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Rejoining the Workforce After an Empty Nest? The Hard Truth

MatureBusinessWoman_400Depending on your skills and ambition, you could earn some serious money in your post-parenting, pre-retirement years, but the road ahead is not easy. You had better plan for it. From Marry Smart.

If you were fortunate enough to have had the luxury to stay home with your young children, I sincerely hope you did so. And if you did, I hope you loved it as much as I did, and that you have an indelible bank of wonderful memories that comfort and delight you on those days when you’re missing your babies. And I sincerely hope that while you were home with your children, you gave some thought to how you would positively and productively use your newfound free time when your children were grown.

You might be thinking about reentering the workforce. Let me take off my Princeton Mom kerchief, put on my Human Resources Professional hat, and tell you the truth about getting hired in your fifties when you haven’t worked in decades.

It almost never happens.

Some industries are more welcoming of a mature workforce than others, but most businesses are image-conscious and are interested in putting a youthful face on their staff. Financial management and the legal profession are more tolerant of an older workforce because of the gravitas factor—clients of these businesses are comforted to think that older and wiser people are overseeing their financial and legal needs. But industries like advertising, marketing, and media are all about image, and the presidents of the biggest players in these businesses are all under fifty. If they would even consider hiring your fifty-five-year-old self (and I seriously doubt that they would), it would only be for a position that would probably be so junior that your ego couldn’t tolerate it.

We can all continue to hope for an improved economy, but while it remains sluggish, the reality is that there are very few open positions and there is very little hiring going on. And people who are younger and considerably more affordable than you will very likely fill those limited positions that do open up.

Please don’t even think about blaming your diminished hireability on your children, or the fact that you removed yourself from the workforce to raise them. The truth is that if you didn’t stay home with your children, and remained on the job, by the time you reached your fifties you’d likely be downsized. Again, there are younger, less expensive employees who could probably do your job, and everyone loves bright young faces in the office. Either way, you’d now be unemployed and virtually unemployable. But at least you would have had the precious gift of being with your children when they needed you most.

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