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What can I do to increase my chances of being hired at age 64?

Tuesday August 9, 2011
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Dear Donna,

I want to inform you of the age discrimination that exists. I have proven it is impossible to get an RN job at age 64. Until now, I have never failed an interview. I have two years to go before retirement, but I do not plan to stop working then, which I acknowledge at an interview. During my telephone interviews, the potential employers express enthusiasm and interest in my qualifications and experience, and I am filled with hope for success. I attend the interview as a trim, fit and smartly dressed lady in a fashionable suit. I never get the job! After the 10th attempt and failure, can you tell me if there is something I should or could have done or changed? By the way, employers are requesting a candidate’s date of birth in application forms, usually just before or immediately after the interview.


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Helen,

I often receive similar letters from other nurses of all ages. These are nurses who never had trouble finding work in the past but are having trouble now and attribute it to their age, even at 45. In fact, many hospitals prefer older and seasoned nurses for a variety of reasons.

The trouble with fixating on age as an obstacle (whether it is true or not) is that it can prevent you from taking the necessary steps to move beyond your current challenges.

Focus your job-finding efforts more on networking, which is well known to be a very effective way to find and get a job, especially when you have obstacles to overcome. That means you need to start attending local chapter meetings of nursing professional associations (even as a guest), nursing career fairs, conferences, seminars, etc. See what’s coming up in your area at www.Nurse.com/events. Additionally, the interview process itself often can be improved after several unsuccessful attempts. To brush up on your networking and self-marketing skills, read “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving in Every Stage of Your Career” (www.Nurse.com/ce/7250).

You don’t mention whether you are unemployed and, if so, how long you have been out of the nursing workforce. You also don’t mention what type of jobs you are seeking. If you are applying for an acute care (hospital) job and do not have recent hospital experience, then that can be an obstacle in the tight job market. There also may be many qualified applicants for each position. There are so many possible reasons why you are having challenges.

If you are unemployed, start volunteering in a medical setting, ideally the type in which you would like to work. Volunteering gives you recent relevant work experience to put on your resume (if applicable in your case), expands your professional network, and gets your foot in the door. Volunteering often leads to paid employment. When you can’t get in the front door, try the back door.

When what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to try a new approach. Read “Follow-Up Is Good Form” (http://news.nurse.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2002204010321) and “Ten Steps to a Successful Job Search” (www.dcardillo.com/articles/tensteps.html).

My best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/asktheexperts/deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.