Unemployment Over Fifty: Don’t Stop Learning

One of the ways in which you can keep moving when you’re over 50 and out of work is what the government likes to call re-training. I confess to having a jaundiced view of this idea. When one has been in a room with hundreds of people, all of whom have a Bachelor’s degree, many of whom have Master’s degrees and not a few have doctorates in the much-vaunted STEM disciplines, it’s hard to see them as in need of education.

This is not like folks on the production line who have to learn a new system or staff who need to grasp a new software revision. There has been a lot of hand-wringing among the pundits about about how the US has too few new graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That may (or may not) be true but what we do have is a lot of existing graduates. In addition to their degrees, these folks have years of experience in bringing technology to life and a solid work ethic that gets them into the office or lab early and keeps them at work long after the Millennial graduates have bolted.

Wanted: Companies to Hire Them

We have enough US STEM-trained employees already. The thing we don’t have is companies who want to hire them. Why? Because these highly educated people need to earn a living wage. What corporations really want to do is increase the number of H1-B visas so they can bring in cheap labor from overseas. All the crocodile tears about STEM graduates in the US is just propaganda to make people believe that an influx of workers who earn far less than US citizens is a good thing. Beryl Lieff Benderly says it all very well in her article “It Doesn’t Add Up” in the Columbia Journalism Review.

technology training, job training, retraining, computer classDoes that mean you should ignore options for retraining? Not at all. Here’s why: things change. Particularly in marketing, new media avenues, new social media apps, new software and new trends make it essential to stay on top of what’s happening. But even folks in other disciplines must keep current. Training is essential if you want to change jobs, move to a new industry, or start a second career. Also consider training if:

  • You can’t create a spreadsheet of all your contacts.
  • You don’t have a LinkedIn profile or have fewer than 100 contacts.
  • You don’t have a Twitter account because you think it’s irrelevant.
  • You don’t do Facebook because you want to maintain your privacy.
  • You have never watched a YouTube video and don’t plan on doing so.
  • You don’t understand what any of the above have to do with finding a job.


My brother recently sent me an email on “Joining Facebook After Sixty” that basically elevates old codgerism and ridicules the new technology by way of being funny. It ends: “We senior citizens don’t need any more gadgets. The TV remote and the garage door remote are about all we can handle.” If you fit in this category and you are looking for a job, you’re at a disadvantage.

The young people who compete with you are using all of these channels to connect, to network, and to share opportunities. They also leverage these technologies to get past HR and reach the hiring manager, to know who the hiring manager is, to get people to speak to the hiring manager on their behalf, and to promote their own video resumes or applications.

Don’t Stop Learning

Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development, job training, retraining, unemployment over 50

Training Opportunities

How do you learn it all when social media seems to change every day? Well, start with the free courses offered by your local Department of Labor and Workforce Development or whatever euphemism your state uses for Unemployment Office. Most offer a lot of free courses and they are well done. Adult education courses at your local high school or community college are another good source of training opportunities. And don’t ignore the internet. Google what you need and try YouTube, which is actually a good source of instructional videos.

Keep moving, think ahead and stay current. Don’t stop learning about tomorrow. If you find learning these new technologies scary, think of it this way. The worst thing that will happen is you will get out of the house, meet interesting people, make new contacts, and learn some fun stuff.

It’s all good.