After two years of looking for work, Walter King is frustrated. He was laid off in March 2008 from his human resources job at a mortgage company. Since then the lifelong Kansas City resident has sent out more than 200 resumés, many via the Internet.
"I've just started to get some hits, but the majority I'm just sending out into outer space," the 58-year-old King said.
King searches websites such as CareerBuilder.com or EmploymentGuide.com, and he attends career fairs.
Another job fair is on the horizon: Helping Experience Work@50+ on June 16 in St. Charles.
AARP is cosponsoring the fair with EmploymentGuide.com. At a similar event recently, companies on hand ranged from Aflac to Lowe's to the River City Casino.
Out-of-work Missourians can find guidance through a variety of other sources, including state employment centers and AARP Foundation's WorkSearch.
State unemployment is 9.4 percent. Last year, 95,000 workers over 45 were jobless. AARP research shows older workers are unemployed for about 10 months, far longer than younger people.
"It's a difficult time," said Rex Miller, St. Louis project director for WorkSearch program. "A lot of things have changed for folks who haven't been looking for a job in a while. Everything is high-tech."
Rebecca Olson, who is Miller's WorkSearch counterpart in Kansas City, said people shouldn't get discouraged. "It's just that employers can have their pick right now and it's going to take perseverance," she said.
Olson recommends creating an updated resumé—leave off dates of employment, and emphasize skills and experience rather than the traditional format of listing employers and length of service.
"We are seeing that people are more successful who leave the dates off," she said. "It used to be about longevity, but now nobody expects you to stay in one place for a long time. Now it is promoting what you can do."
Besides AARP, Olson refers job seekers to resources at the state-run Missouri Career Source and Catholic Charities' Seniors @ Work. She said job placement is picking up in the western part of the state.
State and local funds are available for older workers to take classes, said Glenn Hughes of United Services Community Action Agency in Kansas City. The nonprofit helps students with stipends for tuition.
Talking to everyone you know and tapping into resources worked for Kittye Beatty, who decided to look for a job almost five years after retiring. Beatty, 62, contacted AARP Missouri in St. Louis for help, and friends touted her talents for open positions.
"You have to do some networking," said Beatty, who now has a full-time clerical job with Provident, a family service agency.
Reaching out to others provides comfort for King as he continues his search.
"The uncertainty messes with one's mind," he said. "Isolation is not a good thing. You have to get around other folks and share that energy, to know that you aren't necessarily doing anything wrong; it's just the circumstances."
Traci Angel is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo.