Tough Love For Unemployed Job Seekers Over 50 Years Of Age
WARNING: This article may challenge you and your view of the world, read at your own risk – it is for information and inspiration purposes only! Real situations will be discussed so you can learn how other people have used these techniques and achieved results!! You can then find the right resources to help you on your journey.
You may have passed your period of peak earning capacity, but you have not passed your period of peak fulfilment capacity.
There are plenty of studies that suggest that people find life more fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding later in life.
But not everyone feels this way, especially if they are over 50 and currently ‘unemployed’ (which I will define as in regular paid work).
I have heard all of the following:
• I am too old for a good job
• Anyone over the age of 45 is automatically discriminated against
• The jobs go to all the young people (but I also don’t want to work full time for $20 an hour)
• If it wasn’t for my previous partner who took all my money…
• I lost everything when I was retrenched, made redundant, got sick…
• I am a victim of bullying, harassment, illness, disability…
• I should have studied when I was younger and got the job I really wanted…
• My parents thought I should have been a doctor, lawyer etc but I didn’t…
• I gave up my career for my kids, I don’t regret it, but I don’t have many options now…
• Everyone else my age has already given up
• I just can’t be bothered going back to full time work
• I have got used to getting up late, being disconnected…
• I am okay, really, there is nothing around anyway…
• I am so busy caring, doing voluntary community work etc that I can’t go out and find a job
• My boss never understood me or valued my contribution…
• I made mistakes when I was younger and so I can’t get past that (I believe it is NEVER too late)…
And that is just a small sample. However, I do believe that some form of unemployment can be good for you.
By way of background, my own personal story is partly relevant here. I started full time work at an Australia-wide bank only six days after my last secondary school examination and I started studying part time. At the age of 28, I had to be retrenched because I was moving to Melbourne and they did not have a position available. It only took me six weeks to find work and not long after, I found out I was pregnant. Long story short, I was sacked soon after. Then I became a mother (thankfully) and then I was back in demand!
I thought to myself, how crazy is this? I am in demand as a breast feeding mother at the age of 29 but I will probably be on the scrap heap by the time I am 40. So I made a conscious decision at that point to remain fully employable for the rest of my life (my maternal grandmother lived to 98).
Since then, I have had contracts cancelled, cut short and delayed. I have prepared information for all sorts of ‘opportunities’ and wasted hours in meetings and on emails and they have led to nothing.
When I was 49 and about to turn 50, I thought that nothing can really change when I change from 49 to 50, but what I noticed around me is that all of my friends started changing psychologically and they seemed to view life as going downhill (ripe and rotting) rather than developing (green and growing).
I spent my 50th year writing three books to prepare for the next phase of my business and professional life.
I did this for a reason. I am aware enough to understand that as I age, it may not be as easy to secure high profile opportunities, especially if I do not remain current and relevant to the modern age as my personal appearance changes (the media and Western society seem to be totally obsessed with a youthful appearance).
But that has not stopped me in any sense! In fact, in many ways, it has helped me choose even better options! There are actually plenty of people who are close to my age (and older), that really appreciate my offering. Others are impressed with my practical application of both modern and traditional methods – and I have achieved this through a number of different strategies – with the most common denominator being the willingness to keep learning (I attend between one and four events, webinars, training etc every week). There is hope for older workers!
Strategies for people over 50 looking for work
However, if you are stuck, for any reason, are over 50 and unemployed, I would like to share some of these strategies with you. More job search strategies that work are listed here.
Please remember that I am sharing them with you in such a way that I hope will demonstrate to you that there is plenty of hope and opportunity if you are over 50. It is definitely not the end of your career, your working life, your business or any other way you would like to spend your time.
It is not about what you can’t do, it is about what you can do.
It is not about what others think, it is about what you think.
It is not about being a victim, it is about healing from any past challenges.
It is not about blame, it is about resourcefulness.
It is not about money, it is about value (although I do understand that some money is required to survive in modern society).
It is not about years of experience, it is about relevance.
It is not about doing it all on your own, it is about finding the right help you need (and this could be both free and paid from multiple sources).
It is not about wishing, it is about doing.
It is not about limitations, it is about flexibility.
It is not about a specific formula, it is about finding out what is right for you.
It is not about perfection, it is about alignment (and 80% is good enough).
Ultimately, if you can live according to your highest values (for your context), you are doing fine!
Four steps you can consider
Now let me be a little more specific. Here are four steps that you might like to consider taking.
1. Stop whinging and start solving
Before you do though, please write down every reason why your situation is as bad as it is. Every single one. No-one else has to see this by the way, so don’t hold back.
Then I suggest that you spend a whole day doing nothing else but ranting and raving and whinging and complaining, on your own or to any trusted person who will listen confidentially (just tell them you want to be heard, you do not want ANY suggestions at all – this part is extremely important).
The only thing the other person is allowed to say, is ‘I understand,’ ‘okay,’ or ‘is there anything else?’ You have 24 hours to give it your best shot. Everything, and I mean everything. Don’t do anything nice until you are completely finished. Let’s put it all on the table and find out what really needs to be addressed.
When you have finished, identify three things you are going to get sorted out.
Perhaps you have a bad relationship with someone who is or was important to you (living or dead). Now is the time to find a way to heal yourself (and you may need some assistance and it may not be a quick fix – remember that it is almost impossible to change anyone else).
Perhaps you are still bitter about a past disappointment. Is there a way that you can forgive or accept that situation and see it from a new perspective? Again, this may take a special process or ritual, but it is definitely worthwhile).
Perhaps you are in an extremely difficult financial position (for whatever reason). There are financial counsellors around and additional supports that you may be able to call on. Perhaps you need to learn some budgeting skills or find alternative accommodation that is more affordable (like shared accommodation which has the benefit of you spending time with other people).
Perhaps you are just simply lonely and frustrated. Are your current circle of friends and family members ‘keeping’ you in the situation you are in? Are you being encouraged in a positive way? There is no need to abandon these people, but including a few new people may help.
Perhaps you feel as if everything is in a mess? Obviously, another 24 hours just tidying up will not solve the problem entirely, but if you decide that in the next 24 hours you will start by washing the dishes, doing some housework or having a shower and putting on an outfit that you feel fabulous in (even if you are not going out), it will change your mood for the better.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself. This is not about blame or judgement. It is simply about finding out what needs to be addressed in the future, over time. These subtle issues, often lying under the surface, could be holding you back in ways that your conscious mind cannot understand.
Let me also assure you that if these are significant issues, it takes a huge amount of your energy and willpower to keep them in and live with them every day. This stage can be painful and may take some time – after all, if you are over 50, it could be as many as 50 years worth! But that is not a reason for hopelessness. There is help available and even one small change can help you release your true potential.
It is never too late and no time is ever wasted. Remember, be kind to yourself.
At this point, remember that starting this journey is all that is important. You do not need to finish this part of your journey and reach a destination before moving on. If you have a bit more time at the moment, you can spend a bit more time on it if you wish, but this is not essential. Just make it a small part of every week.
2. Stop coping and start moving
It is extremely easy to fall into a comfort zone. To put up with mediocre (or worse), because any form of change seems too hard, too difficult or just impossible. There is always hope.
Coping can become extremely insidious. You can start to rely on welfare payments and justify that a low paying job will leave you worse off than a welfare benefit. But what about you? How do you feel when you are stuck in a holding pattern and just wishing for something more? Do you feel satisfied? Is it rewarding? Do you want to get out of bed in the morning?
Welfare is designed to help in a crisis situation, but not for the long term. I have personally had to rely on welfare and it was a real struggle. In fact every day then became a real struggle. I kept searching for solutions and trying different things and after several years of doing that, I seriously thought nothing would ever change – but eventually, it did.
Take responsibility and ownership for yourself. Stop buying takeaway food and either learn how to cook or try making something healthy and tasty to eat – in most cases it is a lot cheaper and a lot tastier. Start walking, even if it is only around one street block per day. Go outside (rug up if it is cold). Open your window dressings every day and only close them at night.
If you have let your household tidiness or cleanliness slide, consider spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ – even if it is not Spring! Freshen up your bedroom so that when you go to bed, you can enjoy a peaceful slumber. Stop looking at any screens at least one hour before you go to bed.
Find out what sort of support can help you with the challenges you face, whether they are personal or work related.
Remember that we were not born with the skills to overcome challenges, we need to learn them.
Most people are taught how to do a job, but they are not taught how to find a job.
Perhaps your biggest challenge is you simply don’t have the right skills to find a job – it may actually have nothing to do with your age, your skills, knowledge, networks or location! But it does require you to take some action!
3. Stop denying and start accepting
Once you are over the hump of your anecdotal beliefs, emotional worries and you have grieved for past disappointments, it is time to release those shackles and start accepting where you are at right now.
As Whoopi Goldberg says about becoming older – “What’s the alternative? The alternative of course is death.”
Accept that you have actually had a number of successes in the past, despite your disappointments. That you have already overcome challenges and moved past them. That you have made some bad choices, some that may have cost you a lot of time, money or heartache, but you have eventually recovered (in most cases).
Michael Hyatt says that, ‘An abundance thinker shares more, gives more, and welcomes the competition. A scarcity thinker defaults to suspicion, gives less, and resents new players in the market. And here’s the bottom line: Whichever approach you take will come back to you a thousandfold.’
So rather than fighting any past ‘demons’ from your life, start accepting them as learning opportunities and realise that they have given you some of the wonderful skills that you have right now.
This reminds me of one of my recent clients. He had been working in marketing in a very successful entrepreneurial company for many years. He was regularly promoted even beyond his capabilities and at every moment, he rose to the challenge. But then he decided, he wanted a better life and he moved himself and his family (at great expense), to Australia. He was reluctant to pay for my assistance with his LinkedIn Profile (because he was now relying on savings not earnings), but to his credit, he made an appointment. Interestingly, we did not spend very much time on his LinkedIn Profile, but what he quickly realised was that he needed to re-evaluate what was important to him.
He cancelled our second appointment. I was initially disappointed, but not when he told me why. He said that he needed to take some time out to really consider what he wanted to do next and to resettle his family in reliable accommodation and that he had reorganised his finances so that he could manage for a little bit longer without forcing himself back into a workaholic style job. Within two months, he had resettled his family, made his OWN decision about moving forward and has already started lining up contract and short term work.
Another woman I know is well past 50 and she had been trying to focus on two different business ideas, but her very active personal, church and community life seemed to constantly take precedence. I suggested that she just continue with her personal commitments for six months and then re-evaluate afterwards. That was about two years ago. She is still extremely active with a huge range of activities, but more importantly, she is also providing personal care for her best friend who could not source assistance from her family. Whilst officially she could be labelled ‘unemployed,’ in my view, she is a wonderful contributor to her friends, her communities and the policies she implements that extend to others, a very valid personal choice aligned with her highest values.
4. Stop delaying and start taking action
It is so easy when you lose your momentum to put off what you know you could do. It takes a bit of courage to push on, particularly if you are in a difficult personal situation. You might be well intentioned and try and allocate a whole day to doing ‘something’ but then that day comes along and you don’t do anything (for whatever reason).
Can I encourage you to just do something for 15 minutes within the next seven days? Then stop. No need to continue. Of course, there is an old saying, ‘something begun is half done’ but I am not trying to trick you. I am just wanting you to get started, in small manageable steps. A whole day on something that is difficult is too much to ask anyone to do! Perhaps you could start by making a few quick improvements to your LinkedIn Profile?
Also, don’t be overly disappointed if something wonderful doesn’t happen immediately.
I had the good fortune to meet a lovely business coach as part of my career six years ago. We only had about five sessions but we developed a very healthy professional relationship. About three years ago, he asked me to update and create some websites for him, which I did, and he paid me for those. He also told me that I was a ‘skills coach’ – I liked that label!
Anyway, earlier this year, he said that he so enjoyed seeing my smiling face and chatting to me via Skype, that he would like to meet me online every month and he booked sessions for the whole year (he lives interstate).
Now this is a man in his 70’s and he didn’t really have the budget for my services, but he booked and paid for them anyway. In our second last session a month ago, he confessed that things were really tough. His 70 year old wife had just secured a new, very senior executive role (she came out of retirement to accept the gig) and although he was so excited for her, he was concerned about his own future.
However, I said not to worry, as we had already updated his LinkedIn Profile, we continued to publish new search engine optimised content and update his website each month and the very next day, one of his other previous clients from 10 years ago contacted him for the exact type of business coaching work he was seeking – from interstate!
Naturally, the referrer had to get board approval for my client’s fee (including senior legal counsel directors who completed their own due diligence before authorising his services) and of course he got the huge gig and was sitting at a very special board dinner interstate just six days later. I can tell you now, if he had not taken regular action over an extended period of time, he would not have secured this opportunity.
He has also demonstrated his commitment to learning and growing. He has considered doing both a Masters and another formal qualification within the last 12 months, but in the end, has decided to do a research project in conjunction with a colleague that is ground breaking! He never ceases to amaze me with his commitment to developing himself and others, despite the setbacks he has had along the way.
Finally, he has continued to nurture and develop relationships with his network and this was crucial to his success. He has done this both in person and via a semi-regular updated presence online.
There is no such thing as ‘job security,’ but if anything can help, a good (and well maintained) network can!
Perhaps now is the time for you to spruce up your online presence and your personal appearance. Consider splashing out on one nice new set of clothes and shoes, a stylish haircut, and book an appointment with the dentist and the doctor for a check-up. All of these things can be little actions that can move you in the right direction.
Ultimately, what you do next will be up to you. I am not going to tell you what you should do, or even be able to watch you do it, but hopefully by reading this article, you will be able to pick and choose some suggestions that might work for you!
If you think it could be helpful for someone you know to read it, please feel free to pass it on (but make sure you introduce it properly so that they don’t feel as if they are being judged).
And finally, I hope you have found this Article worth sharing through your network and thanks in advance if you choose to do so! If you have any other ideas you would like to share, suggestions or challenges, please add them in the Comments section below.
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First Published: 27 July 2017
Last Update: 14 August 2022