How to Deal

Finding Work for Older Workers

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By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, October 4, 2006; 4:38 PM

This week I'd like to tackle two separate, but related, questions about job searching for workers who are later in their careers.

The first:

Could you give some tips for the older worker looking for work?

And the second:

Any specific job search resources for retired free-floating professionals?

The National Older Worker Career Center is a great place to start. This non-profit organization, which places workers age 40 and older in federal agency jobs, is also dedicated to research and advocacy in support of the needs of older workers.

The NOWCC makes a compelling case for the targeted recruitment of older workers, citing data to support the conclusion that decreasing birth rates will result in an increasing shortage of qualified staff. This shortage, the group argues, "will be particularly acute for the skilled, educated workers that are essential to a high-technology economy."

I spoke with NOWCC Senior Vice President Joel Reaser, who described himself as a 66-year-old retiree of five years who, has, among other careers, been a college professor, business owner and member of the military. Reaser counsels older workers to approach interviews as an opportunity to ascertain whether there is a good mutual fit, asking the interviewer questions that explore whether the workplace is friendly to older workers.

Questions he suggests include:

  • How many older workers do you have?
  • Do you have a flexible retirement program?
  • Do you allow work arrangements that would allow an experienced professional to contribute, but still have some flexibility in terms of lifestyle?
  • Reaser also reminds older workers to emphasize "life skills" that may not necessarily be evident on the face of a resume, such as the abilities to facilitate meetings, resolve conflict and build teams.

    "You don't need to excuse your experience or excuse your age," he says -- though he also advises older workers to consider organizing their resumes functionally, rather than chronologically, potentially providing a clear and compelling way of presenting information for workers who have held a large number of positions in a range of industries or disciplines.

    As you search for job opportunities, therefore, my best advice is to cultivate an awareness of your value. Many older workers, especially those re-entering the job market after retirement, tend to view their age as a liability. Focus instead on the importance of your experience, which encompasses not only technical proficiency but the wisdom and judgment only time can teach.

    I am interested in hearing what readers think about this subject. Do you think that the value of older workers to our economy is as great as the NOWCC proposes? What personal experiences have you had that might aid older workers looking for jobs? Feel free to contact me using the e-mail address below.

    Lily Garcia is director of human resources for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. She has been offering employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question for consideration, e-mail HRAdvice@washingtonpost.com.

    Disclaimer: How to Deal is not meant to be a replacement for actual legal advice. Please contact your HR representative for issues that pertain to your organization. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity.


    © 2006 The Washington Post Company

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