New York Times to older workers: bad luck

 According to the New York Times, the main cause of long-term unemployment among the over 50 crowd can be attributed to two things:  out-of-date job skills and bad luck (see “For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again,” in the September 19 edition of the New York Times, at ).
In her stark assessment of unemployed workers over 50, NYT reporter Motoko Rich does recognize that many of these “older” workers are college-educated, but writes that they have “rusty” job skills that are not in demand anymore.  “Many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes,” she writes.
Now, most economists and labor experts see this group not with empathy, but as a potential “policy problem,” as one Rutgers professor said.  Rich indicates that since many of these older workers do not possess adequate computer and software skills, they are passed by in favor of younger applicants.
Rich does give a sympathetic portrayal of a 57-year-old Seattle woman who lost her job as an auditor four years ago and can’t find full-time work, but she fails to realize that the major problem facing “older” workers is not their job skills, but age discrimination, and a desire by employers to hire younger workers they can pay much less.
For example, my wife is an expert in QuickBooks, used for business accounting, and has more than 15 years’ experience in accounts payables and receivables. Yet she is often passed over by companies seeking less experienced workers who can be paid less. She finally took a part-time accounting job that pays half of what she made before as a comptroller.
My problem is not “rusty” job skills – I keep up with changes in my field daily and work for free for a marketing publication in hopes of greater exposure to employers. Recently, a recruiter told me that the main obstacle in hiring me for a marketing position was my copious, broad experience – the company might see me as “overqualified” for a marketing director role that required no management of staff (though I managed only a staff of two for three years and don’t want another position that supervises employees). The recruiter hinted that the employer might think I’ll jump ship once the economy and labor market improves. She suggested I confront that issue directly in my upcoming interview by asking the hiring manager if there were any concerns about my background.  That didn’t help — the hiring manager rushed my interview and was clear she wasn’t interested in me as a viable candidate.  Apparently, she had already made up her mind that I “wouldn’t be happy in that position” for long (according to the recruiter, who said the person they hired “actually was not as strong a candidate” as I was).  I’ve also applied for jobs that required management of staff, but usually don’t get an interview because of the strong competition. So I’m stuck: I can’t land responsible director jobs because of the competition and I can’t get manager or coordinator jobs because I’m seen as “overqualified.”
What I’d like to see reporters investigate is how many mid-managerial jobs have disappeared and how many college-educated individuals with solid experience in their fields are finding it difficult to find work.  Is it right that employers are hiring less qualified candidates because they don’t want to bring in a worker over 50? It’s not just the over 55-crowd, but the 45 to 55-year olds, too, who are finding extremely difficult to find work in their fields. Just how many individuals with college degrees and more than 15 years of experience have been let go in this market?   How many of them are applying for jobs that are perfect matches for their skills and experience, only to be seen as “overqualified” and not hired?  How many newspaper ads like this one below will we continue to see because experienced workers are seen as a liability instead of an asset?
I’m intelligent, Honest and
I have a MASTERS IN FINANCE, wife, 3-month old daughter, and a mortgage!

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