50+ Job Seekers Regional Networking Groups can help
By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Region – It’s always stressful looking for a new job. And for those over the age of 50, it can be even more so, because they must also overcome the prejudice of ageism.
Many of us have heard the saying,” It’s not what you know, but who…”
Networking is still a great way to connect with people, especially when you are looking for a job. And with the 50+Job Seekers Regional Networking Groups that meet throughout the state, those searching for their next opportunity can get invaluable tips on how to pursue the next step of their careers.
The program’s mission is to “support and assist people in the 50+demographic who are looking for a new job, career direction, re-entering the job market after a gap, or retired and looking for your ‘encore career.’”
Susan Drevitch Kelly is the program director for the groups, which are managed by Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA), funded by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and supported by AARP.
“Networking really works and I have seen candidates re-invent themselves with a second act career. Our groups now have 17 locations throughout Massachusetts all the way from Bedford to Worcester and Northampton. Our biweekly meetings are facilitated by HR professionals or trained career coaches,” she said.
“Attendees are able to network with others while being given valuable tools and skills to make themselves more marketable,” she added. .
Meetings include a presentation and hands-on workshop on topics relevant to career transition /job search, guest speakers, access to hiring managers, ample opportunity to network, and 1-1 coaching guidance.
The program first started out as three pilot sites in Halifax, Hopkinton and Barnstable in January 2015. In 2001/2002, when the economy had a downturn, many were laid off from their jobs, and with the ensuing recession, many found themselves without work.
“People who thought they would soon retire, or who had purchased second homes or other luxury items had huge financial commitments with the added stress of now being out of work. I was observing all of the normal fears but layered on top of that was the big, fat, elephant in the room and that was ‘age discrimination,’” said Drevitch Kelly.
“Eighty five to ninety percent of jobs are found through networking and not by sending in a resume. It’s challenging for the 50 to 60+ year old candidates to understand the value of networking as many of them find it uncomfortable. At the vast number of typical networking events, you find your 20-something and 30 something people looking to leverage their careers,” said Drevitch Kelly.
Many of the regional groups are held in senior centers while others are held in libraries. Drevitch Kelly hopes that someday there will be more across the state to help meet the needs of these specific job seekers.
The website www.mcoaonline.com/50plus also has a vast amount of information and links to other resources. It also has testimonials from those who have found jobs after using skills they gained by participating in a group.
Drevitch Kelly also is working with companies and corporations to emphasize that this age group is ready, skilled and able to take on many of the jobs they are seeking to fill.
“We now know that employment is a really healthy part to aging. It gives people meaning and purpose in life. I also try to educate employers with the benefits and the value of hiring mature workers,” she said.
“I find what I do to be incredibly gratifying; we like to say ‘Networking Works! Your AGE is your EDGE!’” she added. .