Yale '62 - Job Hunting in Your Sixties - Chris Cory

"Job Hunting in Your Sixties"
By Chris Cory

Though surely not in personality, a good number of us are retiring -- just as retirement is becoming obsolete. With increasing life expectancy, more and more people either want to go on working, have no other way to fund their lengthening futures, or both. Like me. But last spring's surprise was that to keep working I had to find a new job.

Two years ago I had been recruited from a terrific assignment as PR director of Long Island University and editor of its alumni magazine to handle communications for a policy institute in an area with a promising future, longevity. But after seven months, mismatched personal chemistries subjected that job to "shortgevity."

Anxiety twinged as I took up daytime residence at home and started searching. I had unemployment benefits and two months' severance, but was drawing down my modest retirement savings. Besides, I was up against age discrimination, the dark reality behind the standard advice for people my age who want to keep working, which is to keep the job you have.

Yale '62 Poll
Age Discrimination
1) Have you experienced age discrimination?
2) Should age discrimination laws be more strongly enforced?
3) Which part of Cory's campaign do you think helped him most in landing his new position?
A strong network of friends and professional associates
Carefully timed tactics
His optimism and determination
He was lucky

On the other hand, I am not daunted by job hunting. When I was in college, my father started me on job networking with his pals in media. In my 30's a job campaign led to a successful switch from journalism to public relations, and in my late 40's I was downsized out of a corporate job but learned a lot from outplacement and landed a more satisfying position. Job hunting recharges my knowledge of who's who and what's up.

A helpful new wrinkle this time involved dot competencies. Though my posting on the Yale job-matching Web site produced no responses and other sites seemed too corporate to suit my nonprofit inclinations, friends told me about sites like the foundation-supported www.idealist.com. Lo, relevant job listings started arriving automatically by e-mail.

A more important improvement in the search process came from just having been around a while. For instance, old connections brought volunteer assignments. The work kept me from going stir-crazy in the inevitable pauses that developed even though I followed the rules and made job hunting a more-or-less full time job.

My interest in the history of education and a friendship with a professor at Connecticut College, formed when I was PR director there, led to editing his scholarly book on education, The Conspiracy of the Good. Thanks to a late uncle's work for the Quakers, I handled publicity for a fledgling Iowa organization dealing with reconciliation among World War II enemies and got the group written up in The New York Times. It was a pleasure and an education to edit the 34 "Life Lines" essays for our 40th reunion book.

Chris CoryIn all this I found myself agreeably surprised by the knowledge and skill at my fingertips. And the activity gave the old dog fresh tricks to flaunt.

The harvest of my habitual "touch-keeping" helped, too. On my first day out of work my wife suggested I ask the two college presidents I had worked for if they would serve as references. Their quick agreement put influential support in the bank, boosting my morale. The stalwarts of our monthly classmates' round table at the New York Yale Club lured me out of the house and into convivial Cobb salad. Friends far and near provided sounding boards and warmth - and one of them eventually referred me to a connection that paid off.

An old rule of thumb is that every $10,000 in salary takes a month of job hunting. I beat that clock with two offers. Did age discrimination make the process longer? As lawyers for older people lament, it is hard to prove. I did submit several dozen applications and the salary offers represented a minor fallback, but both may be par for this economy.

I now am Director of Public Information for Pace University, a lively institution in both downtown New York and suburban Westchester County with 14,000 students, nearly 100 years of experience in putting new population groups on the ladder of social mobility, and fascinating involvements in cleaning up the Hudson River and rebuilding downtown New York. In some places, it seems, experience is not retired yet.