If you're over 60 and looking for a decent job, good luck.

by Frank Kaiser
I've been trying to find work for a couple months now. Using local newspaper want ads, employment agencies and various work-find sites on the Internet, I've submitted my résumé and cover letter to over 400 companies, firms that supposedly are looking for employees with my skills and experience.

I'm still looking.

Maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said, "There are no second acts in American lives." But look at Cher, Tony Bennett, and The Supremes. John Glenn. The Volkswagen Beetle, for crying out loud.

If they can do it, why can't I?

From what I read, there are about a million seniors across the land asking that exact same question. Unfortunately, if your retirement dream doesn't include a career bagging groceries or asking, "Do you want fries with that?" you've got problems.

That's the dirty little secret about senior employment.

In fact, every article I see about the growing roster of senior employed sings how easy it is for old coots to find dream jobs after they become bored with golf, travel, or sitting around getting bored with the husband.

Horse hockey! That job market crying for experienced employees we keep hearing about? Most employers would rather hire Martians than mature Americans.

At one personnel department recently, a 20-something — huge Tommy Hilfiger pants hanging off his butt, backward Marlin's cap, and with only a bare street command English — was far better received than I. At another, I was kept waiting two hours for a two-minute interview. I imagine they hoped I'd grow impatient and leave.

The hard truth is, our age makes employers uncomfortable.

I create ads. That's what I've done for over 40 years, selling literally millions of dollars worth of soap, cereal, software, soups and services. Today, all that is meaningless. I have learned, sadly, that once past 60, the business world demands that you must start from scratch. That's why formerly successful executives now bag groceries at Publix.

Older workers come into job interviews with experience, skills, patience, and a strong work ethic. We're met by "The Look," that oh-my-god-why-didn't-someone-tell-me-you're-old look that you get to know and fear if you're over 50 and looking for a job. Not seeing you as an actual human being, interviewers usually turn you into their father or a child. After that, it's all downhill.

I've learned that it's an especially bad sign when the interviewer asks me about the good old days of advertising. "Yeah, Sonny, I chiseled those gems out on clay tablets. In Sanskrit."

Suddenly Trivia: How many US workers are over 65? a) 2 million, b) 4 million, c) 6 million?

AARP suggests that we remind potential employers that our age gives us more ability, maturity, experience and judgment. That we work harder, with greater commitment to quality, punctuality and loyalty.

Sounds good, but negative stereotyping trumps all that.

Remember the saying: "Cunning and experience always win out over youth and exuberance." Let's hope it's true. For if we are to live out our lives in comfort, at least a million of us need to get some cunning. And fast!

Old and poor ain't cuttin' it.

© 2001 — Frank Kaiser

Suddenly Trivia Answer: b) 4 million, according to The Economist.

To read a sample of the letters to Kaiser about this subject, CLICK HERE.

For some advice on looking for a job, plus useful links, CLICK HERE.




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