Over the hill and on the hunt – job search support in your 50s

Q. My older family member has been laid off four times in the last two years. He is over 50 and has just lost interest in working. His personal life has been extremely difficult, and the job losses have made everything even worse. I have tried to be encouraging, I’ve been demanding, and I told him he can’t afford to just give up in this economy. I’ve told him to be positive because it will reflect in his life but he’s just lost his ambition. What can I do?

A. Layoffs are now a fact of business life, and extended job search stories are daily news. This exposure of the job loss process has caused some people to lose sensitivity to the pain and the frustration and sadness incurred by those engaged in long term job searches. Some employers may even choose to eliminate or significantly limit the amount of support they provide to separating employees.

As you have witnessed, multiple job loss has a significant negative impact on the individual affected. The circumstances of being over 50 and having a prolonged job search can contribute to depression, loss of ambition, and lack of the energy needed for a successful job search.

Your continued support is a big part of what you can do for your family member. You can also support his efforts to find more support. You can not be responsible for his job search, or helping him climb out of the depression he may be in, but you can provide opportunities to find the right help.

If your family member has outplacement available to him, strongly encourage him to make use of the services. Join him for the initial meeting if that is what will get him to take advantage of the services. Working with a professional will offer one level of support he needs. If he does not have outplacement available to him after this job loss, but he had it at some other point, encourage him to contact the firm he worked with in the past. They most likely have alumni services available at no cost, and can refer him to other no and low cost resources.


Many companies offer Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services (at no charge) to their current and separating employees. These valuable services can provide a level of professional support to deal with the personal challenges and job search issues your relative faces.

There are also many job search support groups available. Some of these groups are run by religious or community organizations, some are function-specific, others are run by professional associations. With just a bit of networking, or research in your local newspaper, you will discover the right place for your family member to build a broad support network.

I hope your relative will consider a visit with a therapist. If your relative has health insurance, he may find recommendations through his provider. Support available here may be in the form of talk therapy, or medication.

It takes emotional energy to take any of these steps, and with your encouragement, I hope he can make his way out of a challenging situation.

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