Many older adults can identify with Phyllis Green's story. In the midst of a successful career where she held a high-paying position as a TV sales executive at ABC, she was fired. Suddenly, she was on unemployment with no prospects -- and in her 50s. Despite her resume and experience, job interview after job interview proved fruitless.
"I kept hearing the word 'overqualified' and realized they could pay two 25-year-olds for what they could pay me," Green says. This was 1985. As Green describes it, she was the "wrong age at the wrong time."
Green had no luck getting a full-time job, so she took any freelance work she could find, including a job at WWHB-FM, then a Hampton Bays radio station. But she soon realized her only way back to the top was on her own.
In her book "Fired at Fifty: A Survivor's Guide to Prosperity" (Teramar Media, $14), Green tells how she ultimately gave up the quest for a full-time job and became a successful entrepreneur. She moved to Florida in 1986, founded Green Advertising and built it into a major player in the area. She sold the business to advertising giant WPP in 1999, but stayed on as chairman, a position she still holds.
Green's book is part memoir, part self-help advice for would-be entrepreneurs and part tell-all. There are vignettes of famous people she worked with, including Barbara Walters (helpful and supportive), Howard Cosell (egotistic and patronizing) and, while working at a small Indiana TV station, a young weatherman named David Letterman (arrogant and very funny).
As the boss, Green has been involved in hiring for more than 30 years, so she has tips on what interviewers are looking for. "Avoid any long gaps on your resume," she says. Volunteer work can keep you engaged and fill those gaps, but Green is adamant you shouldn't use the word "volunteer" on your resume. Instead, list the job and describe what you did, using terms such as "helped train" or "supervised" or "managed."
She also recommends having a presence on LinkedIn, the online professional network. "The way we hire has changed," she says. In many cases, employers don't even advertise they have a job opening and instead scour LinkedIn, looking for applicants.
And those who lost their dream job may have to lower their expectations, at least for a while, Green says. "Your first job is getting that next job," she says. "It could be at half of what you were accustomed to making."