Elizabeth White’s advice for “Jobless After 50”


Elizabeth White received a lot of well-deserved kudos for her Next Avenue blog essay, “Unemployed, 55, and Faking Normal,” which looked at the lives of unemployed professional women, many of whom were caught in the throes of the Great Recession:

You know her.

She is in your friendship circle, hidden in plain sight.

She is 55, broke and tired of trying to keep up appearances. Faking normal is wearing her out.

To look at her, you wouldn’t know that her electricity was cut off last week for non-payment or that she meets the eligibility requirements for food stamps. Her clothes are still impeccable, bought in the good times when she was still making money.

Now White is back with a new Next Avenue piece, “Jobless After 50? Here’s What To Do First,” which draws upon her new book containing advice, guidance, and resources for those who find themselves unemployed at midlife.

Her first piece of advice is to create a “resilience circle”:

You likely already know one person among your friends and friendly acquaintances who is faking it, and that person likely knows another, and so on. That’s enough to begin.

Approach that person. Tell him or her that you’d like to start a small Resilience Circle to support each other and to discuss issues related to aging and living a good life on a limited income.

Don’t make the group too big. You will be sharing personal information and don’t need a cast of thousands for that (what’s said at the meetings should be kept confidential).

For those in situations similar to what she found herself in, she further recommends:

  • “Stay active.”
  • “Intensify or reinvigorate your sidelined artistic endeavors.”
  • “Keep a journal or several, each with a different purpose.”
  • “Never accept anyone who thinks you’re old.”

Targets of workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse

In a 2015 blog post, I related White’s first piece to the challenges that often face middle-aged workers who have been bullied out of their jobs:

This topic intersects with workplace bullying, because middle-aged workers endure a lot of it. When work abuse culminates in their termination or departure, they often face multi-level challenges in trying to pull themselves together and obtain new employment.

I also cited survey data from the Workplace Bullying Institute “showing that workers in the 40s and 50s are frequent bullying targets” and noted that I’ve talked to “many women in their 50s who have been bullied out of their jobs and then face the daunting challenges of recovering from the experience in terms of psychological well-being, employment, and personal finances.”

In sum, there is a lot of overlap between Elizabeth White’s work and the realities that face those who have been severely bullied at work in midlife. I have her book on order and look forward to spending time with it.


Relevant past blog posts

6 responses

  1. If you find yourself unemployed and there is a local chapter of Neighbors Helping Neighbors in your area please join. It was immensely helpful and supportive to me when I was ousted due to restructuring at a company heading for bankruptcy when I was 58. Despite a dedicated job search so far I have not found a comparable position and depend on a low wage retail job and my spouse’s salary and benefits to get by. I will be 62 next year and am tempted to take social security early but prior to losing my job, had intended to work until I was 65. It is tough out there.

  2. I am glad to hear about this. I stumped for her and spoke to her several times (my neighbor) about this issue in the context of supporting anti-workplace legilation. I said I am helping you because I need you to help me as a woman over 50 without a job. She said to me, “That is over” but I never knew of this.

  3. Having personal experience in this area – I will definitely look for the book. Although I have to say that having a circle of encouraging friends is fantastic – but what we really need is respect for our experience and skill, and decent paying jobs in line with our experience. We need professional recruiters, screeners and their keyword screening software to value our experience. We cannot pay our bills with friendship. In some areas that we live, we can’t even join households to be roommates to save money due to zoning laws. And even if you allowed- without work – you cannot get approved for rentals and you need cold hard money / income to pay the bills. I agree with the earlier comment – it is cold out hear, and it looks colder on the horizon.

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