I work for the state employment office (for another day, anyway, before I start a corporate job on Monday) and we hear this a lot from more senior folks collecting unemployment. The one consistent thing, at least with those I've counseled, is they don't want to hear my advice. I tell them how to restructure their resume, they say theirs is fine. I tell them to get involved in the community, leverage some volunteer experience, they're holding out for a job worthy of their depth and breadth of experience. And don't even get me started on trying to get them on linkedin. :) I don't mean to generalize, and I'm sure for every example of one who does this you'll have two that don't. It could just be the population I'm working with now, but frankly inflexibility has been a bigger issue than age for my customers claiming ageism.
My answer: Become an independent consultant. Setup an Internet presence and compete with young, less experienced people who are looking for a paycheck. Don't think, old is bad. It's quite the opposite. People in their 50s and 60s have business and hands-on experience they can use to their advantage. Expertise grows with age.
What is important though is that they need to prove their expertise. The Internet makes it possible for the older job seekers through blogs, twitter, and social media. And the tools are free. Here in CT the public libraries teach the tools for free. It just takes initiative.
The key is that older workers must be or become experts in something companies need. Is it easy? No. Is there a fast track? No. Is it possible? Absolutely!
Amy's and Vasti's observations are correct. There is a PRIDE factor with the older, proven professional that sometimes makes it difficult for them to relate to young people in liaison positions telling them this or that about their situation. Some take the advice but many may even feel they're essentially debating with a child--relatively speaking.
Henning is right to suggest that these senior professionals needing to market their expertise by offering to consult and by engaging others through social media. They need to crow about what they know and what they would advise on subjects they're knowledgeable enough to give an opinion. If they don't have a computer they need to get on one at the local library.
Senior professionals need to join professional groups; alumni groups, technical groups and start connecting with potential decision makers who may re-engage them in projects, temp-work, or direct full-time opportunities. They will be happily surprised to find people like me--over 60 and still kicking and networking--and I'm certainly not an aberration.
Finally, Mikal—the 55-65+ professional set sometimes need to be reminded that because of the blatant age discrimination that exists out there—besides getting on computers and networking through social media--they also need to make an effort to get and stay physical by getting some regular exercise going. It sends a signal that you’re not wasting away in a rocking chair—which seems to be the impression some people think about when they think of the elderly. And if you’re twentysomething you may think anyone over fifty years of age may be over-the-hill.
So getting and staying healthy is imperative. Better yet, seek out exercise that not only works the body out but exercise that gets the competitive juices flowing again. Every state and many cities in the country (and many cities outside of the U.S.) have Senior Olympic competitions (you have to be age 50+ to compete) that mirror the Olympic spirit through sport competitions—both team and individual. The benefits are on the personal, physical and team level which is extraordinary when you think about it. By participating you are also embracing the statement that says: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing.” And mentioning your participation in Senior Olympic events, maybe even winning a medal is worth mentioning in the “Extracurricular Section” of your resume. It becomes a friendly reminder that in work or play—you can be counted on to give your best effort. Why? Because someone will notice and may be impressed enough want to connect with you.
I like what Amy said..older workers need to understand that the world has changed, and they need to adapt or be forgotten..another meaning of "experienced" is "set in their ways".
I would also caution them not to over - rely on a recruiter to help them find something.. dirty secret is that companies are picky about who they are willing to pay a fee for. and some recruiters are shy about submitting someone who isn't "25 years old with 30 years experience"..I know, preferences were supposed to be legislatively done away with, but that darned old human nature just keeps manifesting itself somehow.
Best thing is for the older worker to be able to explain themselves well and position themselves appropriately, and then get themselves in front of as many people who can hire them as possible.