Question: Several years back, I bought a business that looked too good to be true. Turns out, it was. Due to a lot of issues, I lost the business and am out of a bundle of money.
If that weren't bad enough, now I can't find a job either! Lots of times I never hear from the company, but when I do go on interviews and see that the HR director is 30 years younger than I am, I can just tell I'm not going to get hired. They never come out and say, "You're too old," but that's what they mean.
I stopped looking for a job after I got turned down for my dream job, the one that had my name written all over it. I'm only 55! And I know some other women who are younger than I am (one is 45) who are in the same boat. Now what?
Answer: Aging out of the job market is no fun. Ironically, news reports are saying that many younger people cannot break into the job market these days because so many Baby Boomers are clinging to their positions.
Every age has its challenges. The key is to make those challenges work in your favor.
How do you do that?
Solutions to aging out of the job market
Here's one solution to aging out of the job market that more older workers are doing: Starting their own business and becoming self-employed. You can do that, too, based on that dream job you didn't get.
And don't play into the "but I'm too old" nonsense that got you to this place to begin with. A study reported by Forbes.com showed that the average entrepreneur is 40 years old when they launch their startup, and people over 55 are twice as likely as people under 35 to launch a high-growth startup.
Nearly 24 percent of new businesses in 2013 were started by people between the ages of 55 and 64, an increase of 14 percent from 1996, according to the latest data from the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.
Here are some of the qualities that can give an edge to older entrepreneur -- not despite their age, but because of it:
• More assets. Many people in the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1945 and 1964) own homes and have other assets that they can use to help finance a new business. This is not to say they're rolling in the dough, however; many of them don't have enough money to retire comfortably, which means they plan to...
• Work longer. Because they, too, are finding themselves in the same "aging out of the job market" situation as you, they have extra incentive and motivation to start their own businesses.
• Life experience. Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age, but they've seen more and done more than their younger counterparts. They've had more ups and downs and know how to roll with the punches. They can take the longer view.
One caveat: Working for yourself is not the same as working for other people. Some adjustments need to be made (my biggest one was in time management). Plus, you already have experience in entrepreneurship; use those lessons.
• Strong work ethic. The same qualities that made them valuable employees can be translated into business ownership.
• Communication skills. By this, I mean actually talking to people instead of emailing or texting. Communicating one-on-one fosters good leadership skills.
• Strong networks. Simply put, they know a lot of people and have strong professional networks that can help them succeed.
So let's take a look at the dream job that you didn't get and figure out what exactly made it perfect for you. Start a list (I love lists!). If your top reason was that it made the best use of your experience, expertise and passion, you're on the right track.
Be sure to write down the qualitative aspects, too: It was in the right geographic area, it had the hours you wanted to work, the benefits were the best, and so on. Put them in two columns, "want" and "need," and rank the "need" items.
But having a dream is just the beginning. The key is to go into a new business with as many facts as you can get.
• Is there a market for your business? (The fact that you applied for this specific job at another company tells you something.)
• How are other companies doing in this field? Are they growing or stagnating? Do you have local competitors? What are they offering? How could you improve on what they're doing?
• Who are your potential customers? You need to imagine and write down everything you know about your ideal client. Where do they reside (physically or in cyberspace)? Do they have the money to afford your product/service? What kind of car do they drive? Do they have children living at home? And so on.
There are many, many other things to consider to explore before starting your own business, but these and the answers to other questions can help you put together your business plan. Your business plan is what you take to banks or other lenders to get the money together to start your dream business.
If starting your own business is beyond your capabilities at the moment -- and don't be too quick to discount the idea out of hand -- consider some other job search strategies that can help you in your quest to overcoming age discrimination:
• Take whatever job you can get. You may think that's going backward, especially at age 55, but you gotta do what you gotta do in order to keep body and soul together. And keep looking for that dream job.
• Continue to narrow your focus in that particular field you've already identified, satisfying as many of your other requirements as you can. Apply only for those jobs.
• Give yourself a younger image. This can include everything from how you dress, speak and act to what's in your resume. Don't try to be something you're not, but there's nothing wrong with accentuating your best points.
• Look around your community. Are there companies who could use your skill set, experience and background but don't have that exact position? Pitch it to them. Show them what they're missing, using competitor and other market data. Explain how you can help them fill that gap (be careful about giving away too much information, however), what bottom-line impacts it can have and ask them to create the job for you.
What's your best advice for someone aging out of the job market? Please add your wisdom in the comments below.
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