Losing a job is tough for people of all ages, but it may be toughest for older workers, new research has found. Older workers who lost their jobs were found to have a significantly more negative job loss experience and more negative perception of securing re-employment than younger counterparts, the research indicated.
"When older workers involuntarily lose their jobs, they tend to appraise the situation as more intense in that they experience discomfort, disruption and threat, and less reversible in that they perceive a lower likelihood of obtaining re-employment," said Erica Ermann, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, who conducted the research.
Not only did a majority of workers over 50 have a more negative experience when losing their job, they also felt that their age was the determining factor. Ermann based her findings on data collected from 308 unemployed workers of all ages and 20 follow-up interviews. In those interviews, almost all the people interviewed said that age was a factor in their dismissal.
"Finding employment during these tough economic times is certainly not easy at any age," Ermann said. "Many older unemployed workers felt that employers assume the stereotype that older workers have outdated skills or that older workers are nearing retirement and don't need a job as badly as younger candidates."
While layoffs are an unfortunate necessity of work, Ermann suggests employers work with employees during hard times in a way that is beneficial to both sides.
"Considering the aging Baby Boomer generation, dwindling Social Security benefits, and the changing nature of retirement, it is important to more deeply understand the experiences of older workers who have lost their jobs," Ermann said. "Downsizing organizations should take older workers’ more negative experience of job loss into consideration. Although layoffs are a hard reality and are not realistically preventable, targeted resources could be developed for organizations, job loss support groups, and employment offices to aid older workers who have experienced layoffs."
Older workers can also take several steps to bolster their odds of getting a new job if they are laid off, according to Ermann.
"To improve their chances of getting rehired, I would suggest that older workers clearly highlight their skills, or seek training opportunities if their skills need to be updated, especially relating to current technology," Ermann said. "Also, I would suggest joining a local job loss support group. These groups help unemployed workers update their résumés, provide networking opportunities, and are a valuable source of social support during the stressful process of job hunting."