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You Can't Get a Job Because You Don't Have a Job

Share Your Story: Share Your Age Discrimination Story

By John David Powell

How I was discriminated against

Needed, but not wanted seems to be the underlying condition facing today’s long-term unemployed of a certain age. It is a condition that creates the proverbial vicious cycle: you can’t get a job because you don’t have a job because you can’t get a job because you are long-term unemployed of a certain age. And I've been riding that merry-go-round for two years, with no end in sight, except an end to my unemployment benefits and an end to a lifestyle we've worked hard for over the past 40 years.

What it's like being an older or younger job seeker

Age, gender, and, by default, experience seem to be the obstacles I share with millions of other able-bodied workers on the streets for more than one year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classified 4.5 million Americans, or 31 percent of the nation’s jobless, as long-term unemployed. That’s nearly twice the population of Houston, or roughly the entire population of Kentucky.

The BLS shows 816,000 workers 55 years of age and older account for 18 percent of the long-term unemployed. Men in this category total 2.77 million or 61.3 percent.

Alan is a Website publisher in the San Francisco Bay area when he’s working. He posted to a LinkedIn discussion board that he last interviewed with a woman who appeared to be in her mid-30s. “I discussed my qualifications point by point with the job requirements, showing how I met or exceeded the entire list. When I was done, she went through the entire list as if I did not just say I had those qualifications. As I see it, a 35-year-old woman looked at me as if I were her dad. I can't say it is age discrimination but, really, who will hire their dad to work for them?”

Kim, an unemployed sales coach in the Washington, D.C. area, replied that she believes the best way to deal with discrimination against age and experience is by facing it head on. “After all, we Baby Boomers have so many remarkable qualities: expertise, loyalty, persistence and an uncanny ability to learn new skills.”

We Baby Boomers make up about one-fourth of our nation’s population. The U.S. Census Bureau says an American turns 50 every seven seconds. And the AARP says people over 50 will make up 45 percent of the population by 2015.

Lessons Learned

  • I've learned employers large and small, public and private, need my skill sets and experience, because I see their postings every day. But needing is altogether different from wanting. And when you get right down to it, that’s probably the most depressing aspect of being among the long-term unemployed: realizing employers need what you can provide, but they do not want you.

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