The effect that COVID-19 has had on employment is staggering. Nationally and in the State of Iowa, the number of people who have become unemployed is unprecedented. The Older Worker Employment Program (OWEP) at Aging Resources of Central Iowa continues to work in partnership with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services to offer employment-related support and assistance for people who are over age 55 and diagnosed with a disability. This pandemic is affecting everyone, but there is evidence that people in this category have been hit particularly hard.
What is going on?
Some older workers who had found employment prior to the spread of Coronavirus, now find themselves out of work through no fault of their own. Some who are still looking for their next job have been frustrated because it seems more difficult than ever to get a call for an interview, or any response from an employer. Others are rightfully concerned about trying to return to work, knowing that any interpersonal interaction means potential exposure to the virus. In my role as an Employment Specialist, I have talked with people about these issues and a great deal more. There is an underlying anxiety, a certain feeling of uneasiness, due to all of the unknown complications of the virus.
I was let go during the pandemic – now what?
You have probably already figured out how to file for unemployment, but if not, you can find support and answers here: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/COVID-19
You also have probably received a Stimulus Payment to help cover emergency expenses, but if not, you can look for help here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments
Beyond just finances, we have several other supports and resources available at Aging Resources of Central Iowa, and I encourage you to click through all of the tabs on our Aging Resources Website.
You may also want to browse through the various resources noted here: https://iowa.myresourcedirectory.com/
If you prefer to access support over the phone, you can call Aging Resources at 515-255-1310 or 800-747-5352, and leave a message asking to speak to an Information and Referral Specialist.
I have been diligently looking for work. Why can’t I get hired?
For the job candidates I serve, overcoming the complications of a disability, or tackling a new form of technology can be taxing enough by itself. When you add the hurdle of dealing with an employer that is uninformed about best business hiring practices, it can seem overwhelming. Unfortunately the reports of ageism and prejudice in hiring practices do still take place. I believe most employers follow the law and want to hire the best job candidates regardless of outside factors. However, during this time of stress on the system, some cracks seem to be more evident. I have linked three articles here that speak to these issues.
Even with a number of hurdles to overcome, finding your next job is possible. The more you look to improve the things you can control, the more likely the right position will come along. I am ready to support you, or to help you get access to other supports in the community if you don’t meet the qualifications for this particular program.
How is the job search process different now?
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, quite a bit of the job search process had already been taking place online. Now, seeking to limit person-to-person contact as much as possible, employers are more motivated than ever to utilize an online process for hiring new employees. For instance, our local Fareway and Earl May Garden Centers are set up to take applications online, and they still have paper applications readily available. Other employers, including Hy-Vee, will direct a job applicant to their online system. And while many employers still conduct the actual job interview in person, today there are more employers taking advantage of video conferencing tools such as ZOOM, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, and other such software to complete interviews.
Additionally, the agencies that typically provide support for job candidates have seen major changes. All of the agencies I work with have closed their offices to visitors. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and similar staff operate through a virtual setting rather than hold in-person meetings. Support for your job search is still available, but it will function differently for a while.
Who is hiring?
There are still employers hiring in our service area. Whether you want to find a temporary job to get you through this difficult time, or you want to find a permanent job, both part-time and full-time opportunities are out there. You will find no shortage of online sources to support your career search, and I have included links to a few of my most-used websites.
What if I don’t feel safe returning to work?
That is understandable, and it is a decision only you can make. Some well-informed, reasonable people strongly believe that anyone over age 55 and dealing with a disability should not be looking for work at this time. Other well-informed, reasonable people strongly believe that it is safe to go to work, if you take care to follow the recommended precautions of social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home when you have any symptoms.
What if I am willing to return to work but my supervisor says I cannot or should not because I am in a high-risk category?
That is an issue that will need the involvement of your human resources department. If you cannot come to an agreement with your employer, and you need legal advice, Iowa Legal Aid is a good resource that may be able to help.
What if I want a trustworthy national perspective?
There are so many opinions that it can seem overwhelming to know where to begin. A couple of my favorite sources for clear and thoughtful information about topics that matter to older adults are Next Avenue and AARP.
You are your own best advocate, and we want to help you. We welcome any questions or comments. We would be glad to help you walk through the process of opening a file with us so that we can provide support with your job search, or any other assistance that may be needed.
Questions/Comments/Business Partnership Opportunities:
Aging Resources of Central Iowa, c/o Jim Plorins
5835 Grand Avenue, Suite 106
Des Moines, Iowa 50312-1444
(515) 633-9505 – direct line
(515) 255-9442 – fax line