You may have noticed that lately it seems a lot of polls and surveys aimed at retirement-aged Americans indicate that folks are not feeling confident about being able to afford to retire. The recession has hit 401k retirement accounts, home equity and other investments. The costs of health care continue to escalate. People are postponing retirement, and many expect to work after retiring.

With a national unemployment rate at just over 9 percent, can older workers compete in today’s tight job market? Absolutely, say those in the job industry.

“(Employers) appreciate people who have been in the work place and can exhibit the ability to work together in a team,” says Mary LaFontaine, manager of the Maine CareerCenter in Lewiston. “Older workers have a lot of skills, knowledge areas, a lot of experiences, (and) hard skills to offer as well.”

While older workers can compete for jobs, in a jobs climate like we’re in right now says Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains.com, a Chicago-based national jobs resource website for older workers, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

“Unless you have some particular skills, like if you’re a pharmacist or a nurse or a researcher, finding a full-time job is almost impossible,” Koff says.

That’s not to say no jobs are available for older workers. Koff recommends older workers look for part-time, temporary or project-based jobs. These are jobs which often do not offer benefits, Koff points out. Most younger workers are looking for jobs with benefits. Retirees, who don’t need the benefits, have the flexibility to be able to take benefit-less jobs.

No matter what your age, searching for a job is often a drag. Older workers should use Internet job sites, like RetiredBrains.com or Monster.com, contact their local state career center, and participate in job development workshops, say Koff and LaFontaine, but most importantly, they should network and volunteer.

“Networking is certainly, in my opinion, something that is absolutely the best, most effective way of finding employment,” says Koff.

“I wish I could come up with a new name for that (networking),” says LaFontaine. “Networking is daunting. When you hear the word people think, ‘Oh, I have to go to some Rotary or Kiwanis or Chamber of Commerce meeting where I don’t know anybody and introduce myself to complete strangers.’ It could be that but it doesn’t have to be. When I talk about networking, I literally talk about friends and family and neighbors. The people you already know. Make it easy on yourself.”

Volunteering is a great way to network, both Koff and LaFontaine point out. It has the additional benefits of continuing to build your resume, possibly learning new skills, proving to potential employers that you’re still active, and giving back to your community.

Volunteering at SeniorsPlus, a Lewiston-based agency offering services to older adults, is what got John Miller, 63, of Turner, his current part-time job at the agency. Miller, a licensed social worker, retired in 2006 after more than 28 years working in child welfare for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. He began volunteering at SeniorsPlus at the urging of his wife after spending about 18 months “having fun” skiing and golfing.

“It was something to do because, you know, you can only have so much fun,” he chuckled. “You know what I mean? It only goes so far. So, it was something to do, but it also contributed to the family income.”

With his new post-retirement job, Miller went from working with kids to working with seniors. His new job is still in the field of his pre-retirement career, but he uses his social work background to serve a different population.

Retirees often wonder whether they should find post-retirement work that continues their pre-retirement careers or get training in something different.

“By the time you get into your 50s and 60s to go back to school to learn to get a job is dead wrong,” says Koff. “You may go back to school to learn because it’s something you wanted to do or it’s interesting to you, but if you think you’re going to make enough money from what you learned to pay for the cost of that education as well as to put money aside, I think in most cases that’s not going to be the situation.”

Whether you’re attempting to get a job related to your post-retirement career or something new, keep in mind that your job search is a sales pitch, says LaFontaine, so know yourself and what you have to offer.

“Regardless of the job at hand there’s always skills that people have, it just that some people minimize the skills they have because they think their job wasn’t important,” she says. “Every job’s important. Every job can be a profession. We have to allow ourselves to have confidence and feel good about the work we’re doing regardless of what kind of job title it is.”

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer who lives in Bath.