60 and Can’t Find Work? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am sixty years old and really love my work. I have had a long and varied career and had hoped to get another decade in before retiring. The institution I worked for closed down for good last year because of COVID. Since then, I have sent out 72 cover letters and resumes. (I have kept track, just in case you think I am exaggerating.)

I have been to the final interview stage three times—in one case, it was a seven-hour Zoom panel interview. Still nothing. I have also received radio silence after three or four in-depth interviews. I can’t figure out what is going on. Maybe I am overqualified—or are people seeing me as just too old?

I have enough savings to get me through until my social security kicks in, but that would be tight and I really want to work. All I hear is that businesses can’t find employees, and here I am, desperate to work.

I just don’t know what to do. I am getting really blue about this. Any thoughts are appreciated.

Discouraged

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Dear Discouraged,

Hi! Boy, this really does sound disheartening. A couple of caveats first. I am not technically qualified as a career coach or counselor, so this is just me using common sense and coaching principles. Perhaps a qualified career counselor will have some good advice to add in the comments.

I don’t know what industry you are in, so I am a little in the dark—but my first thought was DON’T GIVE UP. Just don’t. The perfect job is out there waiting for you and if you give up, it won’t find you.

Here are some other thoughts:

Involve your network: Does every single person you know know that you are looking for a job? Everyone you have ever worked with? Friends of friends? The wider the circle of folks who know you are looking, the better the chance of a lead coming your way. Make sure your social media profiles are up to date and follow places you might get hired. Get on LinkedIn, respond to posts, and follow interesting feeds.

Refine your presentation: Your resume is sparking interest, so that’s great. It sounds like you might be doing or saying something in your interviews that is not working for you. Maybe record your next few Zoom interviews so you can watch them and see. Maybe have a friend take a look. There is nothing quite like watching yourself on video to notice something you might not catch otherwise. I hate watching myself on video, but boy, it sure is eye opening.

Your frustration at how long and hard your search has taken might be bleeding into the way you are showing up. Who could blame you? But you can’t let that happen. It won’t attract what you want.

Have you gone back to the places where you got to the final interview stage and asked for feedback? You may very well be perceived as overqualified, but you won’t know until you ask. I am always a little surprised when people we don’t hire don’t ask for feedback. I think it is the least hiring managers can do for folks who have invested a lot of time. It’s almost never personal—often more related to fit than anything else.

When you know you have an interview lined up, maybe do more research on the company—their values, their strategic goals—and shape your answers so it is clear you have done your research.

You now know what the questions are. Maybe have a friend conduct a mock interview with you and really tighten and sharpen your responses.

Stay active and involved: Everywhere I go I see Help Wanted signs, so I wonder if you might not consider just getting a job until your dream job appears, just to get you out of the house and doing something, bringing in a little cash. Volunteer, wait tables, work retail, post on Task Rabbit to put IKEA furniture together (my daughter did that her first couple of years out of college, it is her super-power) – anything to just get some movement and not be stuck at home, staring at your computer screen.

I am just shocked that people wouldn’t even send you an email or something after so many interviews. That just seems rude to me. But you can’t let it get you down. Okay, you can let it get you down,  but don’t let it stop you. Just don’t quit! That is recipe for depression.

Good luck to you!

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

4 thoughts on “60 and Can’t Find Work? Ask Madeleine

  1. As you are evaluating the plethora of experience you bring to the table – which should be greatly valued! – it may also be wise to assess your digital / technological competence. While these things are not hard to learn or for a company to train on, being savvy and fluent on this front shows a lifestyle of learning and adaptability. If you are fluent, make it obvious how you make technology a good servant for you personally and professionally. Best wishes for all in this position. Companies do not know what they are missing when they pass up qualified candidates with covert agism!

  2. I liked your response. I am also in similar situation.After serving Armed forced for 18 years and moving to corporate sector in 2010 and worked 9 years as Training and HR manager in manufacturing companies, I was laid off followed by health issues and Covid-19.
    I am struggling to get find next one may be due to being 52+, Covid related job scarcity or my suitability to match with current Gen Z. However, I beleive there is something for me and at the right time and place, I will get it. Though I can manage my life with my saving and pension however to offer better study for my daughter who is in grade XII I am keen to improve my finance.
    Your suggestions are good and I may try some of them.
    Thanks & regards,
    Dhirendra Kumar Thakur
    Bangalore India

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