04/16/19 - One might anticipate, as a senior citizen, you would find yourself browsing for deals at the local travel agency. The reality is many seniors are evaluating and polishing their employment skills at the nearest staffing agency. As George Burns once said, "Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples."

Health care advancements have bestowed the blessing of a longer lifespan for many, but also the burden of needing a larger retirement fund. The continual threat of Social Security and Medicare reform drives many in their golden years to forego retirement or return to the workforce in search of a new career. Ag sector profits have seen a steady decline strong-arming numerous farm families to seek extra income to subsidize their operation. Many of these Ag producers are in their 50s and 60s searching for employment for the first time beyond the farm.

Randy Kissinger, regional manager of Nebraska Department of Labor sees similar percentage numbers for individuals 55+ as compared to the 25-44 age group within Hall County alone. National statistics confirm the trend of older Americans increasing presence in the workforce and job markets.

For those seniors having to reenter the workforce or for those choosing to work for personal fulfillment reasons there are resources to help you avoid intentional and unintentional age biases such as lacking technology skills. Kissinger remarks, through no fault of their own many seniors have to play catch up with internet usage and social media. The fact is, such technology systems weren’t a part of their everyday lives growing up, the way it is for our children today. This unfortunately can be an immediate barrier when searching for employment.

Kissinger says, “Seniors do have a local resource to help advance their technology skills through Central Community College Adult Basic Education which offers free technology assistance. For additional resources there is Operation Able. This is an income based program that assists individuals with work experience and job training related activities. Operation Able is located at 203 East Stolley Park Rd. in Grand Island. Their number is 308-210-8392, call for an appointment.”

The ability to operate basic Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, and Outlook are still the most desired technology skills that many employers are requiring. Kissinger says, “Posting yourself on LinkedIn or other social outlets is not required, however, if you have the ability any search or networking mechanism can be beneficial.”

Kissinger suggests another way to avoid ageism and the cutting room floor for your application or resume is considering changing your email address. Using certain email providers such as Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail implies you are over the age of 40. Younger individuals tend to use Gmail accounts.

Actress Lucille Ball said it best, “A man who correctly guesses a woman’s age may be smart, but he’s not very bright.” A constant concern for seniors is how to address inquiries about their age. Travis Powell, president of Essential Personnel says, “There is no need to reveal your age on an application or resume.” Powell recommends listing 10-15 years of employment history that is relevant to the job you are applying for. It is also important to include college education, but it’s not necessary to list the date of graduation. Merely stating you did receive a diploma, degree or certification is sufficient.

Individuals and seniors with disabilities may feel obligated to reveal their conditions on a resume or application, but this isn’t required. Powell says, “If it’s a disability that doesn’t affect the job that is being applied for, it’s not necessary to volunteer this information. If the disability is something that may restrict the applicant from doing part of the job, it’s important to disclose this at the time of the interview. Once the offer is made the employer does have the right to ask if there are any disabilities that may need accommodation.”

Iconic actress and comedian Phyllis Diller made a living on self-deprecating humor and was not afraid to draw attention to ageism as evidenced by such quotes as, “You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.”

If you suspect that you have been a victim of age discrimination in the workplace or while applying for a job, Kissinger suggests contacting the Equal Opportunity Commission. They can be reached by calling your local Department of Labor office for filing procedures and specific contact information.

The top 5 detailed “skills” for job openings posted online in Hall County as of January 2019 are customer service, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal skills and flexibility. These are all traits that are developed and refined over a person’s life time. Kissinger and Powell agree that seniors applying for jobs need to take full advantage of these life skills they possess when marketing themselves for employment. Capitalizing on skills that can only come through years of experience may propel you to the head of the pack, landing an interview for the job you’re seeking despite your age and fears of associated stigmas.

Kissinger and Powell both suggest thoroughly investigating the requirements for the job you are seeking. Make sure you know what you want from the job and what the employer needs from an employee in order to operate their business. If both of these terms can be met, forge ahead into the interview. Never apologize for age, and skill sets acquired over a life time. Expressing how your dependability and experience can benefit the company that hires you is a powerful self-marketing strategy that can only be proven by age. With all this being said, remember, if the company or business you are applying to is aggressively investigating your age and questioning your abilities despite your credentials, reconsider them as an employer. Your happiness and fulfilment will be better served where your skills are appreciated regardless of your age.

For those who still have anxieties about your advanced age and feel as though the wrinkles and grey hairs are putting you at a disadvantage in the job market, remember a wise quote from Jack Benny, “Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” And it won’t matter to the right employer.

Mandy Sullivan freelance writer/columnist invites you to read about her precarious experiences as a caregiver for multiple generations. So sit back and enjoy a fun read in the only room of the house you can find some peace, even if you have to make a stink to do so! 

© Mandy Sullivan, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mandy Sullivan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.