• Karen

That Awkward Stage

Updated: Apr 12

It’s time we talked about that awkward time of life. No, I don’t mean the terrible twos or the moody, hormone angst of the teen years. I mean that uncomfortable and difficult time after age discrimination starts to kick in and when you are ready and able to retire. Those years when you may feel unemployable and unwanted despite having accumulated impressive credentials and great experience.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve attended even more online workshops and webinars than I normally do. Believe me, that’s a lot of time plugged in and listening to experts. Why do I do this? Because I’m always on the lookout for new information and resources for my clients and students. In every event I’ve watched about job and career issues the Q&A box is always flooded with people wanting specific tips and advice for job seekers over 50. Every. Single. Event.

In my unscientific personal sampling of webinars and workshops this past year, I saw that these questions are seldom addressed. Why? I’ve noticed a few trends over the last year.

· The experts giving many of the workshops are young—smart, talented, speakers but about 20+ years away from having to worry about age discrimination

· The number of questions around older workers who are desperate and frustrated are overwhelming—usually in the hundreds in every online chat

· Age discrimination is pernicious and stubborn—it’s hard to prove, but an overwhelmingly common experience among workers over 50

In both the US and Canada, many people report that they will not be able to retire at 65. Americans might need to stay in the workforce in order to hold onto precious health insurance. Both Americans and Canadians say they have inadequate savings to see them through retirement. The cost of living has outstripped wages for over a generation in both countries. Each country has some type of safety-net programs for the elderly, but usually these payments are bare bones. Now, add to this situation a global pandemic that turns labor markets upside down and pushes many older workers back into the role of active job seekers.

If you’re over 50 and looking for work (and sometimes discrimination kicks in around 40) here are a few things to keep in mind:

Seek advice and coaching from a wide variety of experts and sources—younger professionals who know all the latest and greatest trends as well as seasoned specialists who understand, or who may have experienced, the reality of age discrimination.

Try to reframe how you think of your career/job in terms of your total identity. You are more than your job title. Realizing this can make periods of unemployment or underemployment easier to bear.

Build your support network. You’re going to need people to talk to about the frustrations of the job search. Don’t let your negative emotions go unaddressed and risk having them bubble up in an interview.

Digging out from under the economic mess of the pandemic and all the associated disasters is going to take time. Our new solutions and new lives may be very different from anything we’ve ever done before. It’s going to be an awkward time, and that’s okay.

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