Few events can derail retirement plans faster than losing a job. That’s particularly true for older workers who might be laid off in their peak earning years, when they had been counting on catching up on retirement savings.
Older workers have one of the lowest unemployment rates of any sector of the workforce: 3.3 percent or less, as of the end of last year. But once they lose a job, it takes them longer than younger job seekers to find a new one.
On average, 25- to 44-year-olds land a new job in just over five months, but it takes two to five months longer for older workers, depending on their age, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How can you get back on track?
Reconnect with contacts from college or previous jobs to let them know you need work: “Everybody finds jobs through networking,” says Lori B. Rassas, an employment attorney and author of “Over the Hill But Not the Cliff.”
Send emails to former bosses and co-workers and take people you admire out for coffee and ask them for advice. Even if you don't find a new job through your connections, you likely will pick up a few good pieces of advice and receive a bolstering pep talk or two.
Try to dispel the stereotypes concerning older workers: Ageism is a reality for older job seekers, Rassas says, but there’s no need to scrub your resume of all hints of your age.
“No one cares that you’re 60,” Rassas says. “It’s not the age. It’s what it represents.”
Employers often assume older workers have low energy and are inflexible, uncomfortable with technology and merely biding their time until retirement.
Stay current: To overcome these ageist views, show that you are still interested in learning by attending conferences and learning new skills.
Sites such as Udemy, Lynda.com, Coursera and Khan Academy and open courses from sites such as MIT, Yale and Stanford teach robotics, programming, marketing strategy, philosophy and more, Forbes.com notes.
Be involved online: Check social media to see what influencers are posting and post your own content about areas of expertise. Build connections there.
Update your LinkedIn profile and ask people to write recommendations for you or endorse you for skills. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, employers may assume you lack the technology skills to keep up, Rassas says.
Apply to smaller companies: They often get fewer résumés than larger employers do, Rassas says. You may have to accept less pay, but don’t offer to take a large pay cut right off the bat because you may sound desperate, she says.
Once you find a job, develop a side hustle in a related field that brings in money and broadens your network. If you’re laid off again, the side gig can at least provide income while you search for other work, Rassas says.
Eileen Ambrose is a senior editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to email@example.com.