Finding a job is challenging at any age, but it’s especially hard for women of a certain age.
I did a little research today to find out what women 50+ found interesting and it fell into a few standard categories: sex, health, appearance, sleep, and finding a job, which ranked high up there in terms of search volume. I guess I never realized how big a concern it was for women after 50 to find a job or keep the one they have. If you want to read an interesting perspective on unemployment among those 50+, here’s a rant on Indeed, the job search site. We can cover the gray hair, hide wrinkles behind the required mask, and pull our load with the best of ’em, but the job application still tells the tale. And, employers close their eyes to our potential. We’re old! So, today I’ll focus on finding a job when you’re over 50.
According to the Bureau of Labor in the US, unemployment is at its highest level since the 2006-2008 fallout caused by the housing market collapse — 8.4%; much better than the high of 14.7 in April. The bright spot in this picture is that women over 55 have a slightly lower unemployment rate, at 8%, which is a smidge higher than men at the same age; 7.3%.
Of course, data behind the numbers show a number of problems. First, if you got discouraged by looking for a job and stopped, you no longer count as unemployed, which is really wonky. Second, lots of women do jobs under the table, especially for family and friends, such as child care, housework. and catering. Third, the situation is much worse for women of color. And, finally, labor numbers ignore the fact that literally millions of women are underemployed, working at jobs well below their education and skill level just to pay the bills.
Why do so many women have trouble finding a job?
Every woman age 50 and over knows things are a lot better than they were. I remember in an Organic Chemistry class in college when a professor accused me of going to school for an MRS. degree (which, frankly never made sense since I was in one of the hardest classes on campus. If I just wanted to get married, I would have majored in something a lot easier). Women in 2018 only earned about $0.81 for every $1 a man earned, despite a law requiring equal pay passed in the ’60s.
Once you move past the issue of gender discrimination that forces women into lower-wage careers and reduces chances of promotion, you find a host of misperceptions related to age (both of which are illegal):
- If you’re over 50, you don’t understand technology
- You spent time raising kids and have huge gaps in the employment history
- Women over 50 can’t work as hard as younger workers
- Older folks don’t know how things are done in the modern world
- You’ll increase our healthcare costs because you require more care
- and the list goes on
Of course, much of this simply isn’t true.
Sure, young folks might text faster, but they don’t have a monopoly on tech-savvyness. At the start of every semester, students are skeptical when I show up to teach digital marketing. They figure, “how can someone so old understand computers?”. Then I proceed to run rings around them because they don’t understand how the digital elements they know work for a business.
Finding a job when you’re over 50
Well, it’s not gonna be easy and you have to make some changes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s too late to make a change. I completed my Ph.D. at 40 and several folks in my program were even older. Gaining experience or training to support your goals is a great thing at any age. It’s never to late to become the person you always imagined. Life expectancies are longer, meaning you still have time for a second career even if you’re 50 or older. In many jobs, you can work productively into your 70’s, which is when most of us now qualify for social security.
One of the surest ways to become employable is to upskill. Luckily, there are lots of short college programs (for instance, my digital marketing certificate is only 12-credits and doesn’t require a degree), online programs from places like Coursera and EdX, as well as continuing ed classes from universities, community colleges, and even community centers. New federal and state retraining money is available to support your upskilling efforts. While these programs might not result in 6-figure salaries, they do prepare you for today’s job market.
Other options include getting your real estate license, a commercial driver’s license, or other short training.
Maybe you’re entering the job market again after years spent raising kids. You may face some problems finding a job right away and you may not know how a modern business runs. Gain some experience even if you’re working for free since you’ll gain valuable resume enhancement. Sure, getting a paycheck, no matter how small, solves some immediate problems, but it won’t help in the long run.
The gig economy
Start your own business. Yeah, maybe there was a time when it took a nice wad of cash to start a business, but, in today’s gig economy, you can start with almost nothing, especially if you have some skill. Maybe you’re a good writer or great at making things. Fiverr, Etsy, TaskRabbit, and a bunch of other platforms let you show off your stuff and get paid for your work. Or, you can drive for Uber or rent out part of your house on Airbnb since you have the kids’ bedrooms empty.
You can build a small platform to highlight your own skills for around $100 a year (I even offer a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process of building a website on my digital marketing website). So, if you ever dreamed of being a decorator or helping folks navigate the home health market, build a website then promote yourself to the community.
OK, enough for today. If you have ideas to add to this, please leave them in the comments.
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Image courtesy of The Balance Careers