Challenges Facing the 50 Plus Worker

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Statistics have been released for November and it doesn't look good for the 50 plus worker.

The nation's labor force participation rate, which measures the share of Americans at least 16 years old who are either employed or actively looking for work, dipped in June to a 38-year low, clocking in at an underwhelming 62.6 percent, and then dropped further to 62.4 percent in the fall. The Dec. 4 report measures it at 62.5 percent, a statistical shoulder shrug that barely moves the needle away from the abyss.

What does this mean for people over 50? In the parlance of our time, look at the disparate impact. Many people over the age of 50 have simply given up looking for a job. In fact, half of all people age 63 have abandoning the workforce for good. Baby boomers are leaving the job market in droves.

What are the implications? Can these individuals actually afford to retire? And even if they can, who will take their place in the workforce? We are losing seasoned workers, and I don't know if younger people are prepared to face the challenges in a global economy that the 50 plus worker understands.

But the 50 plus person who is seeking employment faces a challenge that is just as tough, and that many sadly find insurmountable.

The truth is that anyone over the age of 50 in today's economy must accept that he or she may need to start looking for a new job because of downsizing, outsourcing, their employer going out of business, and particularly if there are warning signs that they may be fired. In the last instance, it's time to get proactive if you see that something might be coming:

In my book 50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life I outline some of the signs that you may lose your job. Are you suddenly left out of critical planning meetings? Have you lost certain perks such as a corner office? Has someone else been assigned to do crucial tasks that were once you responsibility? Do you have a new boss - one who may be younger than your own son or daughter?

Any of these may be a sign that things aren't going so well. If you tally up a few of them happening to you, take my advice and start looking.

I have counseled thousands of workers over 50 including CEOs, heads of large non-profits, and businessmen or women, who found themselves job-hunting, or knowing that they soon would be. I tell them they need to remain relevant in today's youth-driven culture, and this begins by working hard to understand what makes them tick. Their homework ranges from watching movies or television shows that appeal to a younger audience to following celebrities on Twitter to see what is trending with Millennials.

I also advise them to think about starting a business or becoming a consultant if they have the financial cushion to do so, and support from their family and friends. Older workers usually have a strong network of current and former colleagues, internal and external clients, and valuable business acquaintances they have made over their careers. They must tap into this network to see what options are available to them, whether they're looking in their chosen field for a new job to replace one that has gone away, or making the switch to an entirely new area of work.

Whatever they decide to pursue, I tell these older workers who know they still have much to contribute that they have to do their own public relations to let people know they are available for a new position and willing to work harder and smarter than anyone else to do a great job.

They must have a clear message about what they've done in the past and what they will do for a new employer in the future, and support it with examples. If one of their skills is motivating people, how does this translate into increasing the bottom line? They need to establish themselves as an expert in a specific field or enterprise and know what messages will resound with different audiences. And they should ask their network for endorsements and personal referrals to a great job that may be open. A third-party endorsement of your work is much more valuable than your own litany of achievements.

So it isn't all bad news if one is over the age of 50. You have a lifetime of experience; now you have to show how it will pay off for the company that hires you. I employ workers over 50 because they are hard-working and have the background and good sense to know what works and what doesn't. They don't need pep talks. They forge ahead solving problems.

We must acknowledge how invaluable older workers are to the American economy, and do everything we can to keep them in the workforce in order for us to succeed as a nation. We have to get those labor force participation numbers rising again, especially among the over 50s, and stop squandering their talent and experience. Our economy will show the positive effects if we resolve to make this happen.

Robert Dilenschneider is the founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group, a strategic communications firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC and Chicago. He is the author of 50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life (Citadel Press 2015)