How to Beat the Job Search Baby Boomer Blues

Had to laugh when I saw this August 3, 2009 New Yorker cartoon.  It cuts dangerously close to the hard job interview truth many of us baby boomers are facing:

New Yorker Baby Boomer Cartoon

New Yorker Baby Boomer Cartoon

 

Do Baby Boomers Really Have a Steeper Job Search Climb?

In three words: yes and no.  I’ll explain…and do my best to shed some light for baby boomers everywhere looking for a new job or career. But first…a story.

A few years back I watched my 50+ cousin go through a grueling, confidence-shattering period of unemployment – and that was pre-economic crisis. He is one of the most experienced people in his niche industry, but because of his career level and previous salaries, he had trouble convincing anyone he was willing to work for less (since jobs at his level are scarce). And yet he was more than willing.

Over the 18 months he was out of work, he wound up piecing together a few part-time consulting jobs here and there and networking like crazy until finally a great opportunity – albeit at a lower level – came his way.  And even then, he had to be creative in addressing the lower salary and title issues. But he hung in and managed to get his foot back into a welcoming door and now has risen back to an executive level job – and salary.

I’m also in my baby boomer years and, while I think there was one interviewer who nixed me just for my age, many others are open to my experience and positive, solution-oriented attitude. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of employers who prefer younger workers – there are. Younger workers are often less expensive and voraciously hungry to prove their worth; and many employers see that as a cheap way to get hard workers.

So what’s a still-in-the-job-market baby boomer to do?

Fear not. There are plenty of employers who see the benefit of more experienced workers willing to work hard and who can often find solutions that save time and money in the long run. In education and technology where I work, I’ve found doors open to good workers of any age. And, in fact, I’ve gone out of my way at times to look for candidates in their boomer years, since I know they can add organizational texture as well as solid experience to a team.

But of course there are industries and individual companies where younger is better. I find it doesn’t pay to focus on what we can’t get. I just want to make it clear that there are full-time, part-time, and consulting jobs out there for baby boomers no matter what the perception may be. You just have to be creative and persistent – and willing to open up to new possibilities.

Speaking of perception and baby boomers, I found a great article on this subject on The Interviewing Edge you might want to check out:

Interview Obstacles Confronting Baby Boomers

The author Mark Ste. Marie talks about perceptions some employers have about the stereotypical baby boomer and what we as boomers can do about it. Here are some perceptions he says are out there:

  • Overpriced
  • Settling for the job (and therefore not going to stay long)
  • Not as sharp or hungry as younger workers
  • Lacking skills younger folks have
  • Not flexible
  • Over-qualified
  • Wrong image for the company (ouch!)

Sounds pretty scary, no? Don’t let it throw you. Perceptions like these can often be overturned – especially if you don’t buy into them yourself.

One of my favorite things is to come into an interview with good energy, an alert and creative mind, and the ability to show what I bring to the company based on things I’ve accomplished in the real world and not just in a classroom. (Sorry recent grads. I can spin your advantages too, but for now let me talk to my fellow baby boomers. . ;-) ) It also helps to show that you can listen and you do not think you have all the answers.

You may of course need to be extra creative when it comes to networking (and maybe just a little brave) so you can actually get yourself to that job interview. But once you get there, it’s all on you. And the perception that matters most at that point is your perception of yourself – since that’s what you project when you interview!

Overcoming Baby Boomer Obstacles

In his article, Mark Ste. Marie goes on to suggest some things that may help you surmount any job interview perception obstacles, including what advantages you bring (life experiences, loyalty, connections, etc.) and how you can be your own bff in getting past the baby boomer job interview blues (keep your skills current, keep active even while looking, etc.) And don’t forget social networking sites and other current technology that show you are not stuck in the dark ages!

While we can’t go back in time (as far as I know), we baby boomers have a lot going for us.  Sure, you’ll hear lots of scare stories and find plenty of people who worship youth. But it only takes one job and, if you have patience and put your full energy and commitment into your job search, you’ll get yourself there – or somewhere else you might not expect that can also work well for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

What perceptions do you have of baby boomers? Are you a boomer who had success selling yourself to an employer? Would love to hear your thoughts and advice to baby boomers everywhere.

Related Work Coach Cafe job search posts:

How to Make the Most of Settling for a So-So Job in a Tight Economy

Make Your Job Search a Daily Job. Oh How It Pays Off!

20 Career Tips to Help You PromoteYourself

Job Search: The Simplest Job Networking Tip of All

How Baby Steps Can Get You Out of the Trenches and Into a Career You Love

How Can I Find a Job that Makes Me Happy?

Thinking of Changing Careers for that Dream Job? Be Creative!

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. Great article! Baby Boomers face many hurdles but as with all hurdles, they can be cleared.

    Thanks for the mention!

    Mark

  2. My pleasure Mark. You have some really good resources over at your site. I appreciate the inspiration. ;-)

    Ronnie Ann

  3. As a fellow baby boomer, I sometimes find it unsettling to compete in today’s business world where new technology is more easily grasped by younger workers. I have to remind myself that although the younger minds and eyes can champion new aps quicker than I can, I still have a reservoir of experience that’s uniquely mine to offer. If I want to stay in the game, I have to work a little harder and collaborate with my younger colleagues to keep up in areas that are challenging for me. In return, I usually have insights to offer my younger cohorts in return. The collaboration makes it that much more fun!

  4. Hi Susan!

    Thanks for the great comment. Funny…I think of you as someone who has embraced the new tech rev 2.1 a lot more than many boomers I know. I understand it does take some work to get completely up to speed..but those insights of yours are priceless!

  5. Great points, now if I could only get an interview to use them that would be great.

  6. Nice post Ronnie! As a boomer myself, I find that people of our generation have the knowledge AND the wisdom of our years to make a difference in the workplace. In most cases, we know what needs to be done and we have the wisdom through our experiences to separate the important from the unimportant, and help establish workplace priorities.

    Best,
    Rick

  7. Maybe I’m weird (well, I guess we’re way past the “maybe”) but I never could tolerate age discrimination even when it was to my advantage. About fzph years ago, when I was 22, I went to an employment agency to grace them with my presence on their rolls. I was told by the (relatively young) interviewer how great I was: “You’re talented, you have experience, you look smart, and YOU’RE YOUNG!
    Bleh! {I thought but didn’t say}. I replied, deadpan, that I thought age discrimination was illegal, so what has my YOUTH got to do with it?!? I believed that then, and I believe that now. I can be quite snitty, I know, but I wouldn’t work for someone who hired me for my age, just as I wouldn’t work for someone who discriminated against someone else for theirs. I realize such ideals can sound hollow in lean times; many of us wouldn’t feel we could afford to turn down an opportunity; but I’ve never felt any detrimental effects from this. Age-worshiping culture = not for me!
    On the other hand, I’ve been witness to MANY 60+ individuals who learn quickly—including things like computers and technology; I know because I’ve taught them—and, as you say, they can bring a wealth of experience and common sense to a position.
    Bottom line; my advice (which you did ask for!) :) is never work for someone who is not delighted with you.

  8. Hah. Good point, Gerald! I certainly didn’t mean to imply jobs are right there for the picking any time any of us want them. I know it takes time and lots of creative networking. (Glad to see you’re a fellow member of LinkedIn.) And it also sometimes involves turning left to get you to go right eventually. Good luck finding some cool consulting work or even a try-and-then-by situation in the meantime!

    Hi Rick! Nice to see you. Promise to drop by soon. ;-)

    Muse, you always leave me smiling. I LOVE that bit of advice. It makes my day when my current boss shows delight over something I did. It’s a very cool thing. Now if we could only all find that!

  9. I am also one of the baby boomers. I was working in the Nursing Home field as an Activity Director but was fired. As it turned out they had hired a younger male for the job and was working the day after I was fired. However, I needed to re-invent myself and am now in a technical computer class. If you look aroung my classroom, there has to be at least 80% that are baby boomers. We even talk about “The Good Old Days” with no cell phones or computers.
    Our school’s Web Site has this particular site on our main screen.
    I am so glad I found this site.

  10. Thank you for the lovely comment, Susan! I’m actually taking a course now to help brush up on my understanding of Baby Boomer career issues, so I expect to post more on the subject in the coming months. Love that you’re “re-inventing” yourself.

    Best of luck in your new field! As someone who’s worked a good deal in IT, there are lots of ways you can aim yourself. Hope you find something you really enjoy.

    Ronnie Ann

  11. Lane Zane says:

    Interesting comments. Just wanted to add mine. When I worked in the casino industry, I had a terrific boss. He actually hired older workers as he loved our experience. Everyone in the department was over 40. I also remember another manager who was hiring for a sales position and an older woman came in to apply for the job. He interviewed her and after she left, I heard him mumble “I’d never hire her, she’ s too old”. I guess because she had gray hair, he was turned off. So there is an example of two different managers and how they reacted to older workers. I think this is how it is in the workplace. There are those employers who will hire older workers and those who choose not to do so. I always think that those employers who don’t are missing out on a wealth of experience.

  12. Hi Lane! Thanks for the great examples.

    In my last long-term consulting job, we often preferred older workers because they came with great situational experience and took less hand-holding and training. And because we worked in teams, we could pair them with our eager and talented young beavers ;-) and get a better product as a result. (Plus some great coaching for our budding stars.)

    As you say…not the same in all places, but good to know there are definitely employers who appreciate the seasoning!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  13. Ronnie Ann,

    Another great post! I really appreciate the way you put your heart and compassion into each post, and include lots of information the Work Coach Cafe community can use or adapt to fit their concerns/goals.

    I just had the pleasure of sitting in on a colleague’s workshop on staying motivated in tough times (he was offering the workshop to job seekers in transition). Several of the participants who self-identified as Boomers shared their concern that they are not being considered for job opportunities due to age or their extensive experience. We focused (as you do) on strategies they might consider to address this concern.

    As you point out, I always share with my clients that they only need one job , so focusing on how many jobs do not exists (or how many people may not hire them due to any of the reasons you’ve mentioned) isn’t as helpful as reminding themselves that they only need the one job and that’s what they’re working toward.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom! Have a great weekend,

    Shahrzad

  14. Great comment, Shahrzad. Thanks for the kind words and for adding so nicely to the conversation. Your thoughts on boomer job search – or anything else – always welcome. Sounds like your clients are lucky. Focusing solely on the rigors of the “obstacle course” can undo anyone’s confidence. As you say, the key is “reminding (them) that they only need the one job and that’s what they’re working toward.”

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  15. Ronnie, do you think “advertising” is one of those industries where “younger is better” and I should start looking at other industries where my skills would be useful?

  16. On one hand I’m glad to see I’m not the only Boomer having difficulty getting an interview with a real person, much less securing meaningful employment … or any employment for that matter. On the other hand, I have to admit that all the cheer- leading above ~ while it sounds wonderful ~ hasn’t taken away my Baby Boomer Blues as I struggle with my mid-career transition from K-12 International Education to International Higher Education Administration. I”ve just returned to the States after teaching in Asia for the past 8 years and naively thought my international experience would be looked upon positively and put to good use, but I can’t seem to even get considered for an interview. Connecting with the right people means participating in costly NAFSA conferences which I’d love to do … if I had the money. ‘Tis a vicious circle ~ no income/no connecting ~ no connecting/no income. I’m even having trouble getting “seasonal” work. I’m either too old, over qualified or under qualified ~ aarrrrrgggghhhh!

    Just venting ~ thanks for listening all.

    • Hi Linnell,

      Wow, that must be really frustrating — and I agree — that experience must be valuable to someone. Have you tried informational interviews in International Offices or Overseas program offices of colleges and universities you want to work for? That may provide you with some ideas of opportunities that are coming down the pipeline and help you position for the new opportunity.

      In addition, here’s another wrinkle that may be complicating your search: Many international offices at college work with immigration and visa laws rather than international students or international programs. Informational interviews would help you get an overview of the lay of the land.

      Good luck and hang in there.

      Best,
      Chandlee

Speak Your Mind

*