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Senior Scene

By Paul V. Palange

Like many people, I spent some time on Thanksgiving morning thinking about how fortunate I am to be living in a great county with an awesome family and wonderful friends. I also thought about how lucky I am to be working a full-time job and writing for this magazine. It was only a brief four months ago that I felt my year among the unemployed was going to last for several more weeks.

I assume it’s rarely easy for someone to be fired or laid off from a job. However, the personal anecdotal evidence I have accumulated, leads me to believe that being kicked to the curb or downsized is more difficult for people age 50 and beyond. It’s even harder for people in the newspaper industry since so many community and metropolitan dailies have gone out of business, merged or shrunk.

We journalists are confident we possess many transferable skills, but apparently that sentiment is not shared by all employers. While my job search lasted 12 months, the hunt for work took more than 18 months for one of my colleagues. I’m in my early 60s and he is in his late 50s. We applied for dozens of positions. Frequently, our applications went into the proverbial black hole, receiving no responses, not even rejection letters.

Then there were several times that we thought we aced telephone or in-person interviews but never heard another peep from the hiring managers or persons who led the discussions and asked the questions. I lost track of how often I wanted to say, “Just give me a chance to show you that I can do the job and do it well.” That might have worked 40 years ago, but there’s little likelihood such an approach would land a job now. Traits such as dependability and loyalty cannot compensate today for a lack of pertinent experience.

After intense searches, my colleague and I were fortunate to find media-related jobs. I am in the broadcast industry instead of newspapers and magazines, and my buddy landed a position in a sector of the print media. We are grateful to be working again, learning new skills, gaining more knowledge and making contributions through our employment.

I learned a lot during the job hunting process especially how important it is to have support and encouragement on a regular basis. Stay in touch with people that truly believe in you and will give you honest feedback. If you’re a senior who is still working or is retired and you know a friend or relative that lost his or her job, please consider contacting that person and boosting the individual’s morale with some kind words.

Speaking of people, network with local business groups and attend events held by organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce. Have coffee or lunch with your professional contacts and ask for job leads and freelance or part-time gigs that might turn into a full-time opportunity.

Consider volunteering for a nonprofit organization or serving on a municipal board or committee. In addition to helping your neighbors and community, you might meet a business owner or decision maker that will offer you employment or refer you to a company that has an opening.

If possible, seek an opportunity in an area that you’re passionate about. Who knows, you might be able to become a yoga instructor, physical trainer or digital marketing specialist. Perhaps you have the resources to return to school to obtain a degree or certification in a field of interest or take a course or two to boost certain skills or add to your toolbox.

Another path is starting a business from scratch, buying an existing company or purchasing a franchise. Don’t laugh and rule out those options. Do some research and seek advice and guidance from the Small Business Administration or an expert at your local bank or credit union.

AARP has a great amount of information online, including inspirational stories, to assist older adults who are job hunting or thinking about changing careers. Also, use legitimate Internet job sites such as Indeed and utilize LinkedIn, which is a business and employment oriented service that operates through websites and mobile applications. For the uninitiated, you will create a professional profile on LinkedIn and build a network of contacts. There are job postings, and employers search the site for candidates.

In addition, the state Department of Labor and Training has a robust job and training portal with many links that offer a ton of information, including employment opportunities.

Whatever you do, try not to get discouraged. If you do, reach out to a contact as soon as possible and talk through it. You don’t want to waste time and energy feeling sorry for yourself.

Finally, I want to say good luck to any senior looking for a job, and I want to wish everyone happy holidays.