My job of 20 years has been eliminated. Now what?
April 29, 2018 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Due to budget cuts, my job of 20 has been eliminated. Your best tricks and hacks on getting a new one.

We were informed 10 percent of the central administration office of our large educational bureaucracy would be cut to help stem the 25 million deficit and my number came up.

I am free to post out for any open jobs, HR says -- except they don't seem to be replacing anyone that leaves or retires -- and, in fact, have said before they will reduce by attrition.

I'm four years from retirement and haven't job hunted in 20 years, except for small part time work (phone surveys, Walmart).

I have three months (July 31) til my contract expires (I was one of the lucky ones. Some people without contracts were walked back to their desks with a cardboard box, watched while they cleaned out their desk, and then walked out the door).

I know about using my contacts, but I need a plan. I am probably the most disorganized person you will meet (like I'll make a list, and then lose the list. Over and over.*) besides being a deep introvert.
Retiring early sounds nice, but it would be barely enough to live on if I was frugal.

Ageism and sizeism worry me.

*It's not ADD, I've been tested.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Work & Money (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you are four years away from retirement you could look for other government jobs that are in the same pension system. I'm a state employee and my pension will be based on my highest three years of pay, check to see how that works in your system, in case you are forced to take a pay cut. I'm 2 yrs away from retirement and sometimes contemplate lower pay lower stress jobs within my state system, which includes the public schools.

Look at the AARP website, they're trying to help older workers.

If you're willing to share your location and the type of work you do people here might be able to give more concrete advice.

Best of luck to you!
posted by mareli at 8:32 AM on April 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry about this. The same thing just happened to me, except that I am about 10 years from retirement.

Are they offering you any services to help with your transition? If so, definitely take advantage of them! The one thing that surprised me the most was how much resumes have changed. Definitely take advantage of any offer/class on how to create/update your resume.

I agree with Marceli about AARP. In fact I am going to check with them too!

Since your job is being eliminated you should be eligible for unemployment insurance. Sign up as soon as you are able. They should also provide services on how to help you create a resume, look for a job, interviewing skills, and other job hunting skills.

Also, if it's any comfort, I have been told again, and again (most recently by my sister who is a VP with a large hospital, and hires people on a regular basis) that a lot of employers would PREFER to hire an older worker because they are reliable, hard-working, and not expecting the "world on a plate" the moment that they start a job, unlike a lot of Millennials out there. Good luck!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 8:44 AM on April 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

To state the basics, almost all job hunting starts online now. The usual suspects are LinkedIn, Indeed, and the online job portal for state/municipal hiring in your area.

I am also assuming from your question that your job was public sector, so like mareli said, the first thing I would do is find out, immediately (like Monday) if you affect any retirement vesting or give up the opportunity for a higher level of benefits if you leave the public sector now. The answer to this changes your whole strategy.

If the answer is "already vested, no consequences or benefits if I put in X additional years of service" then I would find out if there are private sector companies like Pearson linked to educational bureaucracy in your area, by doing a LinkedIn/Indeed/Google search. I would apply to anything I found with key search terms linked to your role (maybe "contracts" or "program administration" or "testing/assessment") at any private company that contracts with govt. They won't look at you and think "old", they will look at you and think "intrepid knows our client, the state! she gets the system, she's an asset"

If the answer to the question about vesting is "I would get more benefits if I put in X more years of public service" then I would totally exhaust that route first, but in the environment of mass public budget cuts, you might be stuck going to the private sector anyway.

Make a distinction in your mind and on your resume between skills you have (doing contracts/program guidelines/Excel/basketweaving) and domain expertise (education). Your next job will probably have to be a relatively close match on skills in same or slightly different domain - don't limit yourself to education. If you have incentives to stay in the public sector, see how your skills could transfer in the agency that does disability services, or transportation, etc. Find out where the cuts were light, look for something like your job title in that agency.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:53 AM on April 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

I am already doing the city/county and state (NE) websites (the most recent position was so dysfunctional, I've been looking for two years) as well as Careerlink. Now I will add Linked In and I am told "you must know someone" to get a job anymore. In two years and numerous applications I've gotten 3 interviews and several "thanks, but no thanks letters." So you see why I am asking for tips and hacks. It's not for lack of effort on my part.

I'm vested, it's a difference of about $700 if I make my four years (but our retirement system is in trouble and I'm not counting on that either).

It was a low status (admin) position with clean working conditions and awesome insurance.

Please keep them coming, I am going to go do something arty and let the other side of my brain rest for now.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2018

It's insanely difficult to get a job. First, if you're applying through an online form to an organization you have no connection to, the odds are massively against you -- they're seeing 500-1000 applications per req, and many of those contain borderline-illegal exaggeration of credentials and experience that I'm sure you wouldn't want to participate in. Even if you apply through a connection, there will probably be at least 10 other well-qualified candidates. So you have to be insanely persistent and don't get dissuaded when your first serious try doesn't work out. Make a spreadsheet, use your network aggressively, and don't stop until you get a good offer. Good luck.
posted by miyabo at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh also the best thing I did by far was having some trusted friends help me with my resume. It's embarrassing but they had really fantastic advice that I'm sure helped me a lot.
posted by miyabo at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

How would you feel about temping? I had no shortage of admin work, and got positions I would never have been considered for on a cold application. It is relatively low pay, as the agency gets their cut, but you have vastly more experience than I do, so I'd expect you to command a higher rate/do more specialized work. I'd urge you to be picky about your temp agency, though -- I had a truly terrible one a few years ago, but also one more recently that still occasionally overwhelms me with how good my recruiter is at her job. I looked only for short-term work, but you can get temp-to-perm, or longer-term positions as well.

For organization (because you do have to be fairly organized, and ready to turn on a dime), I've found things like a bullet journal, where I can have a highly-organized list and calendar and etc. in a big notebook that I do not misplace and must deal with every day, to be useful. There are plenty of other techniques; this is the one that worked best for me, though, and might be worth looking into. (Please note: You can make your bullet journal a work of art, and it sounds like you might enjoy that! But don't feel that you have to have perfect lettering or a specific aesthetic or anything. My bullet journal is ugly as sin, but it runs my life :) )
posted by kalimac at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Don't forget checking in with your personal network. It's true that lots of job hunting starts online, but just making sure that you tell people you know that...

- you're enthusiastically looking for work
- you specialize in X, Y, and Z
- to please keep an eye out for you if they hear of anything

...can be very helpful. Every job I've had in the past 15 years has started with networking, usually through former coworkers working elsewhere, and I try to pay it forward when I can. Work can come from some surprising places.
posted by mochapickle at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Second miyabo on getting as much help from as many different people on your resume as possible. Even if you have an inside referral for a position, you need to make a resume that is carefully tuned to get through screening and has the keywords the HR drones are looking for. Don't get fancy with formatting - no special fonts or unconventional layouts, keep it aggressively simple with just bullets. The modern expectation with resumes is to highlight not just skills you have but impact you made - so don't just say "skills: Excel" when you could say "used MS Excel skills to make [process] more efficient saving [X hours/Y dollars]"
posted by slow graffiti at 10:28 AM on April 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was unemployed last year for almost 6 months. It was very difficult and emotionally draining, but I found a job with a great company and coworkers, making more than I was making before. I learned that not all workplaces are chaotic and toxic.

You can get a job without having connections. I found that early in my career, that all it took was knowing someone and a job would magically appear. Mid-career it's much different. I found that connections were far less important and being able to show companies that I was very qualified was the most important thing. I'm an introvert and fretted about going to all of these networking events. I spoke to a friend who was very experienced in HR and he said that you don't actually need to go to these networking events. They are more tools to get you out of the house and commiserate than find a job, so I didn't go to networking events. I worked some of my connections, but none of those jobs panned out.

What worked for me was have a very strong resume and cover letter than I adapted to each job for which I applied. Using company's electronic submission forms got me a ton of interviews. It's essential that you have a very strong resume. I'm apparently great at writing resumes and cover letters. Find a friend who is great at it and enlist their help and then learn how it's done so you can adapt your resume/cover letter to each job. I'm not saying that this is easy. It's not. It's beyond frustrating to put in all of that work and not get paid, but I forced myself to do it because my mortgage needed to be paid. Whenever I felt like quitting, I would remind myself that I didn't want to lose my house.

The critical skill I needed to develop was interviewing. Being an introvert, this was extremely difficult for me. I highly recommend that you find friends who are good at interviewing and will give you brutally honest feedback as well as teach you how to answer different questions. Some interview questions really threw me for a loop. I would answer honestly and this would hurt me. You have to read between the lines. Find out from experienced friends what the interview questions are really asking and how to answer in a way that shows your skills. Don't do this just once. Keep doing it. This is the time you need your friends. You aren't being a burden. Friends will want to help you. Interviewing is a specific skill that you can learn. A few people are naturally talented and don't need to learn this skill, but most of us need help.

In the end, for me it came down to getting much better at interviewing. By the end, I was acing interviews. I ended up with 2 offers in the same week after nearly 6 months of interviewing without a single offer. Somehow, I did improve my interview skills and everything just clicked into place. Second, it's a numbers game and a matter of finding an employer that has a similar personality as yours. I really fit in with my current coworkers and boss. It's partially luck, but they really wanted to hire me after they met me and that felt really great to know I was wanted by someone. Play the numbers game and realize that it is a numbers game. I felt so low while I was unemployed. I've been at my new job for nearly 5 months now and the depression is still with me from being unemployed. If you have health insurance while unemployed, I recommend seeing a therapist. I wish I had taken the step to see a therapist. I just felt too unhappy to really function while I was unemployed.

Be kind to yourself during this time. So many people have been there. You are not alone. I had so many interviews where the hiring manager told me a story about a time when they were unemployed. I found out from friends that they went through the same depression as me. These are all normal feelings. You will find an employer where your skills are wanted and needed. It may take you time, but you will get there.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:30 AM on April 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

Several friends told me to post on Facebook that I was looking for work. So I did, and heard from a former colleague that he needed a freelancer (I do B2B writing and editing, among other things). LinkedIn I knew about, but it would never had occurred to me to use FB to spread the word. So consider that as well. There are also resume-optimisation services that can help you if your friends cannot. As well as individuals who specialise in that (there may be some here). Job Scan will compare your resume against a job ad and show any holes in your resume so you can beef it up. You can use Job Scan for free at least once, perhaps more times. Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Make sure your desktop and web application skills are up to date. The thing I would worry most about someone coming off a 20-year run in an admin position in a big educational bureaucracy is that you would not be up to date.

At a minimum, you should be proficient with: Word, Excel (basic spreadsheets, not fancy analysis), Outlook (message management, calendaring, contacts), PowerPoint (not fancy graphic design but simple presentations and the ability to edit on existing institutional templates), efficient Google searching, efficient LinkedIn searching, ability to book research and book travel and entertainment online (airline, hotel & OTA websites, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, etc.) All very do-able by July 31!

Separate from this you almost certainly need professional resume preparation. Resume content and format standards evolve quite rapidly. It isn't expensive and is totally worth it if you find a good resume writer/formatter.
posted by MattD at 1:55 PM on April 29, 2018

I am in the northeast where there is a significant shortage of employees. Remember that you are looking for someplace to contribute your real skills and time. I find job-hunting incredibly discouraging; the attitude is that if you are lucky, you win a job. But they need *you* and if you keep that in mind it will really help. Go to a library, get a bunch of job hunting books. Assess your skills carefully. If there's a gap, now is the time to address it. You probably have better computer skills than will be assumed by your age, do not be modest. My computer skills are far better than an awful lot of young men, but I'm always told little old ladies are helpless with technology; it's a stereotype, it's inaccurate, but you can't ignore it.

Consider possible training - do you want to work, maybe part-time, after you can afford to retire? Go to the state career office and use any resources they provide, training, job postings, whatever. In my state, the job centers are limited, but sometime have postings for government jobs, maybe access to training.

Check with your union to see if the state is required to provide any career support in a big layoff, and to see if the state is committing age discrimination in the layoffs. They probably are, and that's what a union is for. Check with a tax or labor expert. When you collect a government pension, it may affect any Social Security benefit, and it's good to be prepared.

You may be surprised. You may find a job you like, a position at a non-profit you love, a library, a place where you make new friends or discover new possibilities. No guarantees, but change can be great.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on April 29, 2018

Allison at is my go to for anything career related. She writes lots of excellent things about resumes, cover letters and job hunting. I would definitely start there to get an idea of how to start your job search.
posted by snowysoul at 5:30 PM on April 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

A thing it took me a while to realize is that "Use your network" doesn't mean "Talk to friends and then... somehow, miraculously, get a job offer out of the blue just for being such a good extravert."

It means "Find specific job openings at organizations where you know people, and then ask the people you know there to recommend you for those jobs."

Like, I can't hire you. I can't offer you a job, or arrange for someone else to offer you a job, no matter how well you network at me and how sure I am you'd be good here. But if you email me a few days after we talk and say "Hey, I noticed this position open there, can you tell me anything about it?" then odds are at the end of the conversation I'll be like "Yeah, send me your resume and I'll put in a good word for you." (It is worth my while to do this because I get a small but nonzero bonus if I recommend someone who gets hired.) And what my recommendation does for you is, it gets you past the initial computerized "ruthlessly throw everything away unless it matches every single arbitrary keyword" phase and gets an actual human to look at your resume for a second.

Similarly, "You have to know someone" is… kinda true, but it doesn't have to mean "You have to have a close personal friend there." It means that if you can find someone to recommend you, your odds go way up. That could mean you post on Facebook "Hey, I'm looking at a job at XYZ, do I know anyone there?" and your former classmate Anne says "Oh, yeah, my friend Barb's brother Chuck works there" and you trade some emails or DMs with Chuck and he asks for your resume to pass along. I wouldn't do that for every single job posting that I saw, but if there was one that looked especially promising and I didn't have a more organic contact there I definitely would.

Apologies if you're already doing this stuff. Just, like I said, it took me a while to figure out how that part of the game actually worked, so maybe you're in the same boat.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:48 PM on April 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

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