Losing your job is difficult at any age, but it can feel especially devastating when it happens later in your life and career. According to research from the Urban Institute, around two-thirds of workers in their early 50s who have long-term, full-time jobs will be laid off or forced to quit before age 65.
This involuntary job loss often leaves older workers unemployed for extended periods or having to accept major pay cuts for new work. Needless to say, job loss after 50 can put your finances and retirement plans in jeopardy.
If you are facing this situation, it's normal to feel anxious, depressed, lost or overwhelmed. However, with the right plan and support system, you can recover and get your career back on track. Here is a step-by-step guide to navigating job loss after 50:
1. Process the Emotions
Allow yourself to feel and mourn the loss. The stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are normal. Seek encouragement from loved ones, family, unemployment support groups, or a career counselor. You are not defined by this job loss.
2. File for Unemployment Benefits During Your Job Search
Apply for unemployment benefits from your state as soon as possible. These provide temporary partial wage replacement between jobs. The application process can take some time, so start it right away to avoid gaps in income.
Start the application process at the U.S. Department of Labor.
3. Evaluate Your Finances
Review your budget and account balances to understand your current financial situation. Look for discretionary expenses to cut back on. Check your emergency fund and retirement savings to estimate how long they could sustain you.
4. Reduce Spending During a Job Loss
With your new unemployment income, reduce spending to essentials only – housing, utilities, food, transportation. Put luxuries and non-essentials on hold until you have a few job prospects or a new source of steady income.
5. Seek Health Insurance Options
Don't go uninsured. Look into continuing your former employer policy under COBRA, getting on a spouse's policy, or reviewing plans through the ACA health insurance marketplace. Avoid gaps in coverage.
You have 60 days after losing employment to apply for ACA insurance. If you are able to estimate your revised annual income you should use this number when applying for coverage to take advantage of CSRs (cost savings reductions) and other subsidies when applying for an ACA bronze-level plan. Bronze plans are the only ones that offer subsidies.
6. Update Your Resume
Refresh your resume to showcase your most recent experience and relevant skills. Emphasize achievements over merely listing job duties. Consider using a functional resume format focused on applicable skills.
7. Network and Tap Contacts for New Job Openings
Reach out to friends, former colleagues, business associates, and professional associations for job leads and advice. Most openings come through personal connections, so activate your network.
8. Search Job Boards and Online Listings
Look for suitable company openings on platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, and industry-specific job boards. Search daily and apply promptly to increase prospects. Customize your resume and cover letter for each application.
Some of the most popular job boards to date include:
These sites offer tests so you can showcase skills and earn certificates that potential employers can see.
9. Consider Transferable Skills
Identify skills and interests from your own business experience that could transfer and apply to other fields beyond your immediate background. This expands opportunities you may not have previously considered.
10. Explore Growth Industries
Research those industries projected to have strong hiring demand like healthcare, technology, finance, or construction. Target relevant openings for potential employers in thriving sectors.
Sites like Google Trends can help you research new opportunities.
11. Get Training If Needed
If pursuing a new career direction, consider enrolling in courses or certification programs to build in-demand skills. Some fields and careers require specific training even with your experience.
You may not have needed to do any recent online training in your previous position. If this is new to you, the development and acceptance of online certification is now widely accepted. Search for the latest in-demand skills.
If you have additional time you can also consider getting a degree online. Credit hours costs are very low and there are even free options.
12. Look for Part-Time Work in the Gig Economy
The gig economy offers flexible, short-term jobs and could be an option while searching for full-time work. The gig economy refers to independent freelance opportunities like ridesharing, delivery services, task services, and on-demand work apps.
Some top companies in the gig economy include:
- Uber - Drive passengers and deliver food
- Lyft - Provide rides
- Instacart - Grocery shopping and delivery
- DoorDash - Food delivery
- TaskRabbit - Odd jobs and errands
- Fiverr - Freelance services like writing, design, programming
- Upwork - Skilled freelance services
Gig work provides quick cash flow and the ability to create your own schedule, which can bridge income gaps during job transition. The extra income and active schedule also help maintain mental well-being.
13. Stay Positive and Persistent
Maintaining self-confidence and perseverance is key. With age discrimination, finding the right fit may take a few weeks or longer despite your qualifications. Persist and the opportunity will come.
14. Research Government Assistance
Check if you qualify for government assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline discounts, and the Affordable Connectivity Program. These programs offer you a safety net by reducing some of the day-to-day financial burdens you'll face.
Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program
Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program provide discounted or free cell phone service through wireless carriers like EASY Wireless.
This can offer monthly savings and mobile internet access while job searching or the ability new skills wherever you go.
Over 40% of US households qualify for ACP.
Learn more about these benefit programs at EASY Wireless.
Move Forward with Optimism
Losing your job after 50 can be a major setback. However, with the right game plan and support network, you can recover and relaunch your career successfully. Follow these proactive steps to take control of your situation. Manage the stress, protect your finances, and put your best foot forward in the job market. Maintain an optimistic mindset and be patient – with diligent effort, you will get back on track.