Q: I was laid off and am having a hard time finding employment. Recently, I went back to school at night to get my undergraduate degree (I'm 54 years old). I keep bumping up against a wall because I don't have a college education, but I can't put my life on hold while pursuing it. Why doesn't a solid work history mean anything to employers? I would love to start a savings plan if I could only find a job.
A: I understand your frustration. It's no secret that many companies prefer to hire younger, cheaper employees or to outsource jobs to less expensive labor markets. But that just means you need to work harder to find work. Right now, your biggest hurdle is that you feel defeated, and it's awfully hard to plot a winning strategy from that frame of mind. So your first task is to see your situation as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
Check out WorkForce50.com and FiveOClockClub.com, two sites dedicated to helping people like you find jobs. The AARP also has a roster of companies that actively pursue hiring older workers. (Go to AARP.org and type "national employer team" into the search field.) Don't be shy about networking, either. Tap into every potential job lead. Even if a company isn't hiring at the moment, ask for an informational interview, in person or on the phone. Perhaps an HR rep knows someone at another company to put you in touch with. To make connections, you have to make an effort.
I also want you to take advantage of unemployment benefits, which are an important source of income while you're looking for work. Don't be embarrassed about applying; you were laid off, and you deserve the payments. Visit the Department of Labor Web site (DoL.gov), and click on the Unemployment Insurance link.
I realize it's not easy to save without a steady income, but it is possible. The Save Yourself plan I devised with TD Ameritrade is an incredible offer: Sign up before the end of March, agree to invest as little as $50 a month, and at the end of 12 months, TD Ameritrade will deposit $100 into your account. Learn more at SaveYourself.com.