The job crisis has hit baby boomers hard: more than 5 million people over 45 are out of work – more than doubling in the past year. And it takes this age group longer to find a new job: more than six months for 44 percent of them.
No doubt the job market is challenging for everyone right now, but what I'm most impressed with among boomers is a refusal to give up. Statistics show discouraged workers throwing in the towel on their search in every age group except this one. There's no official explanation, except perhaps because boomers can't give up. There's a mortgage and college tuition to pay. There's that dwindling retirement savings. Some younger people may opt to go back to school fulltime and crash on mom's couch. But for boomers, instead of saying, "Nobody's hiring" or "I can't find work", they say, "I must find work and I will."
In the last few weeks I've talked to many people 50 and over who've done just that, and I've compiled some of the lessons they shared.
Explore options based on your current (and often evolving) interests.
Don't assume you have to do what you've always done. Unemployment offers you the chance to move in a new direction. Take stock of your lifestyle and interests, which have likely shifted over the years even though your job during that time had always remained the same. Have your personal passions changed? Can you spot a career opportunity that's connected to your future dreams instead of to your previous responsibilities?
Check with the Career One Step in your area.
Even though there's often lots of red tape connected to government assistance, you should make a visit to the state-run unemployment office in your area to inquire about the educational benefits and financial assistance you may be eligible for. Find the location near you at CareerOneStop.org. Many counselors have the inside scoop on dynamic programs that could be right for you.
Research resources specifically for workers 45 and over.
Civic Ventures Encore Careers provides grants to community colleges that develop training programs specifically for people 50 and over who are looking to switch or advance their careers. Career Voyages, run by the government, provides links to community colleges and training programs throughout the country where you can research and inquire about opportunities in your desired field.
AARP has online content and resources specifically for older workers. Experience Corps engages people over 55 in serving their communities. The Serve America Act offers incentives for those 55 and over to volunteer. Many local community groups—churches, the YMCA and other non-profits—offer programs to mature workers, so network in your area to discover what may be available.