Older job seekers in the Greater Lowell area have a new place to turn for guidance and networking through an initiative offered by the Tewksbury Public Library.
The library is launching The Greater Lowell 50+ Job Seekers Networking Group to provide free support and guidance to those 50-and-over who are in the employment market because of losing their jobs, a desire to change careers, or other reasons.
The group will start with eight virtual Zoom platform meetings from Sept. 16 to Dec. 16, open to all who reserve spots. If funding allows, the program will continue next year.
For the past six years, the library has offered a weekly networking group for job seekers of all ages. But Robert Hayes, Tewksbury’s community outreach librarian, said officials also saw a need to offer a group catering to older workers. The new group began in January as a Tewksbury-only program, but is now expanding to Greater Lowell.
“Fifty-and-over folks who are unemployed or looking for a change in careers face different challenges than younger people,” Hayes said, citing age discrimination as one of them.
The new group is part of the state-funded 50+ Job Seekers Networking Groups that began in 2015 and has grown to 17 sites across Massachusetts — 14 at senior centers, and three at libraries, according to Susan Drevitch Kelly, the program’s founder and director.
“From my own work as a career coach, I was observing 50- and 60-somethings who were laid off and faced with not only the normal challenges of a job search but the additional layer of age discrimination,” said Kelly. “Ageism is prohibited by law but it’s easy for companies to skirt around it.”
The program’s mission is “to provide a professional but comfortable venue for people 50-and-over to learn how to network and to practice networking,” Kelly said. The sessions, led by career coaches, also offer guidance and materials on particular job-search topics.
“Part of what we do with each presentation is to interject strategies on how to overcome ageism on your resume, and on your Linkedin profile, in interviewing and networking,” she said.
The Greater Lowell group’s meetings will be led by certified executive coach Debbi Hope, and is the program’s first regional site. Hayes said his library decided to expand to a regional group since many of the 30 or so participants it was attracting were from outside Tewskbury.
The Greater Lowell group is also one of just three that are self-funding; its costs are being covered by Friends of the Tewksbury Public Library.
Because of the pandemic, all the program’s sites switched to virtual sessions in the spring. Due to anticipated state budget cuts, some may not be able to operate this fall but in response, Kelly has planned a series of large virtual workshops for statewide participants. Because it is self-funding, the Greater Lowell program will be operating.
Hope, who has led sessions at some of the program’s other sites, said many participants have had successful professional careers but have not been in the job market for many years.
“Often their jobs have come from the next promotion, the next headhunter,” she said. “They haven’t had to rush out with an up-to-date resume or set up a LinkedIn site. And they often need to learn again how to network.”
Hope said she looks forward to this fall’s Greater Lowell sessions.
“I’m thrilled to be doing this,” she said. “It’s a great group and a great demographic. To be able to make a difference in people’s lives means a lot to me.”
To register for upcoming Greater Lowell or other 50+ Job Seekers meetings and workshops, go to 50plusjobseekers.org.
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.