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August 17, 2001
Meet the New Dropouts
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Thousands of laid-off workers age 40 and older have decided to use their between-jobs status as an opportunity to drop out of the rat race for a while, at least, according to the Washington Post.

There is no way to measure how many people are taking time off after a layoff, but workplace and HR experts say the number appears to be growing.

Older workers today are more apt to take some time off after a layoff and not panic, because they have been through it before, said Betsy Friedlander, president of the human resources placement and consulting firm Willmott & Associates in Washington.

"What's happened is, over the past nine to 10 months is there have been a lot of layoffs. That's on the heels of people who went through major downsizing 10 years ago. They're not as shocked anymore," she told the Post.

And many of those workers, she said, will have a larger severance package than younger workers, so they do have a cushion to support them for at least a few months.

Moreover, as downsizings become more common, the stigma once attached to unemployment has worn off, according to Brita Askey, a D.C.-based manager at outplacement firm Drake Beam Morin.

Douglas LaBier, a psychologist, career coach and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Adult Development, noticed throughout the last year or so that many older workers are looking at post-dot-com life very carefully and making educated choices about what comes next.

Often, what is next is not another job at a company.

"The big theme lately is wanting to move away from the kind of life that's totally devoted to career," he said. Midlifers think to themselves, "'I've done that for many years, and I don't want that kind of life anymore,' " LaBier said.

Now seems to be the right time to make the break, the Post observes. Despite the recent economic slowdown, many middle-aged workers have become more savvy investors in recent years.

Roy Gross, 55, was laid off from a top job at Cisco Systems in April and remains unemployed, not because he can't find a job but because he is meticulously searching for and waiting for the right job and the right lifestyle.

"I'm looking at career opportunities where I can take advantage of the skill sets I had but not necessarily launch into the 70-hour weeks I had," said Gross, who just returned from a vacation in Costa Rica with his wife, Juliette, and another couple.

To view the Washington Post story, click here.
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