Weatherford Democrat

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October 13, 2009

Older workers, laid off, face uphill climb

NEW YORK (AP) — For Marc Karell, the end came unexpectedly. In February the 53-year-old environmental engineer was laid off.



As he spoke to other laid-off employees of the same consulting firm, he found they had something in common: They were all older staffers.



With unemployment edging toward 10 percent and companies going through several rounds of layoffs, many are now cutting from the top ranks. More workers aged 50 and older are job-searching in the middle of a recession.



Recruiters say experience is still valued, but the image of the older job seeker as overqualified and overpriced is still a hurdle to overcome.



A study sponsored by the AARP found the same resumes got more calls for interviews if they appeared to come from a 32-year-old than from a 57-year-old.



That was eight years ago, but "we believe in recessions things get worse," said Marc Bendick an economist with Bendick & Egan Economic Consultants in Washington, D.C. who did the research.



A second experiment sent the resumes with cover letters touting either qualities associated with older people, or those associated with younger people. The older workers still got fewer interviews, but those among them who touted younger qualities — defined as creativity, energy, or technological skills — did better.



"Unfortunately we can't change society's stereotypes, but individuals can separate themselves by noting how they don't match the stereotype," said Bendick.



Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman for the job-search Web site CareerBuilder, agrees. "It goes back to how you repackage your skills," she said.



An older worker with a longer and more varied resume has a good chance of finding a job in a new industry as long as he or she can relate experience to the job at hand, experts say.



"I always tell people, especially the older ones, you should always have a resume tailored for the job you want. Yes, it takes more time, but it's the only way," said Lewis Benavides, Associate Vice President for Human Resources at Texas Woman's University.

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