How has your age affected your search for work or your life at work?

Unemployed older workers seem to have a harder time finding jobs than younger people. Today’s Question: How has your age affected your search for work or your life at work?

  • 51 Year Old Woman

    Well, I work for a tech startup company, with a style/fashion edge. Sometimes, I hear ageist stereotype comments regarding others, but mostly the people I work with are very sweet. I know i bring real value with my experience and knowledge of the company product, so i have that sincerely needed edge. I don’t fit in with them socially, but that’s okay.

    In the past, people have thought me “overqualified”, though I doubt that was the real reason. It’s harder to find a way into positions where you have no experience, or where the wage is lower. Sometimes I’ve just needed a job to survive, tho, ya know?

    In my younger years, I’d get offered every job. As I became older, I had to work harder to to convince. It can be tough.

    I’m so lucky with my current job, for which I was asked to apply. I managed this by helping out on my own time, for nearly four years. 🙂 I did this because I loved the company/community and wanted to help. So fortunate this effort was recognized. Seriously!

  • Sara

    My age, almost 50, plays a factor in some of the jobs I haven’t gotten in the past year and a half but not in all of them.

    Most of the time the person hired had “worked here before” so they were a known quantity, but in a couple cases a younger person with far fewer years of experience was hired.

    Many of the positions I’ve interviewed for are in unions, so I know that my years of experience would make me more expensive. I also happen to be in a field where I have the education required, so it is not lack of skills or outdated skills stopping my progress.

    Frustrating? Yes. Too bad those employers miss out on one of the best employees they could have ever had.

  • James

    Generally speaking as a person ages, his/her shear brilliance declines and his/her energy declines both of which are offset by an increase in experience and ability to get thing done.

    I am in the “endangered class” and work very hard to “fight” the energy decline and to grow my experience base to remain valuable in the eyes of my employer.

    I also don’t fight too hard for pay increases or for extra vacation, as the last thing I need to be labeled is “too expensive” or “never at work.”

    As a hiring manager, age is not an issue for me. But value is. I’ll take a hard working experienced person over a new hire any day, as long as the experienced person is not excessively demanding about pay or benefits.

  • Decades of job and salary growth crashed at 49. I subsequently found myself in the job market two more times before I hit 55 as my employers ‘downsized’, merged and moved.

    Frustrated, I raided my IRA’s and purchased an existing small business. I now work at least as many hours each week as my years on the planet and take home less than a burger flipper.

    Finally, employment hinges on my ability to meet the needs of my customers, not the economics of companies that appear to prefer a 30-40 year old work force.

  • Juanita Hickerson

    While I was un- and under-employed for three years before getting my current job a little over a year ago, I felt my age was definitely a factor in my job search. I had unfortunate timing. I had “stayed to long at the fair” (at one company for twenty years, to the day!) and my unemployment began right before the bottom fell out. I felt that I needed to make up for my focused experience in one area, that it was looked up as being limited, not valuable.

    I took classes, took risks and used the resources of the MN unemployment office, which were VERY helpful.

    I think that often, employers have preconceived notions and assume that “older” (READ: middle-aged) employees will come with baggage and expectations. This is not true! I am thrilled to have my job and contribute energy, enthusiasm and new ideas.

  • Bill

    I was unemployed for 12 months, at 56 years old. If it wasn’t for the fact that the hiring manager was my age I wouldn’t have been hired. I interviewed with many companies but age was clearly a factor but its difficult to prove.

  • Aging worker

    I am 61 and my age impacts my decison regarding my future and current work status. I feel a bit stuck in my job as I know I have much less flexiblity in finding satisfying work when you are my age that offers health insurance, something I can not afford on my own.

    My dependency on health insurance and my decreased retirement funds causes me to not always do what I love for work, as I tolerate much more than I would have in the past, when I was younger and was able to change jobs much easier.

    Once I can access medicare health insurance I will most likely feel more flexible with my career options, as I do not want to retire fully when I am 65.

  • Nearly 50

    How has it affected my work? I will be 50 in a few months. Well, I applied for a position at my current employer 3 years ago and they hired someone who clearly had less in-depth experience and education. They basically told me I was overqualified. I did get a similar job there a year ago, because the person they originally hired was overwhelmed and clearly not a good fit. She can’t seem to handle the job, while it seems easy to me. I was hired to help her!

    I also went back to school and took an MBA program in my mid-late forties. I was much older than most of the students. I was surprised that students I worked with on team projects were not interested in my work experience and did not seem to value it. I was basically shunned because I think I reminded them of their parents.

    As a manager who has hired a lot of people, I can say that older workers have a lot of good experience to draw on, which makes them more efficient and good problem-solvers. Sure wish employers would drop the “overqualified” excuse.


  • I suspect the culture will experience real difficulties regarding this in the future. As the recession continues, changes in expectations modify the values of all of us.

    I’m a case in point. Several years ago I built a cluster computer here at home which I used to create numerical models for weather forecasting. I read (and speak) 4 languages besides English. I write essays regarding a number of subjects, including theology, politics, and the atmospheric sciences. I often include mathematics from particle physics.

    I’ve been married for 46 years (to the same woman), have two grown children, have no chemical or other addictions, and even attend church regularly.

    There’s far more like this, but the conclusion is that I feel outside of the cultural loop and simply cannot find a job. None of the usual explanations apply. I’m well-educated, healthy, and have no stale skills.

    What are the consequences for a generation facing challenges like this?

  • LuckyOneSoFar

    I haven’t been un-employed since my twenties. I did that by not taking the highest paying job – but by taking the middle paying job – the ones the company can afford to keep. I find myself now working to re-train in new areas – even though I have no specific concern about losing my job. Why – because I’m looking ahead and forecasting what my business and economy are shifting toward. Head Up, Feet Moving – There is no stopping.

  • Rich

    When I was 50 years old I chose to leave my law career and become an elementary teacher. After getting certified and getting a master’s degree in elementary ed, I discovered a job market that was especially difficult for a male of my age to break into. Early on, I was hired twice for full time positions, both of which were eliminated at the end of the year due to cutbacks. In both of these instances the hiring principals could see their own retirement on the near horizon, so their personal “risk” in hiring me was minimized. Since then, no principal has been willing to hire me, even though I have a boatload of endorsements from parents of former students, former students themselves, and former teaching colleagues. In addition, the number of interviews I’ve been offered has continually declined over the years. All I’ve been left to conclude is that principals fear having a teacher on staff with years of life experiences, who has the ability to think on his own, and, frankly, has a legal background. Principals would much rather hire a young person directly out of college, believing that the principal can “mold” a young person to the principal’s own liking. As a result, I have been reduced to being a substitute teacher in several different districts for seven years now and have, for all practical purposes, abandoned my search for a full time teaching position. The irony is that, if I had a second chance, I would make the same career choice all over again. I love being in the classroom with young people. They learn from me and I learn from them. It is a joy. It also has helped alleviate any concern I have for this country as future generations take over. Our schools are filled with great kids who will be great adults. I just wish I could be in the classroom daily with them.

  • Heading 4 50 like going over the Niagra in a barrel

    I don’t know that anyone ever knows for sure if they were eliminated as a candidate for a position because of age and I would think that the potential employer wouldn’t dare say so.

    This is the first time that I have ever been unemployed for more than a couple months.

    I think the large unemployed force has alot to do with the increased time being out of work, for me anyway.

    We can only keep putting our foot forward, keep looking, keep applying, keep hoping and eventually something will surface.

    As they say, this Too, shall pass.

    …by the way James…what kind of business is your company and are you hiring?

  • kimMN

    Rich’s comment on being ignored in the schools in spite of his experience and law degree is a good example of when unions and liberal organizations are in control. In contrast to private business that seeks those that will get the job done and grow the business, the union controlled sectors do not allow for “hiring at below the contract wage schedules based upon the years of experience” But hey can, as schools often do, hire a new person at above the union contract’s limits for a starting wage. In the liberal organizations as schools generally are, administrators want the younger ones with minimal experience in life because those are the ones that are more docile and will not ask questions the administrators can not answer.

    Older workers from private business experience have a work ethic that values responsibility and accountability. In contrast to most public schools, teachers feel entitled to their contract benefits and salary regardless of what they don’t produce. That is why so many teachers hate the idea of their salary and continued employment based upon student outcomes.

    Compare public schools to private schools where good private school teachers stay and the poor ones are let go. There is no union manipulations at private schools so we see markedly better student outcomes from better teachers. Older teachers should search out private schools for employment where success is valued.

    Or____ older workers can always seek out the government employment IF they have a connection by politicians. Funny that if you are older than 42 you can not be hired by the gov. for the Border Patrol but yet, we have an old and grossly out of shape Homeland Security director in Napolitano!

  • Worker

    I’m 50. I have never heard a meaningful discussion by any politicians as to how they expect people to keep working, (if they plan to keep raising the social security retirement age) if employers are reluctant to hire them.

    Realistically, how many 60 or 70+ year olds can expect to find a decent fulltime job, when 40-50 year olds are having a difficult time?

    Let’s address this. Ask the hard questions. No one talks about it. HR folks-when was the last time you hired someone age 70??

  • Rich

    Although KimMN makes some good points, I cannot associate myself with her comments. I will point out that Education Minnesota has no role in the initial hiring process, and I cannot get past this point. I also think “teacher accountability” is a trickier thing than many realize. Unless one teacher stays with the same students for several years, a teacher is always dealing with students who bring with them their accumulated learning from all the teachers they have had before, whether fromthis school, this district, or outside the district. If some students are “behind” when a teacher gets them, it is unrealistic to expect their current teacher to bring all of them “up to speed” in one year. Yet that year will remain a “blot” on his or her record forever. Is it fair to hold that teacher accountable for this failure? Lastly, I’ll volunteer that I am one of those liberals KimMN rails against.

  • Gary F

    I’m 47 and work on straight commission. I probably will until I retire. Seeing I’m 47, plan on retiring a 75, then I will have to work after that because my social security will be non-existent or devalued.

    I’m in the construction business. Lots of guys who where salaried project managers, designers, and in the field trades have been laid off. Many of them have decided to go into business for themselves, many of them in their 50’s.

    You get a whole change of attitude when you write your own check, pay your own taxes, and take your own risks.

  • Steve the Cynic

    My experience differs from kimMN. I’ve found that it’s the business elites that want workers to be docile, compliant and uninquisitive. Especially, they don’t want workers asking things like, “What am I really doing with my life?” and “Is my work making a positive difference in the world, or am I just trading my time for money?” I wonder if that’s part of the problem: employers are scared of workers having midlife crises, and that’s why they want to hire young ones?

  • Steve the Cynic

    To answer the question, my line of work is challenging for a person of any age, but the challenges (and assets) are different at different ages.

  • Regnar James

    My job as test pilot has become more challenging now that I have to put on the cheaters to read the gauges. Mostly, I just wing it so the younger pilots think I’m “Just that cool”.


  • Jamie

    KimMN: Just about EVERYTHING you say is untrue or grossly misconstrued. And I certainly hope YOU’RE not a teacher; I wouldn’t want our young people learning to write from someone who cannot.

  • I am unemployed for the second time in my life. My position was eliminated because of cutbacks due to the economy. I have tried to keep myself abreast and marketable throughout my working career. With the invention of IPads and IPods and cell phone aps that do practically everything, my line of work is disappearing. I am 52 years young and need to return to school to “re-invest” myself. But at my age it is very difficult to justify a 4 year degree. By the time I finish school I will have roughly 8 or 9 years before retirement. I know I will not be able to pay off any school loans or earn enough money to justify the cost of re-education. To be unemployed at this age produces a much different outlook than it would for someone in their late 20’s, 30’s or even early 40’s looking at the need to re-educate.

    For the past 3 months I have applied for many positions, even those out of my degree field but which I had ample skill sets. I kept hoping that if I demonstrate I could do the job, the re-educating would not matter. If employers could see me willing and able and I exceeded their expectations that having a degree would not matter. This has been a very difficult aproach, one which is hampered by the high unemployment rate. None of the employers have given me a second look beause I do not have a degree in that field. Those positions that are available in my degree field are difficult because I am competing against as many as 250 others. While I hate to think age is not a factor, I know it is because the people who are hired for the positions are half my age. Why hire a 50 something year old when a younger person can fill the position for half the wage? The bottom line is the cost and not the abilties.

    Despite the financial costs and ramifications I am returning to school. I’ve decided that I do need the re-education. I want the last years of my employment to matter, to count for something, if not for others, then at least for me and my family. The jobs that are available today were not in existence 30 years ago. We are in a shift. I know I will be looked at as an anomily by the younger generation. But I hope that my presence at school will help the younger generation discover that they too will someday face a shift. And when they do, its ok to grieve. But it is also ok to re-invest. Life doesn’t stop living until we take our last breath.

  • kimMN

    Age has affected more today because there are fewer jobs available and younger, less experienced workers may indeed cost a business less in overhead costs.

    This is exactly why so many over the age of 50 are not Liberal-Progressives and won’t re-elect Obama. Obama can not stand on his record as doing nothing to improve what he inherited.

    Meanwhile, at this moment, Senator Reid, the Democrat Senate leader is pushing for a $1.2 trillion INCREASE in spending! That is like a family with monthly credit card debts and a mortgage debt equal to their yearly income and then taking out more debt to pay their current debt. Progressive Liberal policy is designed to make nearly everyone equal and yet, make everyone poor while the elite politicians control the citizens dependency upon government handing out their existence

    This type of Obama-Marxist agenda with spending America into bankruptcy status and thus becoming another Greece and Italy is WHY there are so few jobs today. Taxing the small business companies more each year, adding more useless regulations created by the EPA and without Congressional approval is essentially another tax and cost to be passed along to consumers__ all of this Obama_Reid “lets spend more using working people’s tax money” type of tactics is still another tax on business and another job killing effect.

    If that wasn’t true, then we wouldn’t still have

    9+ % unemployment and a national deficit increased by $5 trillion. When he took office, gasoline was below $2.20/gallon. He wants gasoline to hit European standards…his exact remark in 2008! Older workers have little chance of finding new jobs with a radical in chief in the White House.

    Today, according to the Gallop Polls, Obama is at the worst polling of public favor since recorded polls….Even Carter fared better. Obama policies are killing America while building a future of enslavement to the government handouts. Just ask Occupy wallstreeters as they demand an entitled excused student loans and a guaranteed income for life regardless if they are employed.

  • kimMN

    @stevcynic statement of, “I’ve found that it’s the business elites that want workers to be docile, compliant and uninquisitive. Especially, they don’t want workers asking things like, “What am I really doing with my life?” and “Is my work making a positive difference in the world, or am I just trading my time for money?” I wonder if that’s part of the problem: employers are scared of workers having midlife crises, and that’s why they want to hire young ones?”

    See…that attitude is the problem for some not hiring older workers. Steve cynic describes a private business that is designed for one primary purpose_ to MAKE a PROFIT so all employed have income. Good lord little liberal boy, you think a business should be concerned with your coming mid life crisis of”what am I doing with my life???” Good lord, LOL__ business is not there to act as your mental health spiritual leader or counselor.

    Older workers DO NOT have midlife crisis that would make them unreliable at work. Too many younger ( under 35 years old) workers have a poor work ethic. They expect success without the effort. They expect a raise every year without having to show HOW their work increased company productivity….in short_ they act like spoiled , entitled, union paying dues whiners…..just as some of them were even paid to protest at OWS by their own unions along with paying homeless psychiatric cases to stand around all day to make their protest numbers look better.

    If Steve doesn’t want to “trade his time for money” he can do as the daring do_ START your OWN Business and quit whining like a spoiled child. 😉

  • Clark

    Cheer up 50’s and over. I work in the C Suite of a large financial services company though not based in MN.

    In 2011, I have hired dozens of director level positions and above, some in MN and of those 75% were over the age of 45.

    Clearly, high degree of education is required, but for me as a hiring manager, career achievements and experience are primary.

    In our business model, we travel the globe and I tend to notice those who are empty nesters are willing to take the two week business trips to China and India as they are less concerned about soccer and baseball practice back home.

    I love the connection younger generation has with technology but unless your an internet startup, I will almost always be biased toward experience vs inexperience for mid to high level management positions.

  • CC&H

    Not that I contribute very often, but I can’t believe how toxic this site has become because of this person, kimMN . I think it’s unbelievably sad that NPR has allowed this person to ruin what was such a good thing.

    Signing off…….

  • Steve the Cynic

    …private business that is designed for one primary purpose_ to MAKE a PROFIT…”

    See, that’s the problem with American society. We think profit is the most important thing in life, and that happiness is to be measured in dollars. If it were true, as you say, kimMN, that the goal of businesses is to make a profit “so all employed have income,” that would be one thing, but I haven’t seen that such high-minded motives are a big part of business logic in America. Corporations are soul-less entities concerned only with “shareholder value,” not with how well they’re treating their employess (except insofar as it might help with their bottom line). When one’s work is merely trading time for money, and not doing something that’s also inherently meaningful, a bit of one’s humanity disappears, until eventually one becomes as soul-less as the corporation one works for. I know this, because this is what I learned through my midlife crisis. If profit-making is more important to you than family, friends, and the well-being of people you encounter throughout your day, I’m very sad for you.

  • Kurt


    Profit is not the most important thing in life but it is, by neccessity, in a business. That profit makes other things possible.

    Much of life and work involve quid pro quo.

    “trading your time for money” is one way to look at it. I left a good job in the city, working for the man……moved to NY,NY, studied art. Loved it. But it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to support a family anytime soon and so I traded my time for money (and a family). I would do it again in a heartbeat-or a NY minute.

    And just a word on souless. My dad and his brothers had a little store. They worked 11 hours a day, 6 days a week. Thats a lot of time. They also got calls virtually every Sunday at home because someone needed something. They opened the store-could have told them to wait until Monday I suppose, but didn’t. My dad wasn’t all that concerned with money -just his family, freinds and neighbors. Nothing souless about that.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Yes, Kurt, but it’s those other things that profit makes possible that are the main thing. It’s when we treat profit as an end in itself that we go off the rails. What is money for? Money is just a tool. Merely getting and having it won’t make you or anyone else happy. What matters is what one does with that tool.

  • Steve the Cynic

    And the example of the family store illustrates my point very well, Kurt. Your dad and his brothers were making a fair profit for doing something that actually helped others live better. You can’t say the same about an investment bank, for instance, or any industry that cares more about the bottom line than what it’s doing to the environment.

  • Rich

    CC&H, NPR has nothing to do with this site. It is an MPR site, a totally different organization.