A very good friend of mine is well in his fifties, has no particular connections and definitely doesn’t belong to any Ol’ Boys network. Yet he’s never out of work for very long. Yes, even in these hard economic times. How does he do it?
We’re all aware that there’s a steady growing number of job seekers over forty. And yes, we’re also very much aware, that this group of seasoned professionals are finding it harder and harder to land suitable employment. Roughly, you can split the 40-plus group into two categories.
The first category goes about the customary way looking for a job. Applying regularly to openings and turning down (possible) solid opportunities. Sometimes for very personal reasons; sometimes for very disputable reasons. Success factor: zilch.
The second category employs another strategy. They accept a low level (temporary) job and/or a lousy pay. Why? So that they can generate their own income. Most importantly though, be independent of any social benefits and accompanying obligations.
And all the while they’re actively on the look-out for any interesting job offers in their own field.
My friend falls in the second category.
According to past Friday morning news, the CBS (our Dutch statics office) claims that there are less people being laid off than they’ve originally estimated. A new calculation — the operative word here — to which our acting government immediately responded to by cutting the social security budget for 2010 by a 10%.
It was an obscure news item, squeezed in after 09.30 AM (CET) and not mentioned again for the rest of the day. Yet it’s one with an impact. Rumour already has it that the Public Employment Service prefers not coaching ethnic minorities or older job seekers.
You see, as with all governmental organisations nowadays, the public officer also needs to meet his targets. And, you just can’t score with these groups. They’re truly utterly unmarketable.
A grim (market) prospect for older job seekers.
And that’s the reason why I take my friend’s strategy to heart. Like I jokingly told an acquaintance the other day: “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do”. I’m now working as a temp, doing a mid level job. Not my line of work.
Funny enough, I don’t resent it and at times even enjoy it. Simply because I’ve got a plan. I don’t have to depend on benefits; there’s no clueless person telling me what and what not to do and it gives me (some) breathing space.
Furthermore, I can take my time looking for the ‘Perfect employer’. I don’t feel pressured in accepting the first lousy — or insulting — job offer that comes along.
There are also some other advantages. Working, while job searching, also keeps you in a tight working rhythm. And who knows, depending on the nature of the tasks, you might even learn a thing or two.
The news this week also stated that the market for temps is slowly growing. Employers are firing their permanent staff and replacing them with temps. It’s certainly not the best of circumstances; however it does offer an opportunity to the (older) job seeker.
It gives you a chance to explore new working environments and who knows maybe even ‘new careers’. In the end I think you’re the better for it: having a job positively psychs you up.
So what’s it going to be?
I see two possible strategies for the older job seeker in today’s job market:
#1. You ‘sit back’ and draw on benefits.
Advantages: You’ve got time on your hands. You can now do additional things, like reading up on field literature and taking up new studies.
Drawbacks: You may end up a long time on social benefits. Not very good for your self-esteem or financial position. Worse yet, you’ve got clueless strangers prying into your personal life and telling you what and what not to do.
#2. Go out there; get yourself a temp job.
Advantages: Keeps you in a tight working rhythm. You maintain a sense of professional purpose and you’re financially independent. In short, it’s a confidence boost.
Drawbacks: You’ve got to constantly remind yourself that it’s a stop-over and not your final destination: a means in getting there.
So, what’s it going to be? Which strategy do you favour?
Honestly, temporarily working outside your field isn’t half that bad. It gives you something to get up to in the mornings; gives direction to your week and adds pleasure to your weekends.
After all’s said and done, it’s like the old folks used to say: “Ah well. Another day, another dollar.”
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