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Posted on Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 10:30 a.m.

Mondays Work: I'm 50 years old - what are my chances of finding a job?

By Nick Synko

I’m 50 years old and don’t feel as if I have a chance at finding a new job. Now what do I do?

As a career coach, I have spoken with people in their 20s who think they are too old to move ahead with their career. Judging by the impression they left, they were correct.

I also recently coached a man in a career transition who was in his 60s; he told me that his new job is the keystone of his career. The impression he left was that he was 60, and so what, because the best half of his career is yet to come. Another client in her 60s just found a job that she describes as “perfect.”

I keep meeting such dynamic people; recently, I met an individual at a workshop who was 55 and had multiple leads before he accepted his new job. He was still going to school to update his skills, was training for a marathon, was well dressed and groomed and attended the workshop to try helping others through sharing his career transition experience. He had more on the ball than most anyone did in their 20s — employers recognized it.

In my experience, age is irrelevant if you have energy, enthusiasm, an up-to-date skill set and are ready to go to work with an upbeat attitude. However, if you disagree and believe your age is the significant factor in your present situation, well, then, you are likely correct — for you, that is. Age is both a fact and a choice.

Lastly, be authentically you. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Know who you are, what qualifies you to be in the game and also speak to what makes you unique from your competition. Furthermore, remember you do not need a hundred jobs; you only need one great job.

Send your career-related questions to me at To learn more, visit our website at Synko Associates or follow this column each Monday in



Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:46 a.m.

The problem with being 50 or older is that, although it is illegal to ask you your age, all a prospective employer need do is look you up on White Pages to learn your age. We know people in their 50s and 60s who have sent out hundreds of resumes and gotten no response. Coincidence? We think not. A great alternative for someone in their 50s is to start a business of their own. It seems daunting and it is but what are the alternatives? Find something that you are really good at or love, and then go after it with all the passion you can muster. Like to travel and be on the road? Create an online business, one that you can work on as needed on the road or in a Starbucks. RonD <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

This story seems to only perpetuate the myth that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed. I am 53 years old and had to close my business because customers just stopped coming. I have applied for hundreds of jobs in 18 months and had exactly one interview. I have pursued certifications and further education to make myself marketable. I am highly educated and more physically fit that 90% of the people half my age, yet age is still the factor. Recruiters have told me flat out that I'm too old and professors have told me that it's neat that I'm going to school but I better not hope to find a job at my age. We are not unemployed because we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we are unemployed because of the prevalent attitude that we are too much of a risk. Until that attitude changes, all of the education and enthusiasm isn't going to make the difference.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

MichGirl, Do not list your date of birth on any job application. It's illegal to ask. However, they do ask the year of graduation from HS, and that can be left blank as well. You graduated from HS, and that should be enough information. I also do not list the date I received my degrees from colleges attended. I list only the degree itself, not the date. We need to push back on applications that ask information that can be used for age discrimination. I agree that women have a harder time re: age discrimination than men. Older women are seen as &quot;old&quot; and older men are &quot;distinguished.&quot; Part of the larger gender discrimination issue in society that will not change for many generations, if ever. Men have for a long time been given priority in jobs because of a sense of entitlement (they are paying the bills for a family, etc and need a job) irrespective of their skills or experience compared to women applicants. Women are perceived to be a second income, and therefore it's ok not to hire them or to pay them less in the same job as a man. Performance and experience and skills should determine the best applicant, not their financial obligations. It's an uphill battle and continues into the age discrimination issue. I'm not optimistic this will change in our lifetime. Laws are passed, but attitudes don't change because laws change.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

While I agree that energy, enthusiasm and skills certainly matter, it's often impossible to get past the online applications of today to demonstrate these ageless characteristics to a hiring manager. Many of the online apps I've encountered ask very specific age-related questions, including birthdate, year of graduation from high school, etc. There's no question in my mind that age discrimination is practiced, especially with women. Somehow 50+ with some gray streaks equates to &quot;Grandma&quot; if your female but 50+ with salt &amp; pepper hair on a man equates to &quot;distinguished, seasoned&quot;. Go figure. I'll keep trying though and welcome any new ideas!


Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 2 p.m.

My father was an engineer. He was laid off from his job in 1981 (at the height of that recession) at the age of 59. He cleared out his desk and returned home before noon that day. News apparently travels fast, because waiting for him were messages from about a half-dozen different companies who were very eager to take him on. His expertise was not only sought-after, but welcomed and valued because he did a few things consistently throughout his career. He specialized and got very good at what he did. He was always truthful and accurate with employers and clients alike. He networked, though it was never his priority to do so. His standard of "good enough" was always higher than his employer's was. He never panicked, even when he had a right to. He never took his eye off the ball. It's entirely possible to find a new job at the age of 40, 50, 60, etc. You can often make your own opportunities, too. (Sometimes without realizing it.)


Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

Some employers exercise age discrimination regardless of how great you look and act in an interview, or how up to date your skills are. Fact of life. They see some gray hair, and you can forget it. My mom was in an interview once a few years ago at UM and the person interviewing her (an older guy--dept chair) literally asked: "People our age are getting ready to retire...........not looking for new jobs." Ha, talk about making an illegal statement in an interview! That kind of thing goes on all over the place all the time. I'm glad to read this article that some folks are getting hired in real jobs (not Walmart greeters for $8.00/hour and no benefits) after age 50 and 60. They are the exception.


Mon, Jan 17, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

I hope I never forget being terrified because I was 27 and hadn't settled into a career. From where I sit now, that fear seems crazy. So I suppose that there is a good chance my fears at 47 will seem crazy when I am 67.