WJBF EXTRA: Midlife Job Crisis - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Midlife Job Crisis

By Randy Key

It’s a tough world out there. Lots of people looking for work and not enough jobs to go around. Older workers face even more obstacles but there are ways to get a leg up on the competition.

A job expo in Augusta connects dozens of employers with hundreds of job seekers.

"I'm competing with 1,100 graduates under 30 in this job field. It's not gonna beat me," says job seeker Myra Wehn.

One company is looking for a self starter., and Melissa Kennedy is somewhere in between.

"When I walk into a place to fill out an application or to be interviewed, whoever is talking with me sees only the first thing that comes through the door and that's an overweight grey haired person and most places don't want someone like that," says Kennedy, who says she lost her job at a big box store nine months ago. The bills are piling up and she’s desperately searching for a job. "I had always heard about age discrimination but I had never really encountered it until I started looking for work," she says.

Wayne Delong feels Kennedy’s pain. He knows what it’s like to be canned after 50. "It felt like the bottom had fallen out..it was not a happy day," he says.

Now, Delong helps other seniors get the training they need to land a new job. "I had to quickly realize that there were other people that were in situations worse than I was," he says.

Delong is a now a certified employment counselor for a group called Experience Works. He matches older workers with non-profits and government agencies. The workers get paid, on-the-job training while the groups get some free help.

Miriam Scotchmer worked for Texas Instruments for years. The local jobs dried up, and now she’s putting her degree in sociology to use as a participant assistant for Experience Works. "We're able to help people that are struggling, see their confidence build, see them aspire to a new level," she says.

All too often, those over 50 buy into the myths surrounding older workers:

Myth: Older workers can’t learn new skills.

False. In fact, they’re the fastest growing group of internet users.

Myth: Older workers don’t stay on the job long.

False. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, older workers stay on the job twice as long as those 25 to 34.

Myth: Older workers are sick more often.

False. In fact, surveys find older workers have a lower rate of sick time.

So how do you overcome the negative stereotypes?

Experience Works director Karl Johnson says keep your pitch short and sweet. "We call it the one minute commercial. That's when you sell yourself to the employer by telling them what you have to offer to fill that need," he says.

Of course, you first have to get that interview and that’s where a good resume can help.

"Remember you're trying to get an audience and then you get a chance to convince that employer that you have what it takes to fill their need," says Johnson.

If you don’t have a computer or need help writing a resume, check your local Department of Labor office.

"We have all the facilities and resources to assist in their job search," says Michael Armstrong, who is the assistant manager of the Georgia Department of Labor's office on Greene Street, in Augusta.

Armstrong too was looking for work 20 years ago when he got his break. "People are willing to help if you give them a chance," he says.

Melissa Kennedy is counting on it. "I also believe that God is good. In spite of theses horrible times, I believe he is looking out or me and that's why I've been able to maintain some shred of dignity and continue with my job search ever hopeful that call will come," she says.

For more information, click here for the Experience Works website, an excellent resource for older job workers. And by the way, at last check, America’s oldest worker on record is 102-years-old.

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