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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Re-Entering the Job Market

Dear Sue: I am a fifty-year-old woman. I used to teach Junior High, then substituted as my family grew. Now I am teaching art at a local college, and selling my own paintings. My children are grown and I am ready to fill up more of my time and would like to make more money.

How do I get back into the job market after so many years of part time work? I love computers and would love a job using them, but I lack the experience in that area. However, I feel that I am over qualified to take an entry-level job in word processing.

I am worried that my age along with my lack of experience with technology will count against me. I feel lost and a little frightened about entering the workplace. Any advice you could give me would be terrific. 

- Mary

Sue Says: You are not alone. The senior workforce is growing, and according to Labor Department figures, the number of seniors still in the workforce has increased by six million since 1950, and that number is expected to grow by another six million by the year 2006.

I receive many letters from people over fifty who want to work, but worry about age discrimination and share many of your concerns. Ron Malone, president of Olsten Staffing Services, one of the nation's largest temporary employers, said that many seniors have found that working as a temporary employee meets a variety of their needs. Temporary positions offers you the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want, which gives you added flexibility.

With unemployment at an all-time low around the nation, demand for skilled workers by business and industry has never been higher, and senior workers represent a well-trained, responsible and skilled workforce.

Employers do, however, have concerns about older adults. A big concern is whether they have knowledge of new technology and the ability to use it, according to Doris Appelbaum, president of Appelbaum's Resume Professionals in Glendale, WI. Doris knows this first hand, and has made several career changes since she was forty-five years old. Because these skills are so important, you may want to start by enrolling in a computer class. Many classes are offered through business organizations and schools. Or find someone (consider a college student) who would like to earn extra money by tutoring you.

Another concern of employers is finding seniors who are flexible and open to newer ways of doing things. And although employers can't ask you directly about your health, they will be concerned about it and wonder about your energy level. Therefore, be as lively as possible during the interview, and don't be afraid to talk about the fact that you are loyal, dependable and not interested in bouncing around from job to job. In the end, good solid maturity can win out, Appelbaum has found. Stress your wisdom, adaptability and flexibility.

Create a functional resume rather than a chronological one. Include the length of time you were at each job rather than the specific dates, and don't go back more than twenty years on your resume, which will draw attention to your age.

If you want to alter your appearance to help you look younger, go right ahead. Some people make the decision to dye their hair or dress differently to appear more youthful. Just be careful that you don't look as though you are trying to be too much younger than you really are. However, something as simple as coloring gray hair can make an enormous difference in your appearance and how you feel. Studies have found that seventy percent of women, and forty percent of men color their hair.

Consider contacting the American Association of Retired Persons to see if there is a local chapter in your area. They have a workforce program, which may be helpful to you. In addition, there are many other senior groups who can provide you with additional information on the subject. Check with the library, community center, your church or synagogue.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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