Even though the economy has improved lately, there’s still a large contingency of people who after long and successful careers find themselves not only blocked but also bewildered about their professional future because of their age. This is a serious problem because these people still need to provide for their families, and many are by no means ready to retire—either mentally or physically. The pressure on this sector of people continues to mount, and they know that initiating their Social Security benefits too soon would put them at a long-term disadvantage. Many do not have employer pensions, and those who have retirement funds such as 401(k) plans should not start distributions too soon because of penalties for doing so. The last resort is in the form of tapping personal savings—if any exist at all.
What might be some reasons?
Of course, each person’s case is individual, but the long-term unemployed must face reality. If the marketplace was unable to absorb them in a reasonable time, it means either they don’t have the skills required to compete with others vying for the same position or they’re deemed not a good fit for subjective reasons such as age, appearance, or image. Another possibility might be that they simply don’t know how to market themselves as well as others do. Perhaps there’s also a level of rigidity about adapting to the current marketplace, or difficulty in accepting having to learn new job-related skills, or refusing a significantly lower benefit package, or reluctance to move to a different geographic job market. In many cases, the last is not an option for, say, family reasons.
What are some solutions?
Start with a self-evaluation to identify strengths as well as weaknesses. If you don’t trust your own judgment, then look for professionals who can provide help in doing it.
Next, evaluate opportunities where you can use your skills and experience and market yourself to employers that can use your talent and are willing to pay for it. If you don’t know how to find such employers, then seek advice from career coaches who specialize in identifying such opportunities for job seekers. Yes, there are people who specialize in that aspect of career coaching.
Then, once you’ve identified those potential employers, you’ll need an outstanding résumé and a strong and complete LinkedIn profile. Short of these, you will not be found by recruiters and employers. Yes, you guessed it: there are experts who write résumés and develop LinkedIn profiles for job seekers. Once those things have been done and are in place, your phone might start ringing because recruiters are busy finding candidates for the jobs they need to fill.
The last step involves learning how to present yourself in an interview. Yes, I know, you think that step can be skipped, because after all, you’re good at it—right?—and the proof of that is that in the past, you’ve gotten jobs based on your interviewing skills. I suggest, however, that you reevaluate that conclusion because in today’s job market—and especially for anyone who’s experiencing a huge gap in employment—good interviewing skills are of utmost importance.
What I have described here is a journey with a specific process. Job search takes endurance, determination, and follow-through. At times you’ll feel very uncomfortable and totally rejected. But every occurrence of such feelings serves to take you one step closer to an offer. Many people who followed this exact journey were successful. Can you add yourself to the statistics? Do you have the desire and the will to make the trek? This is the test. Bon voyage and best of luck as you embark to navigate your way to a landing at a pleasant and professionally profitable port.