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Tips and Leads for Older Job Seekers

Audrey Whitley, 55, of Charlotte, found a job after attending an AARP workshop for job seekers. More workshops are scheduled this year. Photo by Gina LeVay/Redux

By Michelle Crouch • Audrey Whitley was blindsided in 2010 when she was laid off after a long career in publishing. She applied for job after job, and it was tough to stay positive as the rejections piled up.

“There were days that felt very dark, when I felt like I was so far from a job,” said Whitley, 55, of Charlotte. “Many, many times, I was rejected for being too experienced.”

About three months after being laid off, Whitley attended a free job search workshop hosted by AARP North Carolina. There she learned that she was making the right moves by taking on part-time work and networking. She also picked up an important tip: change her résumé to emphasize the skills each position required.

“Once I did that, I started hearing from recruiters,” Whitley said.

One recruiter got her a job doing contract work at a bank; in 2011, she landed a permanent job there.

25 job search workshops

AARP North Carolina wants to help more people like Whitley and is planning to conduct 25 job search workshops this year.

“More of our members are telling us they want to work until they’re 70 and beyond,” said Suzanne LaFollette-Black, AARP North Carolina associate state director.

“Their 401(k)s have tanked, and health care costs are going up, so some need the money. Others want to keep working to stay active, or they’ve always wanted to start a business,” she said.

But finding a job can be tough in a state with the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate. Even though the unemployment rate among older North Carolinians is lower than joblessness among younger workers, on average it takes 10 weeks longer for people 55 and older to find a new job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In addition to the workshops, AARP North Carolina is highlighting an AARP social networking tool, Work Reimagined. It uses LinkedIn to connect workers to job openings, leads and resources.

The site highlights job listings from more than 140 employers nationwide who have publicly committed to treat all workers and job candidates equally regardless of age. Fourteen North Carolina companies have signed the pledge.

AARP North Carolina’s goal is to recruit 100 companies by the end of the year.

As part of that effort, AARP volunteers will reach out to human resources professionals and companies to let them know they can gain a competitive edge by capitalizing on the value and experience of older workers, particularly as a strategy for coping with an anticipated labor shortage as more boomers retire.

Support for entrepreneurs

For older people who want to start a business, AARP North Carolina has teamed with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina to offer counseling, training and workshops.

In addition, AARP North Carolina hopes to organize a conference in October aimed at women who want to start businesses.

“Starting a business when you’re older and more experienced offers so many advantages,” said Briles Johnson, director of the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina. “You have a knowledge base, you have networks and contacts, you have maturity, and you have confidence.”

To help with the programs, AARP is recruiting volunteers. Candidates should have experience in human resources or in working with businesses, small business centers or chambers of commerce. Some training and travel is required.

For more information, call toll-free 866-389-5650 or send an email to

Michelle Crouch is a writer living in Charlotte

About AARP States
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