Obstacles for older workers

FRESNO, California

Brian Baker never thought that after being laid off from his position as a law librarian almost three years ago he would still be looking for a job. "I believed I had enough experience and was known well enough nationally that I would be able to get a job."

Baker does have all the right credentials, a masters and law degree and 20 years of experience. "I've worked primarily in academic law libraries, higher education, Howard University, Catholic University, University of District of Columbia and here in town at San Joaquin College of Law."

When Baker was recruited by the local law school in Fresno he and his family were thrilled. His six figure salary would make it possible for his wife to be a stay at home mom, four years later Brian Bakers job became a victim of the bad economy.

Action News was told by Baker, "It was tough, it was an experience where you take it personally, you start getting depressed you don't know what to expect out of the situation."

Baker has every reason to be concerned. While the unemployment rate for people over 55 has dropped to six-percent, they still face longer periods of unemployment, the average being one year compared to 39 weeks for others who are out of work. Plus according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics joblessness for older workers has more than doubled since the recession hit almost four years ago.

Cathy Frost, with Bennett Frost personnel agency doesn't try to sugar coat the challenge older workers face trying to re-enter the job market after a lay off. "They need to take time and think, what am I passionate about what do I like doing. Maybe if they can't find work right away go out and volunteer in a field that makes them happy so their attitude is good."

Keeping a positive attitude is very important because as Mr. Baker told ABC30, losing a job at his age can be very depressing. "I've went through it and I've seen my friends go through it. My retirement is gone I'll be 56 this summer and I don't have any retirement. I recently lost my house, I am living with a friend right now. It is what it is you get through it."

Frost recommends that older workers take stock of themselves. Make sure their look and skills are up to date. She says people who've worked for one company for 10-15 years don't think about all the skills they've accumulated. "As an older worker you have a good story to tell because you bring a lot of experience to the table."

But Baker says all that experience can work against you. Older workers are often told their over qualified for many positions. He believes his age, education and high salary have put him at a disadvantage. "They believe if I take a job with them I still want that salary and I will leave immediately. I will go for the first opening and move on."

Baker is working, he was hired by Sur La Table, a kitchen supply store during the holiday season and was kept on. He makes minimum wage and only works 10 to 20 hours a week.

Baker has had job offers in other states, but that would mean the now divorced dad would have to leave his two children behind, something he won't do. He just wants an employer to look at him and see what he can offer. "I could do other management jobs, I've got 20 years of management, supervisory experience, I've run million dollar budgets, these types of things are skill sets other people don't have."

What older workers like Brian Baker, often hear, is that they are over qualified for the positions they apply for. They also have to fight the many misconceptions employers have about workers over 55, such as they get sick more.

Personnel experts say if you can get in front of an employer then you have the opportunity to wipe out many of those misgivings they have about age.

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