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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The New Retirement Plan For Older Workers....

 
Robert Powell, Market Watch states that the new retirement plan is really all about working, not really about the traditional retired person, not anymore. Link to article...

Also of interest to the lived wisdom crowd - Center For Retirement Research

Boomer Bag of Tricks....

Third Age

AOL Tips

Chicago Tribune - Keeping Boomers

Boomer International

jist - Over 40 Job Search Guide

The Riley Guide

Damn Good Resume

AARP National Employer Team

Mature Europeans - Washington Post

Firstly, the ideal would be to erase separation lines and re-draw the lines to parallel equally along side a workforce that embraces older workers and younger workers, veteran and civilian, women and men, minority and caucasian, disabled and non-disabled, gay and straight. Age discrimination is real and like other protected groups, older workers must choose their battles wisely.

The employment laws in place are meant to help protected groups, in participating on the same level as anyone. In the age of technology, using pre-programmed features to screen every applicant In and then Out, helps to distance the employer from the applicant. And that tactic tends to cause great frustration among older workers who rely strongly on familiar past job seeking methods that always produced results.

The results used to be in the form of an 'In person' interview invite or a rejection letter. Then it went to telephone interviews and a 'keep your application on file' postcard. Now the application process doesn't have any of the familiar tangible results, nor the once customary acknowledgement out of common courtesy, 99.9% of the time. The one thing older workers are accustomed to, is common courtesy through contact. Today's employers, not all, have a detached disconnect about how they want to deal with the overwhelming volume of applicants.

Smaller numbers of personnel staff with less time to focus on hundreds and hundreds of applications and resume's might lead the employer to use a separate contracted company (staffing agencies aka as temporary agencies are a favorite), to do all the initial application and interview process. Companies are also opting to use electronic online websites to direct any interested person in step by step instructions. Just try to actually track all online applications, confirm its receipt and have proof that an actual person looked it over. Hope for it, but don't count on it.

If people are spitting out excessive numbers of online applications daily, then they would have to have some kind of super powers to do any worthwhile follow up. Technology helps the immediate employer need much more than the job seeker. In the long run, however, the employer no longer gets the full opportunity or the highlights of every aspect of hiring new employees. Luckily there are employers that still invite people to apply in person, will mail out an application and actually enjoy everything about the hiring process with a thorough hands on approach.

But one thing is certain, it is the older worker applicant that needs to remember to work to prove they are the one that the employer wants most. That means polish, practice and polish. Before an interview can happen though, a person needs to get passed the software cyberspace gatekeeper.

Job fairs are still a perfect time for practicing 'face time' with employers. Its about the only venue left where company representatives are expected to be ripe for sharing company information and hopefully looking to add to their employee base. The best stress free approach is to treat these Representatives as though you were going to an Informational Interview.

If homework is done and followed, an Informational Interview can open doors at the time of the job fair meeting. Especially if a person is just re-entering the job market. Feeling rusty or not knowing what to expect, is a stressor. Try staying away from those companies that you want most, at least at first practice run. Then once some practice and polish has been added to the rough edges of the new job search, there is no limit to the amount of job leads that can be found.

There still is something called the 'Hidden Job Market.' Use it, it still works. Recall when you first went to apply to the company that you worked for some 20 plus years. You used tools of the hidden job market if a family member, a friend, a teacher or an acquaintance told you to go apply. Plus you probably threw their name on the application where it asks "How did you learn about this job" because you knew the person worked at the company and they urged you to use their name.

You used tools leading to the hidden job market if you: used the want ads or sale ads in the newspaper, a town shopper or a store bulletin board, the metro city telephone book or a smaller suburban telephone directory - to identify a company of interest. You used tools of the hidden job market if you: bought and used a manufactured product or used a company service in your area and liked it so much that you applied to the company. You also used tools of the hidden job market when you: drove by or walked past the company you went to work for, chatted with an employee of a company serving you, wondering how they got started in their job and learned a few interesting facts about the company they worked for.

Don't forget that your Professional Association is a wonderful part of the hidden job market, maintain your membership or find and join an occupational relevant association, then physically go to the gatherings, events, seminars and workshops. This holds a treasure chest full of job related information, through people who are currently working for someone. Someone who may be looking to add another employee.

You don't have to be in an active work mode to join most Professional Associations. If laid off, just between jobs, un-retiring, transitioning into an occupation from another occupation or a displaced homemaker; a Professional Association is a really nice touch to any job search strategy.

As a member, the benefits go well beyond reduced cost on training seminars and workshops. A fun yet practical way to get new or updated knowledge and one of many important job search components to show employers that you are open and eager to learning. Always get that certificate or ask for a letter of completion when you are done. If nothing else, you personally can use it to pump up self-esteem. It is tangible evidence of your achievement, that you did it!

Unions usually offer job leads through job boards or a website database to its members, even if laid off. Especially if you are laid off, take the immediate initiative to search out your union for word of mouth job openings and use all the services that are allowed. Your first contact with the Union Representative may not yield much, so be patient and don't give up. Other savvy union members will be thinking the same thing and possibly use the electronic tools only. Out of site out of mind, so take a chance and go visit your 'local,' it may mean a shot at an opportunity that would have been missed.

Job Clubs offer an ongoing place to enlist other like minded individuals for ideas and guidance. Everyone is usually at different stages of their job search, which can offer a snap shot of different scenarios to prepare for. If you don't think you are getting anything out of your efforts by attending, please find another club to join. Try not to go it alone. That is the hardest part of job search for an older worker, feeling isolated.

Older means a lot of things to family, friends, even to the barber or stylist who has known you umpteen years. You may be seen as a type of role model, a mentor, part of a domestic team, head of the household or just the person who always had the life another wished for. Thinking "I don't really need anyone's help to get my next job," or "I did it by myself the first time," or "I don't want to impose on anyone and have them think I'm rude," or "I don't know what to ask or say, I will feel / look stupid."

This sort of thinking is also a set up to inflated empty expectations. If you look in the background of any job gotten, there is always someone - somewhere that helped you to help yourself. Today more than ever, it does take a supportive environment, positive feedback and constructive ideas to get back in the game of job search.

Open your arms and your minds, absorb the info and keep what works, file away or throw away the rest. No matter what you do, if someone gives you their personal opinion or personal referral (not reference) to a company and you accept it, please follow through as best as possible. A sincere "thank you, but no thank you," is less damaging than being insincere and blowing it off.

Especially a personal referral, its a sign that another trusts you enough to send their name along with you to the employers door. The world of work is pretty big and keeping bridges intact with a little maintenance, gives you the freedom to see more and learn more from those on the other side of any bridge you build. A little corny, but too true.

Every applicant that thinks the quantity - the number of applications alone, will get them the interview and then the job, is being very unrealistic. It isn't necessarily harder to learn all of the techniques employers use, it is a question of willingness to grab hold of the information and seek out help to map out the strategy, in order to use the steps wisely.

Boy, do we older workers love a wise way and bristle at anything that appears to be a wasting away. Some very in depth thought should be given to an older workers job search. Spinning wheels, under-utilized and missed opportunities. These are three things that may most plague an older job seeker and exhaust mental and physical stamina. Ways to waste time and exhaust stamina are; Staying plugged into the computer all day surfing, saving and sending or never wanting to learn how to use the computer to learn about search tools that help find job leads, company information and general resource sites.

An all (one way) or nothing (stubborn way) approach can be absolutely exhausting, not to mention the threat of eventual dissent into depression. Because the cycle remains the same and internalizing the negative is the - only way - the brain can deal with the surprised hurt feelings of either how little, how wrong or how lacking, in expected results we have gathered when the tally is totaled. Breaking the cycle of a routine that yields no sequential results, means listening to that little inner voice of acceptance, makes sense and need help.

Taking a healthy risk, make a positive leap - taking a chance on something that ordinarily would cause butterfly's in one's stomach. A simple computer class, learn the internet, go to job seeking workshops, any job seeking related event or plan an Informational Interview. All of these activities can sometimes gently jolt us into a place that brings clarity to what the next step should finally be.

Don't beat yourself up for not knowing what you now know. The should of - would of - could of....Doesn't apply, everyone goes at their own speed, has their own learning style and nothing can change that. Being open minded about how to prepare for a job search and being pro-active about how to get the job search going, is really the most important part. Start with baby step challenges, please don't over reach, take on too much or think perfection is key. Everything else does fall into place, with a little tweak here and a little organizing there.

Employers have replaced 'real eyes' for an electronic eye. The cyberspace gatekeeper isn't programmed for feel good interaction. Sad, but true. In most cases today, if the applicant doesn't match the employers wish list 100%, expect a screen out by an electronic source. There are a million tips out there as to how to get passed the software cyberspace gatekeeper and valuable suggestions on how to revise ones resume. The one for online submission, the one to hand off in person and the one to e-mail. There are important differences to each one.

An ad containing the word 'Preferred' used to mean a door of opportunity for any person to maximize marketing the acquired experience and entice the employer with their potential. The application, resume and cover letter meticulously crafted, personal follow up showed sincere interest and a thank you note (after every interview)conveys a nice reminder to the employer about how informative the meeting was and that serious consideration for hire is wanted.

An employers strategy for screening can involve every instruction given; On line, via email, in person, telefax, by newspaper, a telephone call or correspondence. From the very first contact; In person, on line, correspondence or telephone call. It's is crucial to getting any consideration, not just for an interview, but for 'any' attention. Consideration can now be categorized by phases of the applicant process that the employer sets up, that may have no actual personal connection what so ever. Older more experienced workers may feel like they are wasting time - theirs or someone else and being mass quantified in a paperless system.

Some employers may see older workers as abrasive, arrogant, self serving, rigid, aggressive and even too passive. It may in fact actually be a mother, aunt or female boss complex or could be father, uncle, male teacher baggage too, that the employer has not resolved and therefore the older applicant pays the price for that. Human flaws and bias, can't escape it.

A mature applicant can address any concern by knowing how their qualifications (the ones that got the interview) rate with the employer at the time of the interview. This is a tricky one as there is no way to know about the competitions overall qualifications. A little vollying during the interview can help to get a sense of where the employer is coming from. If a gut feeling doesn't sit right and the check list of matches does fit, then it could be plain out right stereotyping, which is called age descrimination.

Labels and assumptions come from somewhere and an older worker applicant will most likely base their approach soley on time served with dedication and loyalty to one or maybe two employers. The applicant may avoid marketing / promoting their strong qualifications, impressive skills, multiple duties and other relevant accomplishments, in words that match the job applying for. In words that would translate into a benefit for the employer. Most mature workers are cautious about what is appropriate to discuss in public and what is not. Personal private matters is usually off limits and modesty is considered a valued attribute.

The alarm bell to an interviewing employer may sound off due to; The stated assumption in the interview that the applicant is already planning to stay till retirement - 30 - 20 - 10 or 5 more years, the applicant may breach the code of interviewing and be the first to talk about the salary or wage they expect to be paid, the applicant may only share non-relevant information about themselves and the mature applicant may ask the very adolescent looking employer their age. Any of these interview taboo's can cause an employer to mentally cross off the applicants 'fit' as a prospective employee.

The employer may be hearing the complete opposite of what the applicant is trying to describe. And sometimes it is two separate lines of agenda and communication that causes a broken connection. Remember the last time you tried to hold a very specific conversation with someone much older or younger or with someone who had an accent? There is a beat to the dialogue, to understanding each other, to listening and to hearing one another. Catching the beat can mean the world of difference to whether the applicant will make it to the next phase of the hiring process.

So, if the two can meet on respectful neutral ground with the same focus, a new found interview relationship can be developed. Some employers take the lead, while others let the interview go free style. Be aware, both techniques give the employer what they need to make a decision about the rest of the process. A person may have to go through a panel interview or have several more interviews with different people and still not be closer to a job offer. It is a sign of the culture of the company if multiple interviews are necessary. Someone wants to know, without a doubt, that the applicant will truly fit the company.

Researching a company before an application is sent is a good idea, researching before an interview is imperative. It doesn't matter what kind of job a person goes after, knowing something about the company before the interview can do wonders for rapport building and keep the applicant in the running, hopefully all the way to a job offer.

The experienced worker has to learn a whole new world of job seeking and attitude adjustment. Not one that strips away dignity or destroys valuable past work experience. If you are going to cut holes in the work history and apply it to the application and resume for the sake of appearing one way, might as well get some use out of all that paper and make scratch pads. The holes cause flags, cause bad impressions and will cause the employer too much time and attention to try to un-tangle the information or lack of information.

The value that a company placed on an older worker as their worker does not guarantee a carry over to the same kind of value to another employer. Often times it is the re-entering job seeker that has the toughest time tuning and fine tuning their entire set of job seeking skills. Telephone interviews may be unsettling to an applicant, but does wonders for an employer with an extremely limited schedule. Today, anything that doesn't match, could boot the application or resume from the potential interview pool. It may simply be because the resume was scanned by a software program. Companies caught the resume scanner bug back in the 1990's.

The age of defining whether it is an 'Employers market or a job seeker market,' may well be a thing of the past. People have been laid off or forced into retirement in astronomical numbers for a long time amd a majority of the workers are over 40 years of age.

An employee who survived 20 plus years at a company is by all standards considered completely employable. Having all the qualities, plus more, an employer looks for in an applicant. And there-in lies the rub to both prospective older worker applicants and employers, it is the number of years of dedication to 'one' employer that sometimes get in the way for both.

It isn't about taking the 'well earned' twighlight years for things that the traditional retired typically do. The Social Security laws weren't up to speed back in the 1990's and many people couldn't afford to draw social security at all, not unless the employer adjusted the hours accordingly. Otherwise the worker would have been penalized for income earned above and beyond the set limit.

But alas, past lay off drain of personal finances, lost and no pension plans, family medical, prescription and dental costs, unexpected emergencies and expenses, current overall economic gouging, cuts to social programs and the alarming condition of our countries financial well being; older workers are staring down the barrel of FTE's - full time equivalent schedules, with needed benefits at well beyond 60 years, 65 years and 70 years old. Is this really valuing our Senior citizens? Seniors worked billions of dollars of pay into the system for a generation of workers who have already collected.

My teen friends and I used to have discussions about our summer and after school jobs, cute boys, the world at large, books and music, ecology, fashion and make-up, the women's movement, cute older boys and all sorts of current events back in the 1970's.

We concurred in our discussions, beginning at the age of 14 years old, that Social Security would be a thing of the past by the time we reached retirement age. Going along with that, we did feel dedicated to the investment for Social Security Retirement. Even though we felt deeply that we would never see it ourselves and we didn't know what all Social Security really entailed. It still made us feel a part of something bigger, something united.

When the word 'Privatization' started surfacing in the 1980's, I actually thought it a great idea. But I had to ruminate on it and remember why Social Security was invented in the first place. The reasons why it came about are still the same reasons it should be maintained. Social Security, when active under an honest government, is the best social safety net one can have. But I understand it has now been gutted by the current administration. Maybe it is their attempt to force Privatization later. It is without a doubt a crying sobbing shame.

People talked about the national debt, social security, workers rights, company closings and the environment back then, in 1970's. Fast forward to the late 1990's and in print from the Social Security office, I received my letter and am now eligible to collect full social security benefits by the age of 70 years old.

I am 24 years away from the age of 'retirement' and I am even more convinced that 'It' won't be there when I arrive. Sort of like missing the worker commuter 'gravy' train, the train that is taking everyone to a place that said 'Here' this is for all the years of hard work (any work), your contribution to our society and your commitment to not fussing while we took your money for people and things needed now.

We little teeny boppers knew what we were talking about and were ready for a complete life of working. As that time approaches and the reality of working till I am 70 plus years, I am not comforted by this fact at all. If I am working at something I enjoy, there's no problem. If I am forced to work on a line in a senior citizens enclave, there's a problem.

There is a huge difference between someone who wants to work as they approach and pass retirement age and someone who is forced to work beyond retirement age. Older working citizens are coping with an array of mounting economical and social challenges and struggles that did not happen over night. Which group do you suppose is rationing their food and medicine the most and are in poorer health because of it? Who looks healthy and fit, enough to work?

The things that older workers need to stay in the workforce are the same basic things everyone needs in a job. It just so happens that younger workers are more willing to settle for less in a job because they have nothing to reference as to how it used to be. What makes a job a good job or a company a good company? What do workers value most in their jobs and want from their employer?

This divide between the 'missing what they used to have' and the 'don't know what they're missing' is something all employers can begin mending, before the Older American Worker becomes a critical necessity to an upcoming American worker shortage. Employers can't outsource every job out of the United States, or can they? Is it really about making lemon aid....What if you can no longer afford to buy the lemons?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
REMEMBERING XX ~ WE THE BABY BOOMER
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