Age bias and the job market

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Hardest hit during the recent market downturn are workers 55 and older.

Some are forced to find new employment because of downsizing or a merger; others simply choose to find a second career following retirement.

Regardless of the reason, those

Email newsletter signup

job hunting are running into trouble.

Major hurdles the 50-plus generation has to overcome in today's job market are age bias, acute apprehension, and budget restraints.

Age bias is a huge problem for these job seekers.

Typically, the first line of screening is done by those just beginning a career in human resources who are usually young.

They tend to associate applicants who are in the same age group as their parents with their parents.

In other words, they tend to view the over-50 job seeker as out-of-date, lacking in energy, and slow mentally.

While older workers often represent experience, wisdom, and knowledge, they also represent higher salaries.

During times when increasing the bottom line in a depressed economy is a primary goal, cutting those with the highest earnings mean cutting fewer jobs while boosting company profits.

Although many opt to work either part-time or to become self-employed, it takes twice as long for most to find a job as it does for their younger competitors.

Almost 50 percent of those looking for employment could not find jobs within their old industry.

Of those returning to full-time employment, about half experience a pay cut.

Data shows that workers over 50 are invited for interviews half as often as those under 35.

One reason given is that most older, experienced workers expect higher salaries than is expected by young job seekers.

Human resources personnel support that assumption by saying that financial constraints are motivating factors in dismissing and failing to hire older workers.

The truth is, many older applicants, especially those who are in a second or third career, are willing to negotiate a lower salary.

The employer actually gets a top-grade employee for the price of a younger and inexperienced one; and the job applicant gets a challenging job where he or she can feel creative and productive.

Finding a job in today's job market may be hard for seasoned employees.

The amount of job search time may be significantly reduced by following these simple steps.

Complete a personal skills inventory.

Be flexible; consider jobs in an industry new to you.

Determine your career goals.

Prepare a resume that markets your skills.

Target companies that hire persons with your skills.

Network; network; network.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers free job search seminars to communities and companies.

These seminars can be tailored to meet the needs of the audience.

Seminars may be two or four hours in length.