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New Ideas for Ancient Job-Seekers

Growing old is not a job for wimps, or so the saying says. Apparently, growing old is also not a job for people who are looking for a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, "more than 2.1 million people aged 55 or older were unemployed in May 2010."

Yes, old looking for work in record numbers. Sadly, the time they spend unemployed is "35.6 weeks, substantially above the 28.3 weeks for the unemployed under age 55." Or so AARP reports.

With so many unemployed seniors, it has to hurt the economy. I don't have the statistics to prove it, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that sales of Lawrence Welk CDs, Depends and 100 percent Bran Flakes are way down.

Fortunately, there is help available for the old-timer who wants to put in more time behind the plow. "Employment Options: Tips for Older Job Seekers" is a free brochure from Eldercare Locator and Senior Service America, Inc. Its purpose is to help old coots polish their job hunting skills, as well as get to speed with that dagnabit, newfangled technology, like the telephone.

"Entering or re-entering the work force at later ages can be more difficult than at younger ages," opines Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Administration on Aging. (Speaking personally, I didn't know we had an assistant secretary for aging or a U.S. Administration on Aging, but now that I know, I've got a good idea who to complain to for the arthritis in my knees and the fog in my brain.)

But don't get me wrong. As someone on the wrong side of 55, I immediately pointed my Rascal at the computer and downloaded the brochure at the Eldercare Locator Resource Center (www.n4a.org/programs/eldercare-locator/resources/.) You can get up to five copies for free, and you will probably need all five to scatter around the house. If you just get one, you'll never remember where you left it.

According to the experts, the greatest single advantage of the senior job-seeker is "life experience." While this is certainly true, your personal life experience has already taught you that not all young people instantly see the advantage of working with someone who knows it all because he or she has done it all — twice. Therefore, I suggest that if you are going to play the experience card, do it in a way that shows you're still open to innovation.

"I'm totally open to new ideas," you could say in an interview. "Why, I remember when the Pony Express went through. Most people thought it would never work, but I said — 'give it a chance.' Sure enough, it worked real great until outlaws started robbing the stages, but that's another story." (You might want to replace "Pony Express" with "Internet" and "outlaws" with "spammers," but you get the idea.)

Of course, before you can convince some young whippersnapper you're "hip to the jive," you have to get the interview. "Employment Options" does a good job in illuminating new ways to find openings, even in "the hidden job market."

"The best source of leads for those jobs is your network, people you already know," the brochure suggests, and I agree. Unfortunately, most of the people we oldsters already know are dead, but that doesn't mean they can't be good sources of referrals. In fact, you are much safer using the names of people who can no longer tell your new employer about your despicable work habits.

Taking on new activities is also suggested as a good way to expand your network. I would suggest you immediately sign up for hip-hop dance classes and triathlon training. The sympathy you receive when you collapse, clutching your heart and gasping for a breath, will go a long way in convincing your youthful new friends that you should be immediately hired.

Finally, it is important to note that it is against the law for a potential employer to ask your age. But there is no law that I know about that prevents you from lying about your age. Tell that callow youth on the other side of the hiring desk that despite your wrinkles, your liver spots and your use of a walker, you are 26 years old. The reason for your decrepit condition is that you work so darn hard at your job.

If that doesn't get you hired, collapse clutching your heart and gasping for air. That's one job skill that you've got down pat.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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