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Looking for work after 60

Rebecca Crimmins, 61, spent two years trying to find a job. During that time, her mother died and she got cancer. She must continue working to pay off her medical bills.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Eight years have passed since the Great Recession. It almost seems like a distant event. But older workers haven’t completely recovered despite signs of boom times. 

Like Rebecca Crimmins. If you look at her resumé, it looks solid.  

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It shows decades of experience in management in the financial and marketing industry. She’s had no trouble finding a job. Recruiters often approached her. Or she was able to get leads through her professional network.

Crimmins recalls one job interview where she didn’t have to go through a multi-step process like you would today.

“That just doesn’t happen anymore,” says Crimmins. “She was literally basing her decision on someone who had given her this reference about my work, and to basically hire me on the spot.”

Crimmins worked for that company for 14 years. Then she switched to a start-up. In 2014, that business lost its funding as a result of the recession and folded, leaving Crimmins out of work at age 59.

She reached out to her professional network again. She got interviews, but this time, there were no job offers. “My network would be very surprised because from their point of view, I had all the skills, etc., for the position.”

Crimmins had a hard time bouncing back. It wasn’t just the financial struggle. She was dealing with personal losses too.

“My mom died, I got cancer," she says. "I was out of work. I was, you know, 'Oh wow, this is pretty dramatic!'” 

Crimmins is not alone. The number of mature workers looking for work is high. And the challenges they face are different compared to those who are new to the job market. 

Twice a week the WorkSource office in Redmond offers a class on using LinkedIn. The class is always full. People usually come in two hours ahead hoping for a spot. Many mature job seekers come here for resources, training and learning new ways to find jobs.

Marlena Sessions is CEO of Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, a resource for people who are unemployed. She says mature workers may have the skills that employers are looking for, but the skills could use some buffing before they start job hunting.

“Perhaps someone has never done a Skype interview before," she says. "Perhaps someone has never done a videotape or electronic resumé even – that’s where our WorkSource system comes into play.”

Sessions notes that mature workers were able to get jobs that helped them weather the economic storm.

“They weren’t necessarily great positions. Sometimes it was survival jobs,” she says. “But in fact they did get those two and three part-time jobs during the recession.”

Younger adults were left out during that time. But in recent years, Sessions noticed a flip in that trend. 

Last year, 70,000 individuals used WorkSource. Nearly a quarter of those were older than 55, which is significantly more than years prior.

Sessions has several theories about this. She believes that after the recession, many older adults let go of one or more of the jobs that kept them afloat. Some found it was a premature move. But when they tried to return to the workforce again, it was tough. By then, the market had changed. Employers started to look at a broader talent pool, including younger workers.

For Crimmins, the job search became a two-year journey. In February, she was hired by a credit union as a financial assistant.

“It’s been a very surprising process, one that I really didn’t anticipate would take as long as it did and lead me to this place that I’m now," she says. "I feel very hopeful and lucky that I am where I am.”

Crimmins says early retirement wasn’t an option. Her retirement took a hit during the two years, and she’s still paying off her medical bills. But even without the financial consideration, she says she can’t imagine not working. She sees herself working another five to seven years – maybe even longer.

“I like to work," she says. "I enjoy being with people. In the long run it’s about being of service.”

Year started with KUOW: 1994