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Over 50 and can’t find a job? Here's help

 
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3:00 P.M. EST October 26, 2011 | ROSWELL, Ga. (UMNS)



Curt Engelmann (left) prays with Jim Jimenez, an unemployed baby boomer who attends sessions and volunteers at Roswell (Ga.) United Methodist Church. A web-only photo by Susan Leonard, Roswell United Methodist Church.
Curt Engelmann (left) prays with Jim Jimenez, an unemployed baby boomer who attends sessions and volunteers at Roswell (Ga.) United Methodist Church. A web-only photo by Susan Leonard, Roswell United Methodist Church.

Believe it or not, there is good news for unemployed baby boomers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more 55-plus workers will be toiling away in the work force by 2020 than at any other time in our history. Only problem is, it’s not soon enough.

Especially for people like Jim Jimenez of Alpharetta, Ga. A human resources and operations professional for more than 30 years, Jimenez has been unemployed since July 2008. The 51-year-old is anxious to get back in the field he loves, but sooner rather than later.

“There’s a fear,” Jimenez said, “that I will never again get to do the things I was so truly good at.”

Luckily, Jimenez has Curt Engelmann and Roswell United Methodist Church in his corner. Engelmann is just one of a passionate army of volunteers on whom the Georgia church counts to staff its successful job-networking ministry. His specialty is baby boomers, and his two-hour “Boomers’ Winning Strategies” seminar always has a crowd eager to hear how they can rev up their job-search game.



Rosalyn Davis-Smith listens to job advice from Steve Norton, a volunteer with Roswell’s Job Networking Ministry. UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
Rosalyn Davis-Smith listens to job advice from Steve Norton, a volunteer with Roswell’s Job Networking Ministry. UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
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According to the Department of Labor, it takes older workers longer to find a job — 52 weeks as opposed to the 35 weeks it takes younger people. 

Part of the reason, explained Engelmann, is that older job seekers battle perception problems by most employers who see them as overqualified, inflexible, transitioning into retirement and perhaps a threat to younger managers because they may have more training than the person doing the hiring.

“Being an older and over-qualified job seeker is an elephant in the room,” said Engelmann. “Boomers are afraid to address it formally, but I believe they should be proactive and get the issues out in the open.

“They do that by developing stories in advance that show they are a good fit for the job and then telling how they are the opposite of the hiring manager’s perceptions of an older job seeker.”

Market yourself as a 'product'

Jimenez said employer perceptions have been an uphill battle in his three-year job search.

“Some employers think anybody who has been in a higher-level position is only interested in their job until something better comes along,” he said. “Or they think that people in their 50s are just looking for a bridge to retirement, that we’re not committed to a career.

“I have a hard time convincing them that I never want to retire fully,” Jimenez said. “I have a lot of knowledge to pass along to people who don’t have my experience.”

Engelmann tells his class of boomers that they need to get specific about how they market themselves. They need to think of themselves as a “product.”

“Boomers,” he lectures, “are like General Motors.” They have so much experience that they can be any car the company wants them to be, but companies today are looking for a specific car — like a Corvette.

“Boomers need to organize their background and experience so that it’s clear to the employer that they have all the parts they need for the Corvette. They can’t leave it up to the employer to sort through their background to find the fit — it’s overwhelming for the employer.”

In fact, Engelmann tells his classes that because of the high volume of résumés recruiters receive, most say they spend less than 10-15 seconds reviewing each résumé.

“I tell job seekers that all the key information that determines whether they qualify for a position should be in the first five inches of their résumé,” Engelmann said.

If they finally get an interview, older job seekers need to focus on the requirements of the position, not just touting their own qualifications.

“Back to the General Motors analogy — it’s all about the Corvette,” he said. “The job seeker needs to identify what car the employer wants to buy and focus on being that fit.

“It’s not what the boomer has to sell; it’s what the company wants to buy.”

Learn more about job ministries.

*Passi-Klaus is a public relations specialist/writer at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 2 comments

  • Paul Krause 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Thank you I am putting the list of what I, "the product" have going for me! The elephant birthday is history. I am living my dash Accomplishment yes Victory are  history.  Each day is new my last day is up to the real boss!
    show more show less
  • Glenda Gorszczyk 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I'm at this point! I have had all those assumptions on age discrimination targeted to me for two years now. I have tried to promote components an educated/experienced person like me can bring to a corporation; but to no avail I can not convince the younger generation HR staff that I will be an ok person to work with. The younger generation is def intimidated by the older/wiser candidates! I am willing to work hard in a 2nd life career full time or part time. The HR administrators don't get that concept - I want to keep busy and get out of debt. My husband is our primary income, so I am in a unique place of neogitation so I don't understand why employers don't see I am not in demand for a high salary due to my exper/educa but rather for a job placement that is fulfilling with the duties I would perform. I have had to come to the conclusion it is not what you know but WHO YOU KNOW to get a job. I have seen people walk into businesses with no experience and very little education and get hired on the spot vs myself educated/30+yrsexperience 2yrs unemployed.
    show more show less

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