Over 50: Beating the "Too Old" Bias, Learning New Skills
By Phyllis Mufson
Many Boomers feel overwhelmed at the thought of looking for a job because of all they've heard and read about employers’ bias against older workers.
While it’s true that many employers hesitate to hire older workers, their concerns focus in specific areas.
One assumption that many employers hold is that older job candidates won’t be technically up to date.
The first part of this article outlined a step-by-step plan to correct that perception and be seen as current and desirable, primarily through developing a smart online profile.
But, What if You’re NOT Technically Up-to-Date!
What if you read about the importance of developing an online profile in the first part of this article, and thought, "I can’t do this," and felt even more discouraged.
Or, what if you’ve been out of work for more than a year and the skills needed for your job have changed? Or you were in the same job for twenty years and you were able to get by without keeping up.
Now you feel stuck because your skills are stale.
- Maybe you’re telling yourself that you can’t do social media programs like LinkedIn. You just don’t "get it" or it’s overwhelming.
- Or perhaps you feel stuck in your challenging circumstance. You’re out of work and your savings are dwindling. You want to upgrade your skills but feel you can’t afford to take classes.
- Or perhaps, like one woman I met recently, you’ve put your foot down! You’ve decided, "you’re through with learning and changing."
How to Get Rolling to Catch Up
This article is designed to help you fill the gap in your technical skills -- because it’s important:
- To your pocket book. You likely need and want to keep working if you’re reading this article.
- To your ability to continue to have a positive, enriching, interesting life as you age.
Remind yourself, "I’ve overcome many obstacles in my life, and I can do this too."
I want to encourage you to make the effort. If you are in your fifties, or in your sixties, you likely have a full third of your life left to live, and if you’re fortunate, maybe more.
- Imagine you have a full third of your life left to live. Divide your current age in half. If you’re sixty, that would mean you have approximately thirty or more years of life left. And let’s imagine you want, or need, to work until you are seventy, full or part-time.
- Think back to what you were doing 25 or 30 years ago. What were you doing? What were the circumstances of your life? And here’s the most important question – what did you learn during that period of time? I imagine you learned a lot. Take a moment to celebrate, and raise a toast to continuing to learn and grow in the next third of your life.
- One step further. How did you learn? And of those experiences, which were the most enjoyable?
However you’ve been happiest learning in the past will likely be the key to your most comfortable, inspiring learning in the future.
- Do you like taking classes? Or learning in a small group?
- Do you like reading a book and following steps on your own?
- Do you work better sitting down with a friend who explains and answers your questions?
- Do you like to learn hands-on? You like to practice, practice, practice, learning from your mistakes.
Whatever your style there are options available for you to learn what you need to learn that are accessible to you, and low-cost or free.
You’ll need to do some research, talk with your friends, and search online to find your best choices. Below are some suggestions to get your thinking started. These are all options that my clients, and I, have used successfully – and satisfyingly.
If you like taking classes -
- Check out your local universities and community colleges. Classes at community colleges are less expensive, but many universities offer free and discounted classes if you are above a certain age.
- No colleges conveniently near you? Study online. Many fine, accredited schools offer classes online, from Stanford University to your local community college. The Open Courseware Consortium and KahnAcademy are two of several sources offering free classes, and in several languages.
- Explore job training programs. If you live in the USA, find out what’s available in your area from your local CareerOneStop Center, part of the CareerOneStop system from the US Department of Labor, or call the U.S. Department of Labor’s toll-free help line (877) US2-JOBS.
- Many libraries now offer free computer classes, check out yours.
- YouTube offers a cornucopia of great instructional videos to help you learn specific skills and social media programs.
Reading books and articles -
- Your local library is a terrific resource. If your library has a small collection and you can’t find what you need, ask the librarians to order it for you from another branch.
- Buy books second hand. Many used books on Amazon.com sell for $.01 – one red cent.
Learning one-on-one -
- If no one you know is willing to teach you, hire a tutor from a local high school or college. Students are always looking for part-time work.
- Get creative. One client volunteered at his church’s business office in exchange for help learning accounting software. (They offered him a job.) Another failed a typing test at a temporary agency and asked to practice on their computers when they weren’t in use. With help and encouragement from the agency employees, she learned the entire Microsoft Office Suite, and then they hired her.
I hope by now you’re excited and ready to get started. To keep your motivation up stay focused on what you want to achieve and the great rewards getting an interesting job will bring you. The first step is to commit to upgrading your skills – and you can.
"Life is change, growth is optional. Choose wisely." Karen Kaiser Clark
About the author...
Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson.