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Old 11.06.2016, 16:07
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Over 50 and Unemployed

I am a legal secretary/administrative assistant with over 30 years experience with litigation attorneys. I have been here for 2 years and have had no luck in securing employment - either temporary or full time. I knew that since I am over 50 I would have difficulty in securing employment, but I didnt expect NO offers. In the U.S. I am valued. I do visit my former co-workers and they truly want me back, but obviously I cannot since I am married to a Swiss. I also didn't realize that there are no age discrimination laws here. Companies can advertise for people at a specific age (between 25 and 40 years of age) which is a taboo in the United States. Of course I understand that is not the United States but with my experience, regardless of my age, I would be an excellent employee with several years left before I retire. Anybody have any suggestions?
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Old 11.06.2016, 16:22
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Did you try temping (Adecco, Randstad)? And do you speak German/French/Italian (depending on where you live)?

I can feel with you as I am also 50+ and was let go last year when my employer closed the company in Switzerland. It was not easy finding something. But I am in a different field of business.

Di you try contacting all the major/international law firms? Bigger companies might be easier if you are not fluent in one of the Swiss languages
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Old 11.06.2016, 16:26
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

How do you expect to work in these areas without speaking/writing German fluently? Swiss law is not written in English, it's written in German, French, Italian and Romansch.

Have you made it clear on your CV that despite being an American you have a permit to live/work here? And have you had someone else look at your CV to see if it's up to Swiss standards? Have you looked at being an admin assistant at a pharmaseutical company for example instead where English may be more acceptable in the workplace?
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Old 11.06.2016, 16:31
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Hadn´t checked the profile, yes, German is a must!

A friend of mine, also 50+, an assistant, found a new job last year. It was not easy despite speaking several (Swiss) languages fluently
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Old 11.06.2016, 16:48
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Would you consider setting up your own business?

Some of my 50+ friends have reinvented themselves, often turning what was a hobby into a business or working self-employed. Self-employment bypasses the institutional prejudice against older workers.

Perhaps capitalize on your maturity. Look for a business opportunity where the sense of responsibility and reliability, the wisdom and common sense that come with maturity are most valued.


An example would be my dog sitter:

She worked most of her life doing office work, first in the travel industry and later in various companies. She has always been an animal lover, and her free time was devoted to animals and animal welfare, volunteering with Tierschutz, rescuing privately, as well has sharing her life with a succession of dogs.

In her 50s she had to take time off her job for health reasons - and when it came time to return found that her age meant doors remained shut. By this time she no longer had a dog of her own either. Well, a neighbor asked her to take care of their dog while they went on holiday. And then another asked for her help as well. And another... and word got around.

So she decided 'why not officially work as a dog-and-house sitter?'

She looked around and saw what was missing from the fiend, saw that she had the experience to fill that need, and set herself up in business. She worked with a special niche clientele, where her maturity was a distinct advantage. As a client I look for reliability, someone who understands what responsibility truly means. A mature sitter has a huge advantage over the typical sitters out there, the young person trying to earn a bit of cash on the side who doesn't take it seriously.

She did this for about 15 years, and only now has retired. Because she was the only person offering a much in-demand service she was able to charge premium rates - and did quite well.

---

Another example, but one from back in the US:

A friend was laid off from her MNC consulting job. Again found herself knocking on closed doors, due to her age. So she too got to thinking of what her passions were - and hers was knitting. So she invested her capital in a knitting shop - but using her business consulting experience thoroughly researched the market, found a niche.

She runs a shop specializing in artisanal wools, heavy on the eco, sustainability factor - which is very much in demand today. Her shop is more than a place to buy wool, it is a gathering place for kindred spirits. She runs classes, seminars, events, write a blog, etc. She is doing quite well, has expanded to several employees now. And she has a lot more fun than she ever did wearing a suit and pouring over M&A proposals.

---

So... what are your passions? What do you enjoy doing? Can you see a way to turn that into a business? Think of what you enjoy doing - what are the businesses that support that hobby? Do you see yourself in that capacity?


---

Or, can you see a way to parlay your current skills into self-employment? Could you freelance in your field, for instance? Could you freelance outside of Switzerland?

Another example:

When we first moved here I was not allowed to work here due to permit restrictions. Fortunately an old client back home heard that I was at loose ends and proposed a project. Turned into several projects, each only short term and each requiring some travel - but enough to keep my hand in. Could something like that be possible given your connections at home?



Anyway, wishing you all the very best.
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Old 11.06.2016, 16:58
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Assuming the OP speaks no local languages - which we don't know for sure because he/she did not specify whether it's the case - I see this as an upward hill battle. I think the lack of local languages is a bigger issue than age.

Because of the work an executive assistant does, knowledge of the local language(s) is imperative in my opinion. Especially if the person you are assisting does not know the local language(s). Even if the exec you are assisting is local, there would be many things that you'd need to do where you need to master the local language(s), and, I would argue, local customs.

I'm not saying it's impossible or that there are no exec assistant positions where English only is fine, but if there are, I would think these are not that common, and then you have the age issue - which as I said, I don't see as a huge hurdle, but combined with the lack of local language(s) it compounds the issue.

If I were in your shoes I would really focus on mastering one or more of the local language(s) first. Perhaps, while you do that, you could work as a virtual administrative assistant? (either for an agency or setting up your own business)
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Old 11.06.2016, 17:02
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

I have been learning german since I moved - I am sorry I left that out. Yes I have sent my CV to all the major firms. I also had a professional photo taken for my CV and I have had a professional check over my CV and give me pointers. I am not confident of my german skills though. I Live in Zurich.
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Old 11.06.2016, 17:52
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

In reality, at least on this planet, if you are over 50 and unemployed but still harbor dreams and ambitions you may as well go and top yourself now and save yourself a lot of pain, true there are one or two who get a job in their field of Expertise but for the majority...
Bag packer, dog walker, greeter at Wallmart kind of thing, but jobs like that need at least a smidgin of the local Sprache, so best get used to a life of leisure.
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Old 11.06.2016, 18:15
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

When you know enough german you could also try to find a job in universities as administrative assistant.
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Old 11.06.2016, 18:35
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

I agree with @meloncollie that some sort of freelancing could be your best bet.

I'm in a similar situation, agewise. I'm still employed but desperate for a change. I've spent more than 2 years applying, on and off, for positions in my field. Despite being experienced and well qualified for the roles applied for, I've not made much progress. I'm still scanning the job ads but optimism has dwindled on that front, and I've pretty much accepted that I won't get a job through the conventional route. So I'm moving towards the freelancing idea.

I presume you've done all the usual, sensible things:
  • Sign up for job alerts on Indeed.ch and the other main sites
  • Read through the many threads on this forum that offer ideas and advice. In particular, be aware of the normal Swiss resume/application style with the correct documentation.
  • Network. Check out http://www.meetup.com/. You'll find a ton of groups, both social and professional that would be of interest.
  • Be proactive. Promote yourself to companies and ask to be kept on file. Register with agencies and consultants, and keep nagging them.
  • Make yourself unique. If you're in the same pot as many other well-qualified, experienced people (especially those who are multilingual) you'll struggle to stand out. So work out your USP(s) and try to be different. Don't think of your US experience as some sort of disadvantage, but try to leverage it. You would be useful to a Swiss firm that specialises in US legal/financial matters. They might appreciate someone with extensive US experience?
  • Think beyond the legal/admin box you've put yourself in. You'll have picked up many related skills in your career.

If you have checkmarks against all those and have still drawn a blank, then read Meloncollie's post again. That's probably your most viable route. There are plenty of Meetup groups for freelancers, the self-employed, entrepreneurs etc. I'm certain they would be worth checking out.
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Old 11.06.2016, 18:39
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Your age - while maybe a factor - is not the main issue. Your lack of language skills is. Any anti-discrimination law wouldn't help you. As a legal secretary here, you need to be able to write and proofread legal documents in the local language, which obviously is not English. "Some" German will not do. You need to be fluent. As always, I ask the question in reverse: without speaking English, how easy do you think it would be for me to find a job as an admin in a law firm in the US?

You can try to search for jobs in international law firms that exclusively cater to English-speaking clients, but I doubt there are many, if any.

Suggest you look elsewhere. You might get something as an admin assistant in a large MNC that operates primarily in English (either in the legal department or elsewhere). Many such jobs are filled through agencies these days though, try Adecco and Kelly Services.

I'm assuming you've indicated on your CV that you are married to a Swiss and have a right to work here.

Might wanna try this one though: http://www.viforpharma.com/wGlobalGr...veextern&lg=UK Not sure you have a Bachelors Degree in Law, though if not, experience might compensate for it. It's the only ad for legal secretary I found where German is not an absolute must.
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Old 11.06.2016, 18:47
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Another thought: Rent-a-Rentner

http://www.rentarentner.ch

This is a platform set up for retired/mature folks to advertise their various skills, both professional and hobby, from household help to accounting, to translation, etc. It is not designed as a recruiting platform for full time jobs, but rather for folks who wish to do a bit of part time work. Nonetheless, it might have some value for you.

The great thing about this platform is that folks looking for help here are specifically looking for an older person. You have a ready-made audience of folks who value maturity.

A client seeking that skill contacts the Rentner, they come to mutual agreement. If the person doing the work is beyond official retirement age there is a 'social tax' free amount one can earn in a month, but it is between the worker and employee to fulfill legal obligations.

While this is not a route to a full time job, nonetheless you might consider something like this as a bridge, as a way to get Swiss experience. (Not to mention getting paid...) Again, thinking of your professional skills - can you envision them being used on a project basis rather than in traditional employment?

Again, all the best.
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Old 11.06.2016, 19:36
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

That's made us all feel better... from 50 to "beyond official retirement age". There are rather a good few years in between. I know various highly qualified people who speak the language that got the boot around 50 & are now unemployed. Doing everything they are told & have found nothing. Lots of adverts here state ages as well as male or female. I posted a summary in another thread about job adverts & how they state things they would never be allowed to state in other countries.
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Old 11.06.2016, 20:28
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

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... I also didn't realize that there are no age discrimination laws here. Companies can advertise for people at a specific age (between 25 and 40 years of age) which is a taboo in the United States..
It's probably outlawed in most developed nations but... I'm actually not too bothered by the Swiss approach. Call me a cynic, but if a company wants a 25-40 year old, that's who they'll employ, regardless of whether they are allowed to specify it in advertising. If I'm outside their preferred age bracket, I'd rather know, to avoid wasting my time and theirs.

I actually state my age on my applications for the same reason. Better that they know, rather than getting my hopes up by inviting me for interview and rejecting me once they realise I'm 'too old'. In any case it's pretty hard to conceal your age if you state your full employment and education history.
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Old 12.06.2016, 10:19
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

I completely disagree with the local language thing. In most global/International companies the business language is English. Certainly in my company many of the assistants don't speak German and I believe that many people in our legal department don't speak German. My advice would be to look for positions in International companies that have legal departments, not specifically in law firms (Where local language would probably be a must)
Good luck
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Old 12.06.2016, 10:25
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

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I completely disagree with the local language thing. In most global/International companies the business language is English. Certainly in my company many of the assistants don't speak German and I believe that many people in our legal department don't speak German. My advice would be to look for positions in International companies that have legal departments, not specifically in law firms (Where local language would probably be a must)
Good luck
Maybe, but then the chances of getting one of those jobs are slim. Where I worked, the assistants had local language skills, quite often higher ranking people not, and that is why they needed the assistants.

Good luck OP, a lot of good advice here so I hope you find something soon
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Old 12.06.2016, 10:43
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

When I turned 50, I was doing a job that I enjoyed, but I realised that I didn't want to do it for the next 14 years so I started looking around. My experience was useful to a company that needed someone specialised in my field for the first time. I negotiated a salary rise too.

I now manage the department that I started, having increased the responsibilities that I undertook.

So, there is hope. I spoke the local language fluently though, and agree with others that this is an essential. If I were to apply in my field in the US I would have to take an English exam first, even though English is my first language ! So....you are lucky that Switzerland doesn't do this.
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Old 12.06.2016, 14:48
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

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I also didn't realize that there are no age discrimination laws here. Companies can advertise for people at a specific age (between 25 and 40 years of age) which is a taboo in the United States.
Not only are there no age discrimination laws. NZZ, Switzerland´s leading daily newspaper just yesterday ran a story lauding an employer who deliberately hires engineers aged 50+. The employer´s great novel concept is that he pays only around 100k CHF whereas these engineers were paid 130-140k CHF in their previous jobs.
The ironic thing is that such wage dumping is justified by the alleged fact that these engineers would not find another job due to their age. And the author does not even consider that such age discrimination might be the real issue.
For anyone interested: This company allegedly has 150 open positions in the Zurich area. Maybe, just maybe this could be due to the wages offered....
See page 44 of NZZ´s Saturday edition for details.

OP, you may also want to try temp agencies catering specifically for the Legal market like Axiom. They have an office in Zurich.
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Old 13.06.2016, 16:13
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

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It's probably outlawed in most developed nations but... I'm actually not too bothered by the Swiss approach. Call me a cynic, but if a company wants a 25-40 year old, that's who they'll employ, regardless of whether they are allowed to specify it in advertising. If I'm outside their preferred age bracket, I'd rather know, to avoid wasting my time and theirs.

I actually state my age on my applications for the same reason. Better that they know, rather than getting my hopes up by inviting me for interview and rejecting me once they realise I'm 'too old'. In any case it's pretty hard to conceal your age if you state your full employment and education history.
That's exactly what's wrong: thinking this age bias mentality is normal. A company should look at his/her experience, achievements, education, etc., not if a person is above 50 or with kids. Why a company must "want a 25-40" anyway? That is the same as saying that a company wants "a white male", a "skinny secretary" and so on.
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Old 13.06.2016, 18:36
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Re: Over 50 and Unemployed

Give me a more mature sales assistant, cashier, tram driver, receptionist, secretary, finance adviser...any day! Not cocky, don't spend ages on social media rather than actually doing work, far more attentive and greater listening skills. Perhaps it's time for a recruitment agency across Switzerland specialising in the over 50s?


I have got a handful of friends, brilliant in their field, whose company have shut their Geneva offices or let go of part of their personnel, and the age discrimination is a harsh reality, not a mere perception. They are probably the best qualified and experienced, but also the most expensive in terms of salary, and this does not help.
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