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The Aging and Unemployment Dilemma

Updated on September 27, 2009

The situation could not be much worse for millions of those currently unemployed. Face it, with a 6 to 1 ratio, there are six work seekers to every one job posting. Even amongst professionals, like lawyers, the seekers outnumber the jobs, in one case, 500 lawyers had responded to one opening at a law firm, in another, 600 seekers competed for 13 jobs at a new hardware store opening. While the unemployed hovers around 10% nationally, it probably is double that if you count those seekers that have basically given up or seek work occasionally as their savings fade away. Many go into debt in re-training hoping their new skill will save them. Some take out $200,000 loans to become an attorney only to find few openings to them, now what?

The horror stories hit all age groups, but those hardest it have those over 40. The "baby boomers". Take one boomer, 52 yrs, a college educated exec, who two years ago earned 75K a year in her management position. Since losing your job, she has gone through her unemployment and extended benefits and in the two years has not found work, One asks, huh? how can this be? First, you bide your time trying to find work in your expertise, this may take considerable time, maybe getting only a few interviews in 6-9 months. At some point, you say to yourself, WTF, and apply for jobs that are way below you in skills and education, but it is a paycheck. The 52 yr. lady sought jobs at Starbucks as a barista, applied for a cashier job at a grocery store, not getting either. Over qualified? Under qualified? Too old? to some, over qualified because of skill sets and education. Under qualified because even though she was an exec, she had no cashier experience and the employer did not wish to train. Then the age thing. If the interviewer was young enough to be her son\daughter, qualified or not, age comes into play. The interviewer has reservations hiring as old as his parents maybe, it may also not be a "good fit" for the organization. It happens all the time. It has happened to me, where the interviewers were at least 10-15 yrs younger. I aced the interview, had the skills they wanted, they even thought I was a good candidate. However, I did not get it. When I pressed them, I was told, "nothing really was a problem but we just thought another was a better fit". I could tell during the interview it was an age thing, they looked like kids and I am sure they thought I would be too old for them. Many companies, like Genentech, seem to promote the age barrier. Walk into one of their departments and you will not find many employees over 45, percentage wise, a good 75% are 40 and younger that are in positions where they decide to hire.

A good clue that it may be the reason is when you enter an organization and you see that 75-90% of the workers are not over 40, for example. If you are being interviewed by someone much younger than you, the age dilemma creeps in. No matter how well you present yourself or how qualified, even if you "ace" the interview, there is a good chance you will be bypassed due to age and be given the excuse, "You are well qualified but we felt it is not a good fit". Translation: if you had been younger it could have worked, but you are too old for our company despite you being qualified.

Thus, for older unemployed persons, it is much tougher because you have to fight the age discrimination. Of course, it is the "silent" offense, as proving it is so difficult, but you just know it was age. The employer surely is not going to admit that your "age" was the reason that would be suicide. But it is there all the time.

To be fair, having an older person by considerable years work for you can be a great experience or a nightmare, depending on the prevailing attitudes of the employer and employee. Older people may feel odd working for someone that could be their son or daughter and vice versa. Younger managers many feel weird being a boss of a person that could be their dad or grandfather. many simply do not want to deal with it. Older people may have resentment towards a young, upcoming boss. Oddly though, if the interviewer is older than the interviewee, none of these problems really exist because that seems to be the norm and expected.


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    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Great points. Unless more legal cases bring this into the limelight, it will remain in the shadows. For instance, A new In N Out hamburger places opened nearby, over 400 applicants trying to get a $10hr job. Most in their 20-30s, however, many were 40s-50s, a few, upper 60s. Honestly, have you EVER seen anyone older than 35yr working at one? No, why is that? are they saying someone who is 50, needs a temp job, cannot take an order? how about 60? The reason is company image. I think as soon as a lawsuit hits them, you'll see more olders working there.

    • jonihnj profile image


      8 years ago from Metro New York

      I've been harping on this a lot. But I don't think we should simply complain about it. While I was just a bit too young to really catch the 60s wave, I would have loved being at Woodstock. And I'm a Baby Boom tailgater. So what I want to know is, with that kind of strength in numbers, and the powerful voting block Boomers represent, why not DO SOMETHING? Why, for instance, couldn't we have lobbied for the Obama stimulus bill - which followed that tired, useless 1950s formula for revitalization (invest in the road infrastructure . . . blah, blah) have done something like create an enticing tax benefit for employers who do not discriminate? Because let's face it, it's hard to prove you've been discriminated against. Maybe we could take a few lessons from minority activists who've fought that battle. I'd say this age-old problem (pun intended) hasn't been addressed because no one has tried to really address it. Why, even AARP lists on their site a company, The Creative Group, a div. of Robert Half International. I did a bit of work for them now and again, but when the economy turned, I was told by one of their (barely a child) recruiters that employers might see me as "set in my ways." Another one told me a client didn't want anyone who was "too experienced," and we know what that's code for, don't we? And Robert Half is a company that promotes itself as friendly to older employees. That's B.S., but what's worse is AARP still endorses them. A lot of companies talk the talk but don't walk the walk. How do you prove discrimination? Do you? Do you use the carrot or the stick? Any ideas out there?

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      It's a real dilemma. One carry's on and hope the age thing does not bar you from getting a job. there is nothing more to do, many are too young to retire yet older than many of those in hiring positions.

    • profile image

      Elaine O. 

      9 years ago

      So if you are older and qualified, what are you to do. Just die is not the answer.

    • John Z profile image

      John Z 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      Well Said. Great hub.


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