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50-year-old has tough time finding job

Posted by Joan Cirillo  January 28, 2009 10:25 AM

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Q. I am having problems finding the right job for me. I am a 50-year-old African-American female and have three graduate degrees (law, theology, and library science). I have been working as a librarian for the past 10 years and want to move into administrative work. I get interviews for some higher administrative positions, but have yet to be hired. I have gone on "informational" interviews where my resume and interview skills have been lauded and no changes have been suggested, but when I later send a resume to those people, I don't get an interview. I have been thinking of getting a PhD in library science to help in my search for a better job. What do you think? Also, is there a person/business that works with the unhireable, which is what I have apparently turned out to be?

A: I assure you, you are not “unhirable.” I wish you had mentioned how long you have been job searching. In the current business environment, it is not unusual for a professional candidate to be looking for work for 8 months or longer. The fact that you are a mature worker makes this process a little more complicated. In a good economy, it can take a professional mature worker six months or longer to find work. In a down economy - and this is certainly as down as we have seen in many years - it is possible that it might take a professional mature worker two or three times as long to find work.

It is also not clear whether you still have your job as a librarian or whether you have left that job. If you are still employed, stay there! You can certainly continue to discreetly search for jobs, but I would urge you to stay where you are unless finances are no problem for you. This is not the business climate to leave a job without having another offer in hand.

Finances drive so many of our job search decisions. If you have enough money saved so that you can be very selective about your next job, good for you. But the majority of us can’t be as choosy. We must be bringing cash into our households so we can meet the bills. Unemployed job seekers are doing all kinds of creative things right now to get a paycheck, learn new skills, and conduct a job search all at the same time. Many job seekers are taking jobs well below their skill level, working second or third shifts, and making other less desirable choices to ensure they can stay afloat. Raiding the 401(k)/403(b) plan should only be done as a very last resort.

I was delighted to hear that you have been conducting informational interviews to learn more about what is required to move into administrative jobs in library science. I am wondering if you are being repeatedly told that in order to get an administrative job in library science, you must have a Ph.D. That is the only reason that you should even consider going back to school for a Ph.D.

Check labor market studies to ensure that library science is an area that has persistent vacancies. Certainly, combining your legal or theology knowledge with library science should give you a nice niche at a law firm or theology institution, or you could work at a public library in one of those areas. However, you don't want to invest time and funds in yet another degree and then find that you cannot find work in the administrative library science field.

I am urging you to consult a career counselor before making any major decisions. I am not at all convinced that investing three more years in education is the right move for you. Sometimes, getting another degree is not the right career move. In order to get a qualified career counselor, consult or These two websites provide credentialed career counselors with a wealth of experience. Good luck!

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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20 comments so far...
  1. I held a state position as a Court Administrator for ten years I have been looking for work since August 2008.I have completed every training course provided by the state and hold many certificates. I have so much experience in what I do and applied to so many positions within the state and all I receive are thank you but no thank you letters. Why? I have gone on one interview where I made it to the 2nd interview, had my references checked and no call back yet .They seemed like they were really interested so I called human resources and she tells me by next week I should know something the position has not been filled. Its almost 2-1/2 weeks since the interview. I'm confused as to what they are looking for and why work experience and certificates don't even land you an Interview....

    Posted by Cherron January 28, 09 12:47 PM
  1. All companies want is young blood. They can pay them much less and work them like dogs and young people will smile and ask for more. It's also much easier to mold their minds the way the corporation wants when they are young.

    Don't go back to school. You already have three graduate degrees. If you go back to school to get new skills you will most likely be starting at the bottom of your new career and more than ever you will be competing with much younger people looking for those same entry level jobs. Try to find work doing something with the skills you already have.

    Posted by CJ January 28, 09 08:41 PM
  1. One factor working against the over-50 job seeker that I seldom see mentioned is the matter of health insurance within an organization. As it turns out, if older people are added to the employee roster, the rates for health insurance go up rather dramatically for everybody in the company.

    One could think of this as age discrimination imposed by an external source. Most of the over-50 year olds I know are not even called in for interviews even with the exact desired experience and relatively low salary requirements. I can't help but think that this extra cost weighs heavily in the interview decision, especially with such a plethora of qualified candidates out in the marketplace.

    Posted by Joyce Harty January 29, 09 01:21 AM
  1. "All companies want is young blood. They can pay them much less and work them like dogs and young people will smile and ask for more" (CJ).

    Sorry, I disagree. In fact, it's about time we turn around this misconception. In fact, this reminds me of the one that states- there are jobs Americans won't do." Not today!

    During these times, employers can get a mature worker who is interested in what they're doing. Of course, interest is the key. Customer service is horrible, today. One might expect it would be better- not! Mature workers take a certain pride with them into the work place. More fully, they have experience; like to show that it translates. Pertaining to the rates, employers can pick up a lot of these types (i.e. mature; older) at the same rates. So, why not improve efficiency and goodwill?

    Posted by anonymous January 29, 09 11:35 AM
  1. Have you tried the Temp Agencies? Sign up at several because they all work with different clients. There are temp to perm positions as well as just temp assignments. This is an excellent way to get your foot in the door. Short , long or temp to perm lets you see the company and the company see you. This also keeps you fresh on your resume as activily working. Once they realize the quality of your work you will be sure to be hired. I finally took a temp to perm position at age 57 after 10 years of temping. Finally found what I wanted.

    Posted by Robin January 29, 09 11:57 AM
  1. Sounds like she has more degrees then a therometer and less sense that a bankrupt job.

    Meaning why whould I want someone with so many degrees unless the job calls for that. By putting down all the degres on a reume you are overquailifing yourself.

    Would McDonalds want someone with 3 degree? I think not. Only disclose your degrees if it makes you a better canidate not a bad canidate

    Posted by Anonymous January 29, 09 12:31 PM
  1. I agree with Robin - Temp work can be as valuable as "informational interviews" plus you get a pay check and a sense of freedom. I have done temp jobs off and on over many years during my employment history. I even tried a law office when I was thinking about a career in that field, it saved me a lot of time and money to find out I really didn't want to pursue it. 5 out of 6 assignments led to job offers and one time I really didn't like the work or the workplace; I just asked for a re-assignment and had a new one the next day.

    Posted by Michelle2112 January 29, 09 04:14 PM
  1. I am not a librarian but I am an educator who has worked extensively and closely with librarians, so take this for what it's worth -- or not. In library science, I believe that many professionals consider the MLS to be the terminal degree. Unless you are determined to land a faculty position in higher ed (and it appears that you want to take a very different direction) I can't see how the time, money and sweat involved in earning a PhD would even begin to pay a reasonable return-on-investment, especially at age 50 or above.

    Specialized training in information technology, management and/or leadership (e.g., certificate study or an MBA / MPA) might make more sense from a career perspective. A PhD only makes sense (to me, not to you, I realize) if you can afford years of scholarly sacrifice and/or if you have a very deep passion for advanced, esoteric research in your field. You already have a very interesting mix of credentials. I can't imagine that you won't turn up an ace if you're patient and enterprising -- even in this market. Your skill set doesn't come along very often.

    Posted by j0646 January 29, 09 04:17 PM
  1. I agree with anonymous that listing 3 degrees is a bit much unless the company can clearly see why they would benefit from an extended education path that goes in several directions. Try just listing one advanced degree on your resume, the one most relevant to the position.

    Posted by steve January 29, 09 04:30 PM
  1. Try a college library. Colleges have beautiful campuses. Summers off (sometimes). Not only here but all over. The gov't is hiring, try the fed job bank. (But who would want to work in DC) but it could be elsewhere.
    I like the college idea. City colleges (BU, BC, Northeastern, MIT, Harvard, Holy Cross)
    Suburban colleges. Wellesley, Babson, Stonehill, Goddard,
    Rural colleges. Nichols. Williams, UMASS system

    Posted by John Bryan January 29, 09 07:29 PM
  1. Anonymous: I theory that sounds great. In reality, and I think recent and current hiring practices prove this, employers want younger workers.....30-35 year old managers don't want to deal with older employees who are probably smarter and more qualified. The truth hurts but corp America wants young blood.

    Posted by CJ January 29, 09 08:00 PM
  1. You said that you had 3 degrees....have you thought about teaching? Many colleges/Universities are looking for instructors, especially at night, to teach classes. It may be something to look into....

    Posted by cathy January 30, 09 07:22 AM
  1. YoU have three degrees.. please go out and start-up your own business or find a job in college teaching..

    Posted by Ann January 30, 09 03:19 PM
  1. Library Science is a Nowhere Degree.

    Read this:

    Library Journal
    5/1/2005, Vol. 130 Issue 8, p36-38, 3p,

    The article discusses the library science profession and the difficulty in finding an entry-level job. Data from the library job market and mounting anecdotal evidence show that there is cause for alarm.

    The number of full-time, professional positions in libraries is dwindling, salaries continue to be depressed, more entry-level positions are being liquidated or "deprofessionalized," and qualified job seekers are having trouble securing work. Meanwhile, an industrywide MLS recruitment drive is in full swing, ensuring another large crop of graduates will be spilled out into the job market each year.

    Even looking at aggregate numbers, the situation is bleak. The last American Library Association (ALA) estimates, from 2000, give a total of 41,000 job openings owing to growth and replacement for the years 2000-10 (down by 4000 jobs from its earlier estimates for 1996 to 2006). ALA states in the same report that 4,577 people graduated with MLS degrees in the year 2000. The number for 1996 was 5,099, so we can comfortably assume that about 5000 MLS graduates enter the job market each year.

    This means that, at last count, there will be about 4100 jobs open each year until 2010 for the 5000 new librarians each year. If what we found for the job opportunities in the period studied holds true for the remainder of the year, then a significant portion of those graduates will not qualify for a significant portion of those jobs. The evidence strongly suggests that new librarians are neither sought nor considered for even entry-level librarian positions. The evidence also suggests that the jobs that new professionals need to gain vital experience are the very jobs being cut or greatly reduced.

    Author Affiliations:
    1Mary Kay, Inc., Case Management System Coordinator
    2Framingham State College

    Posted by More about library science January 30, 09 06:08 PM
  1. Source:Law Library Journal; Winter2007, Vol. 99 Issue 1, p101-132, 32p
    You should read this:

    Abstract:Based on papers presented at a 2005 workshop for individuals interested in becoming academic law library directors, this article begins by exploring the duties of academic director jobs--administrative skills and faculty responsibilities--before examining how to build credentials in preparation for such jobs. It concludes by focusing on the skills and knowledge needed to interview for director jobs. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

    Posted by stockguru January 30, 09 06:16 PM
  1. I agree with the folks who say there is a lot of age discrimination. I had one temp job in which the boss (my age) liked me but the co-workers wanted someone who carried a (brand-name) hand bag and liked to go on pub crawls. They didn't tell me about the opening for a perm job. They hired one of their own (under 30 with same mind set: work was a place to socialize). The boss was about to hire me but the company suffered a temporary setback and froze hiring before he could. This was at a well-known Boston company. Even if you are willing to work at beginner wages, you are at a disadvantage. How can we change that?

    Posted by Ames123 January 31, 09 08:11 PM
  1. I graduated from BU with MBA since 2005. I have not find any suitable
    job for all those years. Currently I live in a basement and work as Call
    Center Rep for $11.50/hr for almost 3 years. More than half my MBA
    classmates have no Full Time jobs. The overall decline of US economy
    have affected every job seeks REGARDLESS age.

    Posted by Chris Pell January 31, 09 08:15 PM
  1. with MBAs the key word is network. i find that fulltime MBAs got a harder time in getting a job...what is your work experience prior to mba?

    Posted by bcmv January 31, 09 11:14 PM
  1. How about The Boston Globes current practice of getting rid of all their experienced workers and quickly filling their "" department with young,cheap workers who totally undermine their fellow workers by accepting to work on per-diem for 13 dollars an hour?

    Posted by Synonymous February 1, 09 08:15 AM
  1. There are jobs out there people. The fact that she got interviews proves that. As a human when we have problems we tend to look elsewhere for the source. It's painful to look at ourselves as the source of that problem. I am in total aggreement regarding a good career counselor advice and not to pursue the Phd. advice. Every thing else is too subjective. Yes even the age comments do not affect your particular case. Good Luck in your pursuit of a job you can be happy at and that pays well.

    Posted by JES February 1, 09 09:51 AM

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