Your Workforce by Roger Herman

It's Not Easy Being Gray

Older workers, out of work as a result of the Dot-Bomb, 9/11, and/or corporate scandals have had difficulty finding jobs. Being over 50 years old and accustomed to a lofty salary is a lethal combination of factors.

This segment of unemployed workers is having a rough time. They really want to work, but still expect to match old income levels. This expectation has been unrealistic over the past two years. Our subscribers have shared stories of utter frustration, lost homes, and strained marriages, byproducts of the financial stress of being unemployed.

These workers were good at their jobs, so they climbed the corporate ladder with ease. Their incomes rose steadily. In some cases, their salaries grew simply because their industry was booming. Then the economy slowed and their employers looked for the most effective ways to cut costs. At the top of the list were employees whose incomes had grown beyond their value.

A great number of these highly educated, highly skilled, experienced people remain unemployed. They are seasoned professionals in their late forties, fifties, or even sixties. As they seek job opportunities, many of these people encounter age discrimination. It is never overt; that would be illegal. Their resumes are accepted. Sometimes they are even granted interviews. But then, time after time, someone else is hired for the coveted position. Sometimes, part of the problem is that these job seekers are still holding out for the high salaries they earned in the past. Most eventually adopt more realistic expectations; however that altitudinal shift is often insufficient to change employers' responses.

History will show that shortsighted employers who overlook senior workers will wish they had been more considerate. Wise older workers will strive to maintain skills and acquire new ones to stay current and marketable. Some will return to school; others will ask employers to provide needed training and development. Responsive employers will realize a great return on their investment in this endeavor. As the economy recovers and the labor market tightens, older workers with maturity, stability, experience, and desire to work will become a treasure.

Roger Herman is owner of The Herman Group, Greensboro, NC and is a specialist in employee retention.

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