Getting laid off and having to reinvent yourself later in life can be terrifying. What’s it like to have your career downsized at age 50? How can a more mature worker, comfortable in the familiarity of a job that’s lasted 10 or 15 years, cope with the sudden shift in work stability?
While it might seem daunting at first, such a change might actually be a golden opportunity.
Freed from the constraints of a 9-to-5 workday, you can reinvent yourself using the tips below and pursue work that is more fulfilling than you ever imagined.
You’re not alone: layoffs hit all ages
First things first — if you’ve been laid off, you’re not alone. Dozens of large corporations laid off hundreds and sometimes thousands of people of all ages over the past few years.
- Facing increasing technology competition from an explosive global market of startup innovators, IBM laid off nearly 20,000 workers aged 40 to 60 (and came under fire for this action to “correct seniority mix“).
- Kimberly-Clark reported a plan to lay off 5,500 employees and close 10 plants nationwide.
- Pfizer eliminated 300 research positions.
- AT&T laid off 4,000 people.
- GM, which has the most offshored jobs of any federal contractor in the U.S., laid off 1,500 workers in Ohio.
- Tenet Healthcare laid off 2,000 workers.
Layoffs are devastating at any age, but there is evidence from AARP that workers over the age of 45 have a much longer duration of unemployment than younger workers. They report the average time searching for a new job was 34.5 weeks for people aged 55 to 64 and 29.8 weeks for those older than 65. For job seekers aged 16 to 54 the average unemployment time was just two months.
When faced with a sudden layoff, what can older workers do to mitigate long-term unemployment and get back to work faster?
5 steps to reinvent yourself
Given that the average older American experiences long-term unemployment after losing a job, these job seekers must do whatever they can to avoid this trend and keep money coming in. Here are some suggestions:
- Make a game plan.
- Seek part-time work.
- Connect with recruiters.
- Cut expenses.
- Become an entrepreneur.
These are just five things you can do to reinvent yourself. But, hey, now that you don’t have to report to work Monday morning, you’ll have time to explore other options limited only by your imagination.
1. Make a game plan
Going on the offensive after a late-in-life layoff is a necessity. Look at all of your skills and the resources around you.
Since “who you know” is still a big part of landing a job, brainstorm, network and get back out there as quickly as possible. Are there career connections that you’ve lost track of?
And while it may not feel like it at first, a layoff can be an opportunity to brush up on skills. There are online free resources like EdX to help you learn new skills and reinvent yourself for the next 10 years.
2. Seek part-time work
USA Today advises to “seek income for the meantime,” meaning, find part-time work while looking for a full-time job. The article also suggests looking at temp-to-hire roles or consulting to keep your skills sharp while keeping income flowing.
While taking a pay cut or a lower job title may feel like a step backward, it is always better than being unemployed.
It’s tougher to land a job if you’re unemployed, so get hired somewhere as quickly as you can.
3. Connect with recruiters
Recruiters can be an immediate conduit to open positions. They can also help you revitalize a stale resume for today’s job market. Talk with them frankly about your desire to make a contribution quickly by getting back to work, even at a lower salary or lesser job title.
4. Cut expenses
Being strategic about outgoing expenses while using savings or severance is a necessity after a layoff. There are a variety of free budgeting tools online to help you crunch numbers. Once you’ve established some budget cuts, it might even help with finding a lower-paying but more stable job.
5. Become an entrepreneur
Starting your own business might make you think of a brick-and-mortar storefront, but the truth is you can run a successful business from your home with low overhead and few initial out-of-pocket costs.
Studies show that the majority of workers now believe their current jobs will simply not exist in 20 years. That’s why 55 million Americans are currently participating in the gig economy, either as a side hustle or full-time contract work.
These roles can be as diverse as driving for Uber or delivering for Amazon, contract writing, customer service or just about anything else you can think of.
These resources can help jumpstart your entrepreneurial journey:
- Quiz — Do you have what it takes to be your own boss?
- How to start a consulting business on $0 budget
- How to start a marketing agency
- 7 takeaways from launching a small business in your local community
- Starting an online side hustle
… and lots more resources for starting a business here.
Need some inspiration? Read about U.S. government employees who turned lemons into lemonade by starting their own ventures during the government shutdown earlier this year.
Could layoff trends be shifting?
In mid-2018 there were some signs that employing an older workforce was gaining some traction with employers. CNBC reported that the unemployment rate for those aged 55 and older was at 3.2 percent, which was less than the national average. With a tight labor market expected for the first half of 2019, that could make the job search for unemployed older workers a bit more favorable than in prior years.
No matter how these trends evolve, you never know if and when you might have to reinvent yourself in the workforce. Be prepared.
- Have a game plan, including brushing up on the kinds of skills you need in today’s labor market.
- Start saving at least 15 percent of what you earn, and look at trimming your expenses.
- Build your network now so you can leverage it later. Get more active on LinkedIn.
- Keep a pulse on part-time job opportunities.
- If you’ve got an idea for your own business, start figuring out how to make it a reality.
Unexpected changes can breed big opportunities. Be ready to embrace them.