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Business Advice / Job searches for seniors are not for the meek – My difficult quest

Job searches for seniors are not for the meek – My difficult quest

August 5, 2021

Portrait of Felica Smith, retired attorney and HR professional

Felica Smith

 August 5th, 2021

Felica Smith

Finding meaningful work after age 65 is turning out to be much more difficult than I ever imagined. It’s frustrating to still be unemployed while so many employers are desperate to fill jobs and there is such a shortage of qualified workers due to the economy roaring back after the darkest days of the pandemic. As a result, companies have been forced to reduce hours of operations, forfeit orders or cut back expansion plans. This labor trend will surely worsen going forward when the economy continues to improve, and the specter of the virus will finally be behind us.

However, as my own experience points out, many employers are in a difficult bind but are also blind. Employers are ignoring a large untapped resource by not considering senior applicants for their openings.

I have heard similar stories from friends in the over 65 age group. Many of us have been unable to land a position although we are ready and very motivated to seek work. Some seniors are looking to continue in their own prior professions, while others are seeking a career pivot but aren’t being given a chance.

In my opinion, employers are missing out on some of the most capable, diligent, committed, loyal and experienced staff members that they could ever hire simply because of misconceptions about seniors being able to keep up with the pace of the work, the technology requirements or fitting in with their workforce and organizational culture. These are total misconceptions as most seniors would make excellent/motivated employees who have accumulated years of business wisdom and experience.  Seasoned talent knows what they are doing.

In my situation, I retired in 2019. Unfortunately, this was much earlier than I really wanted to leave the workforce. However, my husband is a disabled (Agent Orange) Vietnam veteran and we decided that we needed to move closer to a top-notch Veterans Administration facility for his specialized care. Leaving a job that I loved was very difficult for me; but this also presented an opportunity to find a new career path once my husband’s care was in place and we were settled in our new home. My husband’s health is stable now and we are both fully vaccinated so I felt confident that it was time to embark on my new job search for a part-time or full-time position that has some work schedule flexibility.

I have worked continuously all my life including while in high school, college, law school and raising a multi-generational family. My career has been in various diverse industries, and I’ve even worked for several government agencies internationally. Work completes me and provides me with a self-identity and makes me want to grow and contribute to any task and challenge that I face. Gardening, yoga, and travelling are nice diversions but after a lifetime of feeling useful and part of a team, I am not ready to make these activities my life priorities. I’m a fast learner, my health is good, my energy level and attitude are off the charts, and I would bring over 40 years of solid and varied experience/education, foreign language capabilities and great interpersonal skills to any new opportunity. Yet, potential employers see these qualities as a liability instead of the assets that they are.

After being fully vaccinated in February, looking for my next role has become my full-time job. I’ve attended several job fairs, networked as much as possible, contacted recruiters and applied to a variety of positions, at all levels and within varied industries. These have included health care, non-profits, consulting firms, waste management companies, law firm administration, education and local and state governments. I’m totally flexible about the level of the position, expect no more than market pay, don’t require benefits as I’m covered under Medicare, and intend to be held accountable to the same standards as any other employee.

Unfortunately, in most cases, I never hear back after these efforts. The few times that I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed, I’ve received a nice and polite rejection or just crickets to my follow-ups.  I my opinion, as a former HR professional, this is a waste of human capital.

Hopefully, with the economic rebound and the ever-growing shortage of workers, things will improve for seniors going forward. Frankly, employers are only shortchanging themselves by ignoring this enormous and growing demographic workforce. Like all other potential employees, seniors should be given the opportunity to prove themselves, participate, contribute, and help grow your business. All we need is to break through these ridiculous misconceptions and provided with an opportunity to shine!

Felica Smith







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