Dear Joyce: What am I doing wrong? I have been interviewed at least 10 times in the past month while looking for employment. I am a soon-to-be 70-year-old registered nurse who can work circles around most of today's nurses.
My resume is impressive because I have a ton of experience. I have worked in just about every division in the hospital. Yes, I have the experience, as well as a vague feeling my problem is age discrimination. The United States is hungry for RNs, but I am not able to find a job. Can you advise?
Dear P.A.B.: That makes two of us with a feeling that your birth certificate is standing in the way of a job offer. Only my feeling isn't vague when you're turned away from the hottest job market in the nation; it's near certain.
In fact, the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) has launched programs to address the issue of older nurses being shunted aside in the midst of a dramatic nursing shortage.
Many -- in any occupation -- may be taking a second look at suing the socks off employers for age bias because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes it easier for older workers to win. Americans over age 40 now have the right to sue for age discrimination even if they can't prove the discrimination was intentional.
Before the recent ruling, job seekers filing a lawsuit had to prove that the employer implemented an intentional policy to hire only younger workers -- a difficult standard. Now they only have to prove that the employer's hiring policy has an adverse impact on older workers, intended or not.
My hunch is that the number of age discrimination cases will grow exponentially with more than half of the nation's current work force -- 75.8 million Americans -- now 40 or older.
But other observers disagree that a slew of older Americans will rush to the courts, citing employer loopholes such as trying to save money or arguing another "legitimate" reason for the age bias.
If you do want to litigate, be sure to find an employment lawyer, one with experience defending plaintiffs, as opposed to labor lawyers specializing in representing employer defendants. One place to check for names of appropriate attorneys is the National Employment Lawyers Association (www.nela.org). Ask for a no-charge initial meeting to determine the merit of your case.
In your shoes, I'd try to find a way around the problem before seeking legal redress, which can be lengthy, costly and uncertain in outcome.
No matter what your occupation, when age drains your energy or disability closes familiar doors, the rule is to find a workaround -- a way to get around a problem.
Often the workaround is "Get off your feet and get on a phone." That's what happens to police officers who are reassigned to desk duty, or to construction workers who become estimators, or to athletes who become insurance salespeople.
When nurses reach an age where reading glasses are a necessity on crash carts and 12-hour shifts are too taxing, many move to less strenuous work in physician's offices as nurses, HMOs as nurse evaluators and nursing homes as managers.
In the meantime, turn to the Attitude Adjustment Hour: You now have to work harder to capture offers you once tripped over.
Cut back on your resume. Report only the past 15 years and omit education dates. Update your grooming if necessary.
And as executive career management pro John Lucht (www.ritesite.com) notes: "Don't reveal any clues that might suggest negative attitudes or personality traits, or an ebbing away of enthusiasm or productivity. And find out what the employer is proud of and what the employer is worried about." Be ready to address those factors.
Contact Joyce Lain Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org (use "Reader Question" for subject line) or at P.O. Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007