The 6 Deadly Excuses of Job Hunters

If these reasons for not finding work sound familiar, snap out of it by following this career coach's advice

"If you're over 50 and laid off, you can forget about finding another good job."

These words came from a 60-something friend, a survivor of dozens of layoffs at a large tech company. As a career coach, I'm sorry to report that my experience shows that she echoes what many boomers think.

I'll concede that there's a grain of truth to what my friend is saying (times are tough and many jobs have gone overseas). That said, I also believe that plenty of out-of-work Americans in their 50s and 60s need to stop making excuses and start getting realistic about their job searches.

These are the six excuses I hear most often and my "no excuses" advice to deal with them:

Excuse No. 1: "My resumé is just going into a black hole."

Don't blame the black hole. Blame yourself for an outdated job-search strategy.

(MORE: Why Aren't Older Unemployed Americans Getting Hired?)

A resumé might have helped you stand out 10 years ago. But today, with an abundant supply of middle-aged job seekers, your experience and credentials make you just one in a crowd.

My "no excuses" advice: Work on ways to differentiate yourself as a job candidate and to create meaningful relationships with people who can help you get hired. Both can pay off more than hitting the submit button on another online job post.

Make a list of 10 things that set you apart from your peers and ask your friends to validate the list. Then reach out to five people you’ve lost touch with who might know of job openings. Set a time to catch up and when the conversation turns to you, tell them how you'd like to make a significant impact in your next job, applying your "special sauce."

You should also get your unique talents and expertise into your LinkedIn profile (which shouldn't be a cut and paste version of your resumé). According to a Jobvite survey in 2012, 93 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. Next Avenue has an article I wrote showing how to make your LinkedIn profile compelling.

Excuse No. 2: "I can’t afford to take a pay cut."

Time to face reality: The last job you had, at that pay scale, may not exist anymore.

My "no excuses" advice: Take a hard look at your expenses and how much income you really need to cover them. Create a "minimum threshold" budget you can live with then explore alternatives to trim your daily living costs. If you have kids about to enter college, consider a wide range of schools with different tuition prices.

And remember that there are plenty of other criteria beyond pay. You might want to work somewhere that offers you the potential to make an impact on the world, stimulate your intellectual curiosity or serve as a stepping stone to future opportunities.

When you're job-hunting, never forget to factor in what I like to call the "Happiness Quotient."

Excuse No. 3: "I’m too old."

This is a favorite excuse for people who've given up on themselves and their ability to adapt to the work world of 2012.

(MORE: When the Job Interviewer Thinks You're Too Old)

The truth is, if you're able-bodied and mentally competent, you're not too old to get hired. But you may need to get up to speed on the best ways to look for work today, improve your social media skills to cast a wider net for your job search or even consider reinventing yourself in a new career. So take the time to invest in yourself.

My "no excuses" advice: A great place to start adapting to today's job market is your alma mater's career services department. As Next Avenue has noted, many colleges now offer alumni free or low-cost career counseling, job-search webinars and in-person workshops on such topics as personal branding to make yourself a stronger candidate.

For those who claim that some hiring managers are guilty of age discrimination when selecting candidates, well, you’re right.

There are cases where the interviewer will think you're too old. Prove them wrong! Make your pitch for the open position so compelling that age won't enter the picture.

Or boost your expertise to become a consultant, so you can avoid hiring managers altogether. My 60-something colleague, Walter Akana, started sharpening his social media skills a few years ago and now teaches social media to M.B.A. students and midcareer professionals. No one questions his age because his knowledge and expertise are all that matter.

It's also not too late to launch an encore career. Start by volunteering at a nonprofit to get a lay of the land and make valuable connections. When an appropriate salaried position opens up, you'll be a known quantity. Check out and the articles on Next Avenue to learn more about creating an encore career.

Excuse No. 4: "Companies don't appreciate my experience."

Being bitter is guaranteed to turn off prospective employers and keep you stuck in a rut. Get over yourself.

(MORE: Fitting Volunteering Into Your Life)

My "no excuses" advice: Take a hard look at the last jobs you held. There may be a reason they didn't last. Maybe those positions weren't right for you in the first place. If so, this is your opportunity to seek a role where you can truly do your best work.

Become more aware of your true talents. One way to do this is by reading Tom Rath's excellent book, StrengthsFinder 2.0.

Another way is by working with a career coach or counselor.

Once you've homed in on what you're best at, practice presenting yourself for interviews through stories that illustrate your talents in action.

Excuse No. 5: "If I take this job, I'll be moving backward."

Too many job seekers think their next landing place must be "the perfect move." When it doesn't materialize, they become discouraged. But your next career move is just that — the next move, not necessarily the perfect move.

My "no excuses" advice: Don't think of a potential job being beneath you just because it offers less seniority or pay than your last one. Instead, think of how you can leverage the position down the road.

I call these "stepping stone" jobs. They're meant to get you on the right track, as opposed to landing at an ultimate destination.

(MORE: Life Experience Counts When Searching for a New Career)

It's worthwhile to consider job offers that will move you in a promising direction or even laterally, even if it's not where you eventually want to end up. Lateral career moves have become a powerful way to gain traction so you can eventually achieve bigger goals.

Here's a suggestion: Think of your "ideal" job.  Now, think of two types of jobs that are stepping stones to that one and start hunting.

Excuse No. 6: "I can’t find a job because the economy is lousy." 

This is the most damaging excuse of all. Many of the changes on the employment front over the last few years are fundamental — things like hiring contractors instead of full-timers or thinning out middle managers. These moves won't come undone in a better economy. The recession may have exacerbated the trends, but it didn't cause them.

My "no excuses" advice: What you're seeing today is the new normal. Get used to a different way of finding work — one where it pays to think like a business owner.

Market yourself effectively. Know your competitive advantage. Provide value consistently. Develop multiple revenue streams.

Sure, these strategies take work. But what's the alternative?

The bonus is that when you're able to take control of your career, you're no longer left to the whims of a single employer. Rather, you'll have built the foundation for creating new opportunities that fit within your sweet spot: the type of work you do best and enjoy the most.

Now, that's a recipe for professional fulfillment.

Conquer that interview

It’s Patra Frame time again! Sometimes older job applicants haven’t had a job interview for many years. And sometimes, that lack of practice can make us even more anxious about the interview than we’d be if we were younger.

Here Patra Frame sets out a simple strategy to ensure you can  impress anyone at any interview. Better still it will get you  focussed on the right things before and during the interview.

I guarantee that having this focus will ensure you perform at your best, and shine with confidence. You’ll know you are on top of the task before you even start the interview and you won’t be distracted by all the debilitating anxieties that threaten our performance when we are unsure of ourselves.

As always with Patra, this is a great piece of insight that will improve your performance no end. Thanks Patra!

Deutsche Bank seeks older women to change culture, improve reputation

By  Kai Pfaffenbach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank is on the lookout for mature, tech-savvy women who it thinks will be better team players to help change its corporate culture and rebuild its reputation in the wake of the financial crisis.

The bank is being forced to rethink the way it does business after short-term bonus incentives led to risky deals which hurt profits. Deutsche is also being probed by regulators over possible rigging of the Libor benchmark international lending rate and for the way it sold toxic assets to investors.

"You could say having trustworthy bankers is enough to rebuild trust in the banking industry," said Stephan Leithner, Head of Human Resources and Compliance at Germany's flagship lender. "It is not enough. In future you need to have other qualities."

"Let me be provocative: The banker of the future will be more female, more international, older, more team oriented and more mobile, and needs to enjoy working with technology," Leithner told a seminar for young high-potential bankers in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

By 2018, Deutsche Bank said in September it wants to raise the proportion of female staff in senior leadership positions to 25 percent from around 17 percent in 2011. It is also seeking to raise the proportion of women in overall leadership positions to 35 percent by 2018 from around 29.7 percent in 2011.

"In many situations, female staff contribute toward team orientation, partnership and long-term sustainability," Leithner, a former co-head of corporate finance said.

Deutsche's move to promote female employees comes as German Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schroeder renewed her push to introduce a quota for women in management positions.

Schroeder has proposed a so-called flexible quota legally obliging companies to set their own benchmarks. Sanctions would be imposed if they missed them.

In the future, Deutsche Bank will also tend to employ older, better educated staff, Leithner said.

"Bankers need to be more educated and spend more time learning. It means that many people will be asked to re-invent themselves," Leithner said.

Technological know-how is growing in importance, Leithner added, as clients are demanding access to bank services over different technological platforms and new regulations are forcing lenders to raise risk-management capabilities and control systems.

Around 25 percent of staff at Deutsche Bank are already working in jobs involving technology such as payment systems, Leithner said.Staff who are international and have moved around in different departments have good opportunities at Deutsche, Leithner said.

Last month the Frankfurt-based lender which has around 100,000 employees, said it will cut 1,993 jobs by the end of the year and overhaul its businesses to see if products and services add value for the real economy, whether they eat up too much capital, and whether they throw off enough profit.

Banks remain years away from developing business models that will produce sustainable profits, according to a report by consultants McKinsey published in October.

It said return on equity - a key measure of profitability - fell to 7.6 percent for global banks last year, well short of their 10-12 percent cost of equity.

(Reporting By Edward Taylor; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

How to Create Your Own Job

I constantly read stories about mature workers seeking work who have applied without success for hundreds or even thousands of jobs.  Unfortunately, today’s economic climate means that situation will continue to get worse.

So, it’s time for different tactics. Here is career coach Boaz explaining a great method  which I believe will be much more effective. Better still, it is also much less labour intensive than filling in all those application forms. Best of all it will help you land a job which suits your individual skills and preferences.

I've also picked this out as it's a really clever way of bypassing the age discrimination traps which hinder older job seekers - you'll see why when you watch!

Like all the best ideas, it’s really simple and you can put it into action right away.

Greek companies face 'annihilation' amid debt crisis

Greece's recession-hit businesses face "annihilation", a leading chamber of commerce has warned, as a fatal combination of falling sales and job cuts meant the country was in its worst economic shape for 14 years.

The association, representing a sector which employs nearly 18pc of the Greek workforce, presented an annual study forecasting a further drop in sales and job cuts in an economy where the unemployment rate currently exceeds 25pc. 
"Returning to 1984 purchasing power levels, 1998 employment levels and 1999 salary levels will not help Greece's economy in 2013," said Vassilis Korkidis, chairman of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (Esee).

More than 40pc of limited liability companies and 70.6pc of general and limited partnerships expect a fall in sales, and one in three businesses in both categories expects to shed workers next year, the report showed.

"If this situation continues, the trader sector... will be threatened with annihilation," Mr Korkidis said. "The recipe of successive (fiscal overhauls) appears to have failed," he said.

Greece's parliament earlier this month approved a new round of austerity worth €18.5bn that includes additional salary and pension cuts and other reforms to be implemented by 2016.

The measures have been prescribed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund which have been propping up the near-bankrupt Greek economy with billions of euros in loans since 2010.

After a third year of austerity, eight in ten businesses report a fall in sales and seven in ten have lost access to bank funding, Korkidis said.

"Europe needs a three-pillar approach: regain confidence, implement needed structural reforms, provide growth-enhancing measures," said Gunilla Almgren, president of the European association of craft, small and medium-sized enterprises (UEAPME).

Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said the government had pledged to pay businesses outstanding state debts of three billion euros by the end of the year.

The state owes private suppliers more than €8bn in total.

Source: AFP

Boomers and social technology

This short video demonstrates a point I keep coming back to. I believe the biggest single career obstacle faced by the boomer generation is new technology and social media. It’s not that boomers don’t use it - the majority do everyday. No, the problem is that most are passive not active users. In other words,  they don’t know how or don’t wish to use it to help create their career futures.

Millions of boomers have a Facebook and Linkedin profile, use internet banking, buy insurance online and sell things on Ebay. But that’s not the same as engaging new technology to assist them in reaching their career goals.

So what’s holding us back ? According to this film, concerns about privacy are a big factor. But this fear about privacy is unfounded in my opinion. Knowledge is power and today that is more true than ever. Social media networks are incredibly powerful, when we know how to use them to further the achievement of our life’s goals.

On reflection, I think I need to return this topic soon with a lot more  information, but for now I hope this film will elicit some self searching.

Baby Boomers – the dumbest generation?

Here’s a short video featuring Peter Thiel, President of Clarium Capital Management.  The question about whether or not baby boomers were ‘dumb’ not to see the housing bubble looming so soon after the burst of the tech bubble is moot in my view.

For most folk, their house is their home.  Most are not and were not property speculators. They simply  aspired to own their own home, and rising house prices merely  reassured them that borrowing large sums to pay for them, was  scary, but a fairly low risk. Very few people I think relish taking on a massive loan to buy anything.

So in my view, you cannot blame a whole generation as individuals for a global economic problem.

I’ve posted this clip for a different reason. Peter explains here why what happens in the next six months is less of a concern than what happens in the next twenty years. And I agree with him.

We are already undergoing a global transformation that  will sweep away the world that western baby boomers accepted as normal for their whole lives. That world will never return.

This raises big questions about what we can do about it. We are burdened with debt, our children are finding it as hard as we are to find work, let alone buy a home and the prospects for  economic growth to enable these aspirations seem at best to be shaky. Career security is gone forever and we boomers need to wake up to this new reality.

It’s this generational crisis which has prompted me to set up 40pluscareerguru. And my mission is to provide every insight and opportunity I can to help my generation survive and thrive through their middle age and beyond.

My sincere thanks go out to everyone that is helping me share this message.

Why social media empowers you to live your life on your terms

Whenever I see my friends, at some point the conversation inevitably turns to work and how they are getting on. Needless to say, they are all over 40, and work in a wide range of areas, but they are generally professionals of one kind or another.

The first thing that always happens is they tell me about their latest problems at work. It might be long hours, stressful situations, a terrible boss, fears about job security, or just plain disillusionment. When they ask me how I’m doing, I am almost always able to tell them great news about all the progress I’ve made with all my business ventures.

Now this isn’t because I’m an incurable optimist, or a naive fool. I genuinely enjoy what I do. I learn something everyday, I interact with great people all over the planet and I feel that in some small way I make a difference in the world. I do what I choose, whereas they choose to do what they believe they have to.

They explain that they wish they could do what I do but they feel unable to escape from what they have spent the last 10, 20 or 30 years doing. They may hate their job and feel it has no security, but even that is less scary than being self employed. After all they know that every month they get that comforting pay cheque, which is worth 20 or so days of toil and grief.

I think this must be a very widespread attitude. For today’s mature professionals, since childhood, they have mostly been taught that qualifications, a career and a monthly pay cheque are the path to security and fulfilment. And even now, when employers are laying off thousands every month, pay levels are static or falling, job security and generous pensions seem like ancient history, they persist in this belief.

Having your own business used to be a pretty brave decision. It was truly risky. It meant that you’d almost certainly work longer hours than someone who was employed. You’d probably have to invest most or all of your savings and the potential returns were not necessarily very great.

The internet has changed all of that permanently. But more importantly, it is social media which has opened up the opportunities for everyone beyond what anyone could have imagined even 5 years ago.

As recently as 2 or 3 years ago, I was a director of a business where we’d routinely buy ‘clicks’ from Google onto our website for £7 or £8 a time. And so did lots of other businesses. If 15 or 20% of these visits resulted in a sale, we’d make a smallish profit. Years earlier, I’d been the marketing director of a firm with a media budget of around £7m a year. This budget was spent mostly on TV ads which were used to encourage potential customers to visit our website or phone us up. That cost was more than the combined salaries of the 250 or so people that worked at the firm.

Fast forward to today. Thanks to social media, you can get hundreds of visits every day to your websites for free. And because you have often engaged with people before they choose to visit, you have a friendly relationship with them already. So the traditionally huge costs of advertising to make your potential customers aware that you even exist, have been eliminated especially for the small entrepreneur.

Suddenly, having your own business isn’t so risky. And your potential customers are more like friends. What could be better?

Jobs Guru Spills Secrets About Older Workers

By Gary Belsky

Workers 55 and older are expected to be the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force this decade, and it’s not solely because of Baby Boomers are graying. A greater-than-expected number of Americans are staying on the job longer or returning to work after a long absence - some because of Empty Nest Syndrome, others because of financial need and still others looking for meaning as they age.

But whatever the impetus, navigating late-stage career paths presents particular challenges, ranging from outright ageism to a host of stereotypes about older workers.

Curiously, there aren’t many good books targeted at this crowd, but a strong one has just been published, written by the award-winning journalist Kerry Hannon. It’s called AARP’s Great Jobs For Everyone 50+, and we asked Hannon about what she learned from her research into this employment demographic.

What is the most surprising thing about older workers you learned while researching this book?

“Senior entrepreneurship. I am struck again and again by the number of 50+ workers fed up with the job hunt, or looking for something that really kicks them out the door in the morning, who are starting or planning to start their own businesses.”

What’s driving that trend?

“Truth is, some of this emboldened entrepreneurism stems from being frustrated by the tight job market. The refrain I hear a lot is, ‘I doubt I can get a full-time job at an employer these days…’ You know, ageism, the sense that there’s expiration date stamped on their forehead and so on. But a major driver is a genuine desire to try something new. Midstream career rocking is a reality. It might be a job loss that spurred it, but often is a personal crisis: a health scare, losing someone close to you, too soon, too young. And many senior entrepreneurs not only want to be their own boss, they are looking at these as legacy businesses.

What’s a “legacy business?”

“Where they work side-by-side with their twenty-something children. For the somewhat older folks I have interviewed, even grandchildren are in on the new endeavour. It’s a kind of cool combination of enthusiasm and expertise. It takes aim at the older-younger worker schism and - bingo!- here’s a great solution. Tech-savvy, nimble youth blends with the deep knowledge gleaned from decades of honing skills that the older worker brings to the party.”

Is the definition of retirement changing?

“The overriding trend that jumped out at me is how many people don’t ever see themselves retiring in the way our parents did. I’ve interviewed and coached people from 50 to 80, and it’s not the fear of running out of money in their old age that’s lighting a fire. They are generally enthusiastic about their work lives, don’t view themselves as older workers and can’t imagine a time when they didn’t work and earn income in some fashion. The underlying spine is they want to find work that means something to them where they feel valued and relevant, and that can be tricky. That’s why many of the jobs in my book are part-time and can be expanded to full-blown second acts too.”

Is there a correlation between education and post-50 employment?

“Not necessarily. I think the big differentiation is the willingness to try new ways of work - an open mind about what work they want to do, and breaking out of old expectations and patterns. And frankly, for the professional types there is plenty of opportunity if they are willing to step into a new field -redeploying current skills by, say, moving to a non-profit or health care field by using financial and accounting skills.”

But we do hear a lot about an education gap between workers and jobs.

“For non-professionals, the community college system offers some low-cost educational opportunities to shift direction with certificate programs and so forth.”

What stereotypes about older workers are generally not true?

“That they are Luddites when it comes to technology, that they don’t have the energy to commit for the long haul and that they don’t want to work with younger workers. Not true. They may, however, be a little more resistant to change.”

Are older workers generally good at marketing themselves?

“Boomers are bad at bragging. The hardest thing for many of them is toot their own horn - brag about their skills. The younger generation is far better at self-promotion. Workers in this age cadre somehow feel someone will look a their experience on their resume and get why they would be a great person to hire.”

Is it wrong to assume that your resume should let people know why you’re a strong candidate for a job?

“Experience doesn’t get you a job. Skills do. That’s what people need to sell hard and shamelessly. Employers want someone who can solve their problem right now; no handholding, no investment needed in training. If you can show how your skills can do that, whom you worked for five years ago is a sidebar.”

In other words, talk about what you can do more than what you’ve done or where you’ve done it.

“It can even be soft skills. One woman I met with recently said she landed a job by simply saying one of her old bosses told her that her best skill was her ability to get along with people. That throw-away line is what caught the hiring manager’s attention and she got the job. If you aren’t sure what your best skills are. Ask someone. That’s what’s transferable.”

Read more:

Generation Debt Turns Out to be Baby Boomers

by Roman Shteyn

Baby boomers are the first generation in American history to be entering retirement saddled with debt, including unpaid balances on credit cards.

The financial crisis in 2008 that sent the economy into a recession crippled many baby boomers’ retirement accounts, forcing many to stay in the workforce or significantly alter their retirement lifestyle plans. Now, the oldest of the boomer generation are receiving Social Security checks alongside notices from bill collectors.

According to the report The Plastic Safety Net by public policy organization Demos, Millennial’s (those born after 1980) average credit card debt is $2,982. For those 65+, the average credit card debt is $9,283—and that amount could continue to rise as they age since they have fallen into the trap of financing their lives on credit cards.

The brutal financial reality for baby boomers is that they have entered their supposed golden years during a period when it has become increasingly difficult to build, protect, and grow wealth. Traditionally the highest level of compensation comes from working in your 50s and 60s. These decades used to be a time to increase 401(k) balances and settle into a financially-secure retirement. Instead, if baby boomers were fortunate enough to be employed in a recessionary economy, they often found they were earning less than they had in comparable jobs or assignments before the downturn. If they were unable to find work after being laid off, they may have opted to take Social Security early, which reduced their lifetime payment.

Financial Losses and Burdens

The financial crisis that brought down the stock and housing market was a major blow to baby boomer’s retirement savings. To add to their financial strain, nearly 60% of baby boomers provide financial support to adult children, according to a YEAR report from the National Center for Public Policy.

Many boomers have accepted carrying debt into retirement. A 2012 poll by CIBC bank found that 80% of the generation is not anxious about carrying debt or the amount of it. In addition, CIBC found less concern among the respondents of getting their finances in order to be able to pass on an inheritance to the next generation.

Recent reports have focused heavily on the growing amount of student loan and credit card debt students are graduating college with, but will they learn from their elders and work to shed the debt before entering retirement? After all, they certainly can’t count on an inheritance from boomer-aged parents and grandparent to help them pay down the debt.

Roman Shteyn is co-founder of He frequently writes on credit-related topics.

Read more:

Mature Job Search - your routemap to success (VIDEO)

I've talked a great deal on this blog about the obstacles to mature jobseekers. It's high time I think to put that aside and get on to the practical steps you can take to ensure your success in such a difficult jobs market.

Personally I like working to a plan. In my experience any successful project needs a plan and job searching is no exception. This video will provide you with exactly that. It's Erica Otto from The Dubin Group and here she focusses on a step by step job search plan for the mature job seeker.

It's packed with good advice, and I'm sure there will be plenty here to enhance your plan if you already have one - and if you don't have one it will provide you with all you need to put one together fast.

As always, I look forward to feedback and comments.

What Boomer Women Can Learn About Aging From (Gasp) Older Women

By Emily Esfahani Smith

Members of this authority-averse generation should reconsider their stance on listening to their elders.

"To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living," wrote the Swiss philosopher, poet, and critic Henri-Frédéric Amiel in 1874.

Nearly a century and a half later, the largest group of Americans by age - the baby boomers -is learning just how hard that great art of living can be. In a culture fixated on youth and mesmerized by plastic beauty, boomer women are having a particularly tough go at it as they enter their seventh decade of life. "Turning 40 is horrible. People that say it isn't are full of shit," Sofia Vergara, Modern Family's it-girl, recently said, reflecting our culture's attitude to aging.

What, then, of turning 70? Or even 65, as Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are poised to do en masse for the next two decades? 

As a generation, the boomers famously rebelled against authority- "don't trust anyone over 30." One thing that they can do now that they are older, however, is learn from the generation that immediately preceded them. According to the CDC, the incidence of major depression in the population is lowest in those older adults. The boomers, by contrast, are the most depressed adult age group in this country.

Ellen Cole, a 71-year-old Harvard-trained psychologist and professor at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., is among the younger members of that older age group, the relatively small but remarkable "Silent generation." Cole is interested in how the lessons of her generation can apply to boomer women. "We pre-baby boomers might have wisdom to impart to those close on our heels who [have begun] to turn 65," she wrote in the Retiring But Not Shy (2012), a book about how feminists are adjusting to their post-career lives.

Born during the trying years between the Great Depression and World War II (1925-1942), the Silents are sandwiched in between the Greatest Generation, who fought in World War II, and the Baby Boomers, who grew up in a more nurturing environment.

In 1953, when the younger Silents, Cole's peers, were still kids, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex was published. By the time they were 18—entering into college—it was 1960, the same year that the Pill was officially approved by the FDA. As they were leaving college, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique came out, which, more than anything else, officially launched second-wave feminism as a mass cultural movement. Friedan interviewed suburban housewives of her generation and found that many of them were dissatisfied with their lives as homemakers. Three years later, Friedan teamed up with some other feminists to form the National Organization for Women.
Cole was in grad school at Harvard when the book came out. "It turned my world upside down. Before that, my ex-husband wouldn't let me drive the car we got for a wedding present, and I never thought twice about it. After that there were conscious-raising groups galore," she tells me.

In those days, Cole's peers were in their 20s and determined to not make the same mistake as the women featured in Friedan's book. Entering the workforce en masse, and defining themselves, in large part, through their careers, they succeeded. Today, decades later, what Cole is interested in—and what the boomer women need insight on—is how her generation of gritty feminists would transition out of their jobs into happy old age.


The 79 million boomers alive today make up over a quarter of the entire American population. Last year, the oldest members of the generation turned 65. For the next 18 years, 10,000 boomers will turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, the average life expectancy for women in America is 81 years old. For men, it is 76 years old. According to Gallup, the expected retirement age in the United States is 67. So, as Boomers enter into the retirement that precedes the end of their lives, will they find meaning and satisfaction as they age? Will they thrive, flourish, take a slow ride off into the sunset?

This is an enormously important question not just because of the implications it has on the happiness of real people, but also for the consequences it will have on society, social services, and our culture as a whole. As Pew points out, "By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they've made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age."

The baby boomers are becoming characterized by startlingly high rates of depression and pessimism. Boomers are more depressed and less satisfied with their lives than both those who are older and younger than them, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review in 2008.

Women, in particular, are suffering. In the American population generally, women tend to be more depressive than men, and this is true of the boomers as well. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1999 and 2004, rates of suicide increased by 20 percent for 45-to-54-year-olds, a far greater increase than that experienced in nearly every other age group. Among women who were 45-to-54-year-olds, the increase was a staggering 31 percent. Suicide aside, boomers have found another way to cope with their doldrums: according to the National Institute of Health, between 2002 and 2011, the number of illicit drugs users aged 50 to 59 tripled. 

What is going on? This is a generation that is better educated, more successful, and has better access to health care than the generations that directly preceded it. This is the generation whose women benefitted from the gains of second wave feminism.

Experts on aging, depression, and happiness are at a loss for what is causing the boomers' funk. One explanation is stress. "Much of the research is pointing to daily stress as a precipitator of their depression," according to Donald A. Malone, Jr., the director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.

Yang Yang, a professor of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill and the author of the mentioned American Sociological Review study, explained it in terms of their enormously high and ultimately dashed expectations: "The generation as a group was so large, and their expectations were so great, that not everyone in the group could get what he or she wanted as they aged due to competition for opportunities. This could lead to disappointment that could undermine happiness," she said when her study was released in 2008.

These two phenomena have particularly impacted the women of that generation. According to George Vaillant, a Harvard psychiatrist and expert on healthy aging, the boomer women, who tried to reign supreme both at work and at home, put an enormous amount of responsibility on themselves. Now that these women, who defined themselves in terms of their careers and children, are approaching retirement and empty nests, they will be forced to redefine their lives and identities. "The women before them," he explains in an interview, "already knew how to be unemployed. The boomer women will have to learn." They will have to find something to live for—a purpose.

From the work of social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James H. Fowler, we know that mental states, like depression, can spread in social networks to up to three degrees of separation, the same way a virus, like the flu, can spread. Does this mean that depression rates among the boomers will spread even further throughout a generation already distinguished by melancholy? Further, since depression and pessimism are not only linked to a shorter life span, but also to higher incidents of chronic diseases, will the cost of the end-of-life care for boomers be even higher than expected? Health care costs are a rising concern to the boomer generation. People who are happier tend to be healthier, so combating boomer malaise may be one way to reign in their health care costs. 


This brings us back to Cole and her generation of women. Many of them have turned 70 or are on the cusp of it. For nearly two years, Cole has been working with a colleague and childhood friend, Jane Giddan, to find out how those septuagenarian women are faring, and they plan on turning their research into a book. 

According to a 2002 American Geriatrics Society study of people aged 65 to 100, "More than 50 percent of participants felt it was an expected part of aging to become depressed, to become more dependent, to have more aches and pains, to have less ability to have sex, and to have less energy." Cole wanted to find the exceptions—the ones for whom aging went well.

"Seventy is a major milestone for women—a wake up call," Cole says. She would disagree with Shakespeare's designation of old age as a "second childhood." Rather, "it's a fabulously rich period of life." In a blog post, she wrote, "I'm tickled to think of myself as an old lady." At 70, Cole says, women start thinking about how they want to spend the rest of their lives. It's the age at which, according to Pew, most women think "old age" begins.

Bringing 70-year-old women into small groups, Cole and Giddan started having conversations with them about old age, becoming grandmothers, leaving careers behind, their husbands. They started a website called, where other women from around the world could post their stories and concerns about getting old. The two were after the secrets of aging gracefully—of living the good life until the very end. In the process, Cole has learned several lessons that dovetail with the broader psychological research about aging.

First is accepting old age. Referring to the boomers and the youth-oriented culture they created, Cole says, "If you're reveling in youth, imagine how scared you will be to grow old yourself. I want to celebrate aging and wisdom and how old I am, and I want to know how old other people are too," Cole told me in an interview.
There are positive sides to being old, after all. Erik Erikson, the pioneering psychologist who researched life phases and coined the term "identity crisis," argued that aging is a process of development and progress, not decline. The wisdom of the septuagenarians that he interviewed when he was alive underlines that point. Here is what some of them said: "patience is one thing you know better when you're old than when you're young," "nothing shakes me anymore," and "now I can see both sides."

One woman in Cole's group, a 69-year old woman named Carol, has approached aging with good humor. A slim and long-legged woman when she was younger—"There was neither a skirt too short nor a bikini too skimpy for me to wear," she said—she is now coming to terms with how her body is changing. "All of the hours I spend at the gym and walking aren't getting me back there either." But rather than despair over this fact, she laughed it off and accepted it:

Recently my husband and I were driving down a residential street on which the local municipality had erected signs intended to alert drivers that they needed to slow down and drive cautiously in this neighborhood. The sign said 'Thickly Settled.' The meaning, of course, is that there are lots of people, kids, dogs, etc. in the vicinity. I took one look at it and loudly said 'that's me—that exactly describes me.' Henceforth, forever and ever, I shall think of (and refer to) myself as 'Thickly Settled.' A perfect description for a slightly past middle aged body.

Second, banish the thought of "retirement." The women Cole spoke to, she said, are engaged as ever and doing meaningful work—whether volunteering, being with their grand kids, or working for pay. Just because you're eligible for Medicare and Social Security doesn't mean that you should stop working. 

To understand the importance of this, consider the case of Okinawa, Japan, one of the world's "Blue Zones," the world's densest clusters of centenarians where the elderly have been remarkably successful at aging. Okinawa has the largest percentage of female centenarians in the world. In the U.S., there are 10-20 centenarians per 100,000 people; in Okinawa, there are 50 per 100,000, and 90 percent of them are women. The centenarians have one fifth the rate of certain cancers and heart disease, which kill 75 percent of Americans over 65. 

In Okinawa, as in other Blue Zones, the idea that the elderly retreat into idleness in the mid-sixties, becoming dependents, is anathema. Rather, they are governed by a principle called Ikigai, rougly translated as the reason they wake up in the morning - their purpose.

Third is finding community and immersing yourself in it. After retirement, women risk losing their social connections at work. As they get older, their friends start to die. As they get more frail, they cannot visit with their friends and family as much.

The simple act of congregating the women of her generation in a room was therapeutic to Cole and her peers. It made them realize that aging does not have to be a lonely process, a fact that has eluded many elderly in this country. A study published this year in Archives of Internal Medicine found that over four in ten people over 60 years old feel lonely, which has negative effects on health and longevity. Another study showed that people who attend religious services regularly and frequently live longer than those who do not thanks, in large part, to the social aspect of community, faith, and hope. 

In Okinawa, community is kindled in a unique way. There is a tradition to form a "moais" -a group of five friends that you meet in childhood and remain with you for the rest of your life. You talk, walk, eat, and play together, well into old age. In a presentation about Blue Zones given recently in Philadelphia, the journalist Dan Buettner told the story of one "moai" of women Okinawans in their 90s who get together every single night to drink saki. One day, when one of them did not show up, the group went to her house to see if everything was ok - and it was (turned out she overslept).

The point is to maintain those social networks of support and be integrated into society. The head researcher at Blue Zones tells me via e-mail, "In the Blue Zones, elders are a respected part of society and are taken care of by their children. That's much less common in the U.S, and likely contributes to elder depression." In the places where the elderly are flourishing, it's a safe bet that "retirement" homes do not exist.

In his 2002 book Aging Well, Vaillant describes a woman who epitomized the three factors that have helped the women of Cole's generation find joy in old age. This woman, whom Vaillant calls "Ellen Keller," was approaching the end of life as a terminally ill and impoverished widow. Though by every measure she should have been despondent, she ultimately found meaning in serving others in her last years of life.

Keller said that working as a hospice counselor was "the high point of my life.... The wonderful thing about hospice work is you get so much more back than you give...I've had so much love." Reflecting on the fact that she was nearing death but enjoying life, she said, "Shit, I want to be around a little longer."

Online Job Search Tips for Older Workers

By Casey Dowd 

The internet has changed the job-hunting process for all generations. Whether you are a baby boomer, generation Xer or Millennial, online job searching is key. What's surprising is that older workers might be beating out their younger counterparts when it comes to online job searching.

Generation Y consulting firm Millennial Branding and recently released a survey of more than 5,000 job seekers consisting of baby boomers, generation X and Millennials that shows all age groups are spending the majority of their job hunt online, but some age groups are faring better than others. Younger generations are more optimistic than their parents about finding work in today's job market, according to the survey, but they are not as effective when it comes to using social media to land a job.

Baby boomers conduct the most online job searches with 96% reporting hopping online for their job hunt, compared to 95%of Gen X and 92% of Gen Y.

Online job boards are every generation's top job-finding resource with company websites coming in second. Close to 30% of baby boomer respondents reported using social networks to find a job, with 27% of Gen X and 23% Gen Y using sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

I spoke with Rich Milgram, CEO of career network to discuss the findings in the survey and how baby boomers can best use the internet to gain employment.

Boomer: Other than posting resumes on job boards, what other ways can job-seeking boomers find work?

Milgram: As the job search migrates online, boomers must embrace technology. While many have, there are still people who are not comfortable using the Internet, so when boomers suddenly find themselves searching, the Internet will play a critical part in their career path.

Searching for job opportunities on general job boards is a nice way to see what's out there, however, as most jobseekers are increasingly taking that same avenue, the likelihood of establishing contact with recruiters and hiring managers decreases.

Establishing a strong personal brand and marketing yourself will increase boomers' odds of finding a job. Both of these steps are more important and accessible online, yet most candidates ignore this critical area and rely on generic resumes. Personal branding includes making sure that your resume, cover letters and other materials are relevant to every job opportunity and establish why you are uniquely qualified. It also includes ensuring that employers who are searching for your information can easily get a well-rounded picture of your skills and capabilities.

Another tip all job seekers need to keep in mind is to be sure to establish the legitimacy behind job postings and to do research to make sure a company is reputable before submitting personal information.

Boomer: What is a well-rounded job hunter?

Milgram: Being a well-rounded job hunter can be broken-down into two aspects. The first is how one looks for a job. Eighty-seven percent of boomers turn to job boards first during their search, but that shouldn't be their only tactic. Online job searching can be a powerful tool, but don't limit your efforts. Job seekers of all ages should have a presence online through career and social networks . Not having online profiles can hurt their search because companies are increasingly posting openings on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, with the surge in smartphones in recent years, candidates should add a career-related app to their devices to stay current on new positions and job trends.

What most people find challenging as they strive to become well-rounded job hunters is in-person interaction. Our studies show that the boomer generation has an easier time reaching out to friends or colleagues for possible opportunities compared to their Gen X and Gen Y cohorts. This is most likely because boomers didn't grow up with resources like the Internet, social media or text messages. While these platforms have made our lives easier, they have also hindered our communication skills, especially among millennials.

The second aspect of a well-rounded candidate is the ability to demonstrate value as an employee. Boomers bring perspective and experience in a number of areas and they need to balance showing their focus and being a well-rounded employee in their applications. It is imperative that candidates customize their resume and cover letter for each opportunity to highlight to recruiters that they have the precise experience they are looking for. In addition, candidates must perceive the interview as an opportunity to further demonstrate an overall perspective of the company or process that will enable them to be an effective employee.

Boomer: What steps should be taken by baby boomers to create robust profiles?

Milgram: Our study found that 65%of boomers feel like they suffer from age discrimination and while this bias probably won't go away completely, there are ways to create a strong online profile that doesn't give away your age. As mentioned previously, personal marketing and branding is an important skill to have especially now that the job market has largely moving online.

A strong online profile will increase job prospects. Here are some tips to keep in mind as boomers create a resume and online presence:

 1) Shorten your resume. You have two options to condense your resume, either only go back 10 to 15 years in your experience or create a functional resume that highlights relevant skills at the top and then details impressive job titles towards the bottom. By downplaying your titles you'll appear to be a less intimidating candidate to a likely, younger hiring manager.

 2) Choose your words carefully. Avoid using terms like "seasoned" or phrases like "x-number of year of experience." Both hint that you're an older candidate. Also, don't use outdated phrases or include outdated skills that are no longer relevant to the workplace.

 3) Briefly mention education experience. There are mixed thoughts out there when it comes to listing dates related to education, but it will reveal your age so our suggestion is to keep that section short.

 4) Keep your skills current. Regardless of how many years of experience you have, there's always something new to learn. By staying up-to-date in your field with your skill set you'll show hiring managers that you're eager to stay active in the workplace and have just as much to offer (if not more) than those applicants from Gen X or Gen Y.

Boomer: Is there a way for boomers to use social media to research companies and hiring managers?

Milgram: Using social media sites to research companies and people is a great way to get the inside scoop on an organization, but most baby boomers already know this. Most companies have a presence on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and by following or "Liking" their pages, you can learn about what drives the company's success, keep tabs on the organization's latest moves and engage with the brand even before seeking employment with them.

Social media engagement can have a more casual tone than say a corporate website, and can sometimes provide an exclusive look behind the corporate curtain for an insider's view of what's going on at the firm. Information like this can help you standout as the perfect fit when you apply for a position or go through the interview process. When it comes to researching information on hiring managers, LinkedIn is the logical option to make a professional connection.

Robert Kiyosaki – How you can survive the coming financial catastrophe

I’ve provided a lot of posts lately here and to my Twitter followers which describe how the financial crisis is escalating. I’m very concerned about this because we baby boomers are particularly vulnerable. This is because of high borrowings, falling incomes, rising costs of living and increasing job insecurity.

But most of all we are vulnerable because we don’t know how to respond to these economic conditions. And that’s because the education system in the western economies hasn’t provided us with the right knowledge about how we can do this.

I wanted to get Robert Kiyosaki’s view on the current global crisis and what he thinks we can do about it. Here he describes at length (so grab a coffee before you hit play!) how he sees the next few years unfolding.

His prognosis is very similar to my own – we are likely to see a collapse in Europe, due to the unsustainable burdens of failed Eurozone economies on Germany and the ECB, whilst the US is setting itself up for further devaluations of the dollar by continued printing of more money.

But most importantly he describes how we can survive and prosper over the next 5-10 years if we start to think totally differently about how we see our place in the world and how we direct our careers in what is already a massively changed society.

Over 40? Here’s what potential employers are thinking about you – and what to do about it…

Yes, it’s Patra Frame time again!  I really like her great insights and no-nonsense and pragmatic approach.

This film takes a sensible approach to tackling ageist attitudes amongst employers. Not least, you’ll get a better understanding of what they are thinking about older candidates. You cannot eliminate ageist attitudes, but understanding them is the first step to constructing your own plan to overcome them.

You also get some great tips here on how to assess which types of organisation are best to approach and which ones to avoid. Sadly, ageism isn't going to go away anytime soon, but we can apply our maturity and intelligence to combat it.

Reinvent yourself, before it's too late

By  Steve Tobak

(MoneyWatch) The most common and insidious problem people face in their careers has nothing to do with finding a job, boosting their pay or climbing the corporate ladder. It's called inertia. Career inertia is so common it's almost an epidemic, especially among baby boomers.

The problem goes something like this. For whatever reason, you end up on a particular professional path. Maybe your parents pushed you into becoming an engineer or you watched a lot of legal shows on TV and decided to become a lawyer. Then you wake up one day and realize you haven't actually made a career decision in 20 or 30 years.

Thinking back over your career, it seems as though everything just sort of happened to you. You got your first job offer making good money and you were excited. You climbed the ladder until a headhunter or someone you knew came up with an opportunity for you to make more money. And so it goes. Here you are.

That's all well and good if that serendipitous path somehow resulted in you being a fabulously successful and happy top executive or something similar. The far more likely scenario is that your career path could just as easily have happened to someone else. And the results were somewhat less than stellar.

That's because it wasn't really you making big decisions about what you want to do with your life. It was you jumping on the next opportunity that presented itself. It may have even seemed as if you were taking risks and "going for it" when, in reality, you were just choosing the path of least resistance from a very limited set of options.

I've known lots and lots of people who succumbed to career inertia. Some figure it out, usually as the result of a personal crisis of some sort, and somehow manage to get off the treadmill and reinvent themselves before it's too late. Others find themselves locked onto a course that flatlined long ago or live in a constant state of denial filled with one excuse after another.

The only way I know of to avoid that fate is to look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Is this really what I want to do with my life?" Then you have to have the courage to actually listen to the answer and act on it. Sure, that means you have to be honest with yourself, painful as that may be. And yes, it's scary to change, I know. But you know what? Waking up one day and realizing you wasted the only life you have is way, way worse.

The secret to getting a job in a recession

Here’s a  really good presentation from Jill Konrath, which I think is essential viewing for anyone looking to find a great job fast.

I continually read stories about how older workers in particular apply for hundreds of jobs without success. The cumulative effect of one rejection after another eventually destroys the self confidence of even the most resilient applicant.

This presentation explains why applying for jobs in the present economic situation is almost guaranteed to fail.  But  new jobs are being created every day and if you know the tricks, you can secure one of them.

It just requires different thinking and different tactics on your part.

Just watch this and discover how you can  use these tactics to not only land a great job fast but, better still avoid the lottery of going through the ‘normal’ channels, and actually create your own job!

Switzerland: More banking jobs to be axed - why it matters (revised)

Credit Suisse cuts 300 Swiss jobs in local units merger

Here's more on the unfolding crisis in Swiss banking from my newsfeeds. Whilst 300 jobs being lost in the retail arm (ie. the 'everyday' banking operation, not the investment banking arm) of a major Swiss bank may not cause you any personal sympathy or worry, it's the implications which concern me. Until now, Swiss business has been more or less blissfully immune to the rest of the western world's economic woes.

You may very well not have any sympathy for these people; you may even think it's no less than what they deserve. But I think that misses the point (personally I do not think the people who serve me at the counter in my bank have any responsibility for the actions of other parts of their organsation and they certainly haven't ever been rewarded with big bonuses or even remotely generous salaries).

No, my concern is that if even the Swiss economy is now starting to wobble (as I reported here last week), it's a worrying sign that we are moving one step closer to the global economic meltdown I describe here

ZURICH | Fri Nov 9, 2012 

(Reuters) - Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) is to merge its retail and private banking arms in Switzerland from January, cutting 300 jobs at the Swiss bank to save 50 million Swiss francs ($53 million).

The restructuring is part of an extra 1 billion-franc cost-cutting campaign announced by Credit Suisse two weeks ago as it seeks to boost profits and strengthen its balance sheet.

The current head of Swiss retail operations, Christoph Brunner, will lead the streamlined unit, the bank said."I am convinced that we can fulfill our performance promise even more effectively with this move, ensure we are close to our clients, and ultimately secure and expand our market position," global private banking head Hans-Ulrich Meister said in a memo to staff seen by Reuters.

Meister's move will feed fears of a widening cull of Swiss bankers after domestic rival UBS (UBSN.VX) said last week that 2,500 of an overall 10,000 job cuts will be made in Switzerland.

UBS is winding down its fixed income business and returning to its private banking roots.

Julius Baer (BAER.VX) is also expected to cut some jobs in Switzerland as part of an overall reduction of 1,000 jobs, as it seeks to rein in costs following its purchase of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's (BAC.N) international wealth management business.

At Credit Suisse, Rolf Boegli, who is currently operating chief at the private bank, will lead a separate unit serving ultra-wealthy clients in Switzerland - typically those with more than $50 million in bankable assets - as well as asset managers.

The current head of private banking in Switzerland, Arthur Vayloyan, will leave Credit Suisse, the bank said. Vayloyan wasn't immediately available for comment.

Credit Suisse is targeting 4 billion francs in cost savings by 2015, up from a goal of 3 billion francs it set in July and an earlier figure of 2 billion.

The bank, which is already cutting 3,500 staff or 7 percent of its workforce, said job losses would be inevitable to achieve the extra savings, but until now have not detailed how many more staff would go.

"The lack of far-sightedness surprises us, given banks tend to be very resourceful when it comes to maximizing their profits," workers' lobby group Employees Switzerland said in reaction. ($1=0.9477 Swiss francs)

Age discrimination - who is right?

By Neil Patrick

Here’s an interesting  film that sets out both sides of the debate about age discrimination in the workplace.

On the one hand, there’s the question about whether a mature person brings more value. On the other hand why shouldn’t an employer have the right to do whatever they see fit to run their business as efficiently as they can? I’ve written plenty elsewhere on this blog about this question.

My view is that the uncomfortable fact is that the law is a bad place to put our trust in fair treatment. We all know that in practice, law isn’t about justice. It’s about money and who can afford the best legal team. Usually in employment litigation, that’s the employer not the employee.

So it cannot be a good strategy to put our trust in legal redress if we  have suffered or risk suffering age discrimination. The unfortunate fact remains that once we pass 40 we are increasingly vulnerable with every year that passes.

The only solution is that we must have a back up plan in place to secure our income, temporarily or permanently  if we face the loss of our job. 

Job prospects in Europe are doomed - here’s why

By Neil Patrick

I provide below the transcript of a speech given yesterday by the European Commissioner responsible for Employment and Social affairs at the European Commission. Laszlo Andor is a Hungarian economist, socialist (not that I have anything against socialists per se) and now a senior EU politician.

In his speech, he sets out how the EC aims to resolve the jobs crisis in Europe.

It’s a longish piece to read but I urge you to do so, because it proves to me why the EC will ensure that Europe cannot now recover from its economic death plunge.

You will see that the foundations he sets out for creating jobs in Europe revolve around three points:

1. Investing in improved skills and training for workers

2. Increasing labour mobility in the Eurozone

3. Increased EC governance and intervention in Eurozone economies

Laszlo Andor is I am sure an intelligent and well-intentioned man. But a glance at his resume proves all I need to know about him. He’s an economist of the kind whose view of the world is totally detached from the human dimension. He has spent his entire career in the worlds of academia and politics. Through the EC, he can pull on the ‘big levers’ of enormous budgets and legislative powers.

The key point is that even if the EC was able to effectively drive the implementation of European job creation programmes (which I personally doubt), the measures above will:

1. Do nothing to stimulate global or local demand for European goods and services, without which any job creation is ‘hollow’, artificial and unsustainable.

2. Due to the inefficiency and complexity of implementing a pan European policy across still independant sovereign states, these measures will be slow, difficult and extremely costly to implement.

Finally, and most importantly we are dealing with people. In my view, people are not pawns to be moved around like pieces in a game. They are unique individuals with personal and usually very local family and social ties. For sure, the young, skilled and ambitious are a more mobile group than average, but they do not typify the majority of European workers. That’s where economists like Laszlo fail in my view; they think of people as a commodity which can be uprooted and ‘encouraged’ to move to wherever the government wants them to be and do whatever the government needs them to do.

So the measures described below in my opinion will result in billions of wasted money, the further growth of the ECs costly bureaucracy and have a negligible impact on reducing unemployment and creating real jobs.

Labour is the supply side of the economic equation. The core problem of the economic crisis is demand and GDP growth. There is nothing here which will do anything to stimulate and assist the competitiveness of European businesses and create real jobs.

I would love to hear what your reaction to this news is. I’d especially like to hear if you disagree with my evaluation – at least then I might be given grounds for more optimism.

European Commission : Investing for a job-rich recovery in Europe

László ANDOR European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

University of Edinburgh 9 November 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to the Edinburgh University. I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to address you on a subject of great importance and timeliness: investing for a job-rich recovery in Europe. 

The macro-economic situation in Europe continues to be extremely challenging. A number of Member States are in a double-dip recession and labour markets are in a crisis not seen in the EU for at least two decades.

What is more, the outlook is not getting better. The European Commission's Autumn forecast, presented on Wednesday, projects GDP growth in 2013 to be only 0.4% in the EU27 and 0.1% in the Euro area. Employment in the EU27 is projected to fall by -0.8% this year and by another -0.5% next year.

Europe was experiencing a mild recovery in 2010 and early 2011, but for more than a year now, growth has been zero or negative, and unemployment in the EU27 has risen from some 23 million in mid-2011 to nearly 26 million at present, and it is projected to rise still further during next year.

The number of long-term unemployed has also increased since last year and reached 10.7 million, which accounts for 4.5 % of the active population.

And a particularly alarming aspect of joblessness in Europe is youth unemployment which stands at a historical high of 22.8 % as of September 2012.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that growth will not pick up in the absence of a credible solution to the systemic crisis of the Economic and Monetary Union. Austerity measures and far-reaching structural reforms have been undertaken by most European countries, but have not been sufficient to achieve stabilisation in financial markets or decrease sovereign bond yields for the so-called peripheral countries. Actions of the European Central Bank have helped a great deal, but no bond-buying programme can - on its own - assure financial markets about the irreversibility of the euro when the underlying economic developments across the Economic and Monetary Union are so different.

And of course there is a negative feedback loop, because those countries whom the financial markets do not trust need to pay high interest rates on sovereign debt re-financing, their enterprises face high risk premia, and economic recovery is consequently that much difficult to achieve.

Five years of the crisis have taught us that the Economic and Monetary Union needs to integrate much more, and by this I mean not only the current 17 members of the euro area but all those Member States which have committed to adopting the euro in the future.

Important steps are being taken to create a banking union where financial sector rescue and restructuring would not be left up to financially weak sovereigns, but there would be a Single Supervisory Mechanism and on that basis also a possibility to recapitalise banks directly from a common European pot - in this case the European Stabilisation Mechanism.

But there needs to be a discussion also on an integrated budgetary framework for the EMU, including a common fiscal capacity that could help stabilise the EMU in cases of asymmetric shocks. Given existing levels of debt and intense pressure from the financial markets, it is becoming increasingly difficult for individual Member States to absorb economic shocks on their own. They cannot easily run budget deficits as a way to maintain demand in the economy.

National budgets have traditionally been equipped with an automatic stabiliser function, meaning that during a crisis, lower tax revenues or higher mandatory expenditure would help restore demand and help the economy recover, at the price of a fiscal deficit. National automatic stabilisers, together with coordinated stimulus efforts under the so-called European Economic Recovery Package have also helped Europe in the first few years of the crisis.

But Europe had entered into the crisis in a vulnerable shape, with already high levels of public debt in many cases. In the absence of common debt issuance, many Member States needed to consolidate their budgets before recovery could take hold, because the trajectory of their national debts appeared not to be sustainable.

Consequently, we have seen from about 2010 onwards that the cushion which national automatic stabilisers have provided for the economy has become much thinner, and the protection afforded by welfare states to economically vulnerable people has also become much more modest.

Many Member States have been forced to cut spending or increase taxes in an attempt to tackle the systemic crisis we are facing.

But unfortunately, so far these efforts have not generated the confidence which had been hoped for. Fiscal consolidation on its own did not, and probably could not, provide an answer to the systemic problem facing the Economic and Monetary Union:

What to do and how to effectively exercise collective action in order to restore growth and reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio when the competitiveness, the fiscal position and the socioeconomic situation of the EMU Member States is so different?

The unemployment figures I mentioned at the beginning are not only worrying because they are high, but also because disparities in unemployment rates have widened between the better-performing EU countries on the one hand and the "peripheral" countries on the other hand.

There is now an all-time record gap of 20.6 percentage points between the EU's lowest (Austria, with 4.5 %) and highest (Spain, with 25.1 %) unemployment rates.

The persistently worsening employment situation represents the biggest worry for European citizens and governments; especially that financial situation of many European households has drastically deteriorated.

Child poverty is becoming an issue for a growing number of households because of insufficient earnings from parental work and inadequate support to households with children.

Lower growth expectations, increased disparities across Member States, vulnerability and lack of trust in the political system are threatening social cohesion, economic development and political stability in Europe.

That is why an effective socio-economic governance at both EU and national levels is more urgent today than it has ever been before. This is why the Economic and Monetary Union 2.0 which Europe is trying to build and for which a roadmap should be adopted by the December European Council, needs to have a clear employment and social dimension.

The European Employment Strategy has been an integral element of Europe 2020 since its inception. Since 1997 the European Employment Strategy has been based on monitoring of labour market performance and policy actions of individual Member States, and on peer pressure among them.

However, the crisis has taught us that we need to ensure a closer coordination of employment policies, to ensure good functioning of labour markets and to make sure that the workforce everywhere in Europe can put their skills to productive use, creating economic value and household income. It is for this reason that we have pushed forward for reinforced governance tools to improve this work.

The Commission's Employment Package of April this year is a response to the urgency of the employment situation in Europe.

It sets out an agenda for building a job-rich recovery and making progress towards meeting the 75% employment target agreed within the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The Employment Package has put forward three ways to deliver better EU governance of employment and social policies:

· First, it called for ambitious and detailed National Job Plans as part of the National Reform Programmes which Member States prepare every year. It has anticipated stronger EU coordination and multilateral surveillance on the basis of performance benchmarking and tracking of reform implementation;

· Second, it called for a stronger involvement of the social partners in the European Semester, and for tripartite exchanges with the social partners on EU wage developments and the implications for domestic demand, competitiveness, unemployment and inequalities;

· Thirdly, it emphasised the need for a closer link between Member States' employment policies and the way they use funding from the EU budget.

The Employment Package puts forward a new jobs-centred approach where a dynamic European labour market functions as a source of sustainable and inclusive growth.

Let's not forget that Europe's workforce is a, if not the, major source of growth, and we need to do all we can to ensure that it realises its potential.

We need to invest in people's skills, because our present economic crisis in combination with longer-term structural trends necessitates a massive reallocation of human resources within the economy from activities that are not sustainable to those that are.

We need to invest in skills because Europe's workforce is ageing and shrinking and the only way we can maintain prosperity in the years and decades to come is by increasing employment rates and improving productivity.

And we need to invest in skills because despite today's serious unemployment situation, there are sectors and occupations in Member States or regions where vacancies are unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. In order to help orientate skills investments within the EU's Member States and regions, the Commission will launch an EU Skills Panorama, which will present information from both EU and Member State sources on short- and medium-term skills needs, supply and mismatches.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have spoken about stronger socio-economic governance and also the need to align public spending more closely with policy priorities. This has been a leitmotif of the Commission's proposals for the EU's budgetary framework for 2014-2020. It is also a crucial point in the run-up to the European Council summit in two weeks which will be devoted to the EU's multiannual budget.

Let me therefore address this in the last few minutes of my speech.

In the current context of austerity measures the EU budget has an important role to play in supporting a recovery, as it is predominantly an investment budget. EU Structural and Cohesion Funds are important resources for investment to boost innovation, improve energy efficiency, improve transport inter-connections, up-skill and re-skill people, help SMEs to develop, and ensure that every person has an opportunity to contribute to the economy and society.

Let me highlight here the role of the European Social Fund, for which I am responsible and which is the EU's main tool for investment in human capital, labour market functioning and social inclusion.

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Social Fund has been investing €4.5 billion across the United Kingdom. The Fund has played an important role to cushion the impact of the economic crisis, prevent unemployment and reintegrate jobless people into the labour market.

Ensuring that the Social Fund has enough money within the EU's long-term budget is vital for continued provision of support across the Union to fighting youth unemployment, enhancing people's skills, adaptability and labour market reforms, modernising education and lifelong learning systems as well as stepping up active social inclusion strategies and making public administration more efficient.

At this moment, it remains unclear what role the ESF will really play in the next programming period, whether it will have a predictable allocation, and indeed, how high or low this allocation will be.

The Commission proposed to allocate 25% of Cohesion Policy to human capital investment. This represents concrete and direct way to ensure that the EU budget - and the Multiannual Financial Framework - underpins these priorities, and to demonstrate that Europe cares for its citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Returning the EU to sustainable growth and job creation is the Commission's priority number one.

An agreement in November on a strong and focused EU budget, and in December on a roadmap bringing the Economic and Monetary Union finally on a solid footing will be essential for ending Europe's employment and social crisis.