George – Washington, D.C.: I’m 64, and I can’t seem to find work in my field. I’m an industrial engineer specializing in lean-based business process improvements. I’ve responded to hundreds of ads for people with my skills. Only two calls and no interviews. I took early retirement in 2005. My younger spouse was making a good living, and I had $1 million in an IRA. I thought I was safely set. Now, my family circumstances have changes, and I need to go back to work for a few years.
Having the recognition of performing at a high level in my profession is important. I have suffered from anxiety and depression as I began to despair for meaningful employment. I continue to respond to ads for my skills, but it’s tough to keep writing cover letters that explain my strengths, experience and accomplishments. Who knows whether anyone even reads them?
Phil Moeller: I’m sorry, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised at your experiences. They are shared by millions of others. And as I’m sure you’re aware, there are no easy fixes. Kerry Hannon is the go-to person here for advice, and has become a champion in spotting work opportunities for folks like us. (I hate using the “seniors” label anytime, but particularly when it comes to workplace matters, where major age biases still seem to be the order of the day.)
For me, giving up the notion of finding an employer was the big change in attitude I needed.
Depending on how much income you need, you might consider a part-time job. To be successful in such an effort, you may need to steel yourself to say goodbye to recognition from your peers. Another route that might be promising is to explore opportunities for modest-paying jobs that include making things better for others. These “pay it forward” jobs have become known as “encore careers.” Employers in these spaces are looking for experienced people like you whose skills can help them. Again, however, don’t expect these jobs to fill your wallet as much as they may fill your heart.
I lost a job when I was 60. For me, giving up the notion of finding an employer was the big change in attitude I needed. That, and understanding that a batting average of even just .200 will earn you millions of dollars in baseball! So, I got turned down a whole lot. Then, I finally got a small piece of work. Then, I got another. Now, at age 75, I am a card-carrying member of the gig economy. I earn enough. I have multiple sources of income, and no single gig is so important that I lose much sleep over it.
So with all due sympathies, you can get past this and be stronger for the experience. Resilience is marvelous at any age, but few can develop this skill without experiencing some tough setbacks. Buckle up!