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After working in a factory for over 13 years, last year I finally achieved a life-long dream of obtaining a college degree. It's been over a year since I graduated, and I am still unemployed. Many has told me my problem is my age, which is 53. I have a degree in Sociology, but I'm not sure that has relevance.

I've applied for jobs mostly in the Social Services field. My recent job was working as a monitor for the girl's dorm at my college. I quit in Dec. for a temp position in a factory, which only lasted 1 week. Most temp agencies will not send me on assignments because of my degree. I told them that all I want is to get my foot in the door. I did not go back to my former job because they would only pay me $7.25, even with a degree. I've formatted my resume to reflect my experience dealing with people, but no takers. There's no evidence on my resume pertaining to my age.

The problem is that I cannot even get an interview! What steps should I take to get my foot in the door?

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    I have a Sociology Degree, which is very broad. – Guest May 4 '13 at 23:47
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    Hello Guest, I added your comments into your post to complete it. Please feel free to continue to edit if I've worded things incorrectly. Good luck finding a solution and landing an interview! :) – jmort253 May 5 '13 at 0:19
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    @Guest - I suspect that your problem (with finding a job) is as much (if not more) in the fact that you have a soft science degree rather than a hard science degree. There are a great deal of highly experienced and highly educated people in the job market with liberal arts degrees. You are competing with them for the few jobs that are open in your field of study. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 6 '13 at 12:34
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    @samarasa one doesn't need to HTML to blog. Wordpress and many other blogging softwares handle that for you. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jul 21 '13 at 18:49
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    While you have a Sociology degree, what kind of role do you want to have in an organization? Are you wanting to help HR departments function, advise management on how to handle people, or something else? Consider that while you studied a subject that doesn't immediately map to a career. While I have a Computer Science degree there are more than a few different IT roles that could make sense with that degree for example. – JB King Jul 21 '13 at 18:58
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A person who hired me for odd-jobs when I was 26 years old once said he hired me because I'd be more likely to do what I'm told and do the job his way than some grizzled, 40 year old who insisted on doing things his own way. This is ageism, and it's unfair, but the best we can do is know that it exists and do what we can to avoid it.

There are many reasons why employers like to hire young people. Young people are generally more malleable, like clay, and are easier for employers to mold them into the type of person who fits the corporate culture. Additionally, employers know that younger people are more likely to defer judgement to older, more experienced colleagues; as a result, an employer knows that a younger candidate is more likely to "do what she's told".

In addition, younger workers are more energetic, and are more likely to bring that energy and enthusiasm to the work environment. What's more, this energy is more likely to be used to learn new things. The ability to learn and adapt is an attribute many employers look for, especially with knowledge workers.

Take focus off of age and place it on skills

However, this is a stereotype, and you shouldn't allow yourself to be limited by preconceived notions about your age. Thus, take all of the focus off of your age and place it solely on skills and experiences that demonstrate your youthful ability to learn new things, adapt, and work with others. Being a recent college graduate at 53, you've more than likely spent quite a bit of time working with young people, and this should help prepare you to work with them.

Use a functional-style resume to focus on skills, not timeline

Now, since you haven't been to any interviews, I wonder how the interviewers could possibly know you're 53? If you're applying for entry level positions, it may be helpful to use a more functional resume style, which can help hide your work history and possibly avoid people "dating" you by looking at the resume. This can also help prevent you looking "overqualified" for the position. A functional resume allows you to focus only on the skills you wish to present while taking the focus away from the fact that you entered the workforce over 30 years ago.

Use your youthful college experience to your advantage

Lastly, use those college experiences to your advantage. If there were any projects you worked on with others, consider highlighting these on your resume. This will take the focus off your age and help recruiters mentally place you in the same buckets as 22 year old, bright-eyed graduates. After all, having a degree at 53 proves you're still quite capable of enthusiastically learning new things!

Attend career fairs and networking events

If you're finding trouble with a certain recruiting agency or temp agency, try using another service who understands and is willing to meet your needs. Also, try applying for jobs directly, attend career fairs, and attend networking events.

The networking events are perhaps the most important: I got both my current job and my last job through networking events and career fairs. You never know who you might strike up a conversation with who knows someone who wants to hire someone with your skills!

Finally, I want to add that we hire people of all ages. There are people in their 40's, 50's, and 60's who we've hired who are excited to work with us and learn new things. It was this enthusiasm, that youthful energy, that helped them land the job. Stay positive, and you'll succeed!

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Exposure Experience Expertise

First piece of advice is to find a job seekers group in your area. These groups are for serious job-seekers. They can be very casual or very organized and formal. I got the most value from the more formal ones in my area. The weekly meetings had speakers from various industries, seminars on resume writing, networking advice, etc - a wide gamut of advice for job-seekers. There you will get lot more advice than can be given in an answer on Stack Exchange.

Your current job is to find a job. It takes work. Probably more than 40 hours a week. And it isn't just looking for job postings and filling out applications. It's keeping up with businesses in your area (some business journals give free or reduced subscriptions to job-seekers/unemployed). It may involve going to community meetings (chambers of commerce often have monthly meetings - go to these and meet people).

As someone else has suggested, you have a degree in a soft science. It makes the task more challenging, but not impossible. Your degree does not put you neatly into any one employment field. If you can find out what you're passionate about, what transferable job skills you have (in your factory work, did you lead/supervise others? Did you train others? etc.) and find where those intersect, that will be the best place to start looking.

There's a book called What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles that can help you through this process (if you can't afford to buy it, check it out at your library). Some job-seeker groups use it as a guide. It's a lot of work, but you've already proven that you're willing to work at it. Good luck. I hope some of the answers you're getting are helpful.

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In addition to the excellent advise above I would recommend taking up a healthy hobby and listing it on your resume. It can be hiking, skiing, running, weight training, basketball, tennis, anything your heart desires. In addition, the reliability of older workers is something you can leverage in your favor. Earning your degree is something you should feel proud of. You must have put a great deal of effort into and I hope that the passion you have for the field shows in the interviews.

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  1. Tell the interviewer about your career objective that can fit into their industry.

  2. Explain your real need of job and it's importance for mutual benefits of you and company.

  3. Sociology has many things to do with all companies, resources often don't perform well or don't work because of their personal issues and not because of technically sound.

  4. You can become a counselor and be like a freelancer where companies can get appointments from you to have discussions with you for a particular employee to share their issues to find a way to fix it.

    1. If they target and question your age. Then you can convince the interviewer easily with the same factor a plus point by saying to them, "Since I aged I got experience in my life which could save people falling into a pit, if I counsel them..." where you can say it as added advantage of hiring you.
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A family member went through this exact scenario, and it took some time, but here is what I learned from bearing witness to that experience:

  • Look for jobs that require completion of certification programs, and complete at least one as a way to gain a specific skill within your field

  • Look for seasonal work that can be done in any city (substitute teacher, library clerk, YMCA assistant, etc) to gain experience working with people

  • Look for work that requires travel but is part-time as a way to gain experience doing something that will improve and prove your skills planning, organizing, and scheduling work. Since most people are looking for full-time work that does not require travel, it is easier to get your foot in the door

Specific to sociology, look for organizations that provide paid training in handling a specific disability (autism, speech, hearing, etc).

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