new skill or two. Talk to people in your field and find out what skills need updating and enroll in a class. Social media, for instance, might be a great place to start.
3. Repurpose yourself. Maybe you have been doing the same thing for too long and it is time for a change. Think about channeling your energy and strengths into something that truly matters to you. In his book, ‘The Upside of Aging’, Paul H. Irving says, ‘People need to find ways to repurpose and reposition themselves through lifelong learning.’ Pursuing something that gives you purpose will do wonders for your attitude as well, which translates into an effective job search marketing campaign. Check out encore.org, the national non-profit which is geared toward helping people identify second and third act careers that combine personal meaning with social impact and continued income.

There are approximately 76.4 million baby boomers in the U. S. today, representing close to one - quarter of the estimated total population of 314 million. And according to American Community Survey data, about 68 percent of baby boomers were still in the labor force (including Armed Forces) in 2012. A force not to be ignored. There are opportunities for many of us to continue to contribute in a big way as we continue to live much longer. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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