By Karen TELLEEN-LAWTON
(SENIOR WIRE) Older adults have recently emerged as the fastest growing labor segment, both in the United States and around the world. A confluence of factors explains this trend, including low unemployment and difficulties recruiting and retaining talent. Less quantifiable is the notion that our generation is arriving at retirement age with higher expectations and less financial hardiness. Job-hunting has morphed into the new senior hobby. But it’s extra challenging when one is facing age bias in the workplace
It’s a demanding hobby, to be sure. Young job seekers, fresh out of school, are wisely counseled to “meet with their future self,” listening to workers in positions they’d like to hold in a decade. This can set up a mentor-mentee relationship that helps draw the job seeker into their desired field.
But what if the job seeker is older than their potential mentor? Senior job applicants need a different angle to make an impression.
Advantages of Age
The reasons for hiring an older worker far surpass the disadvantages. Seniors generally have experience in a wide variety of situations and deep knowledge in specialized areas. We have learned when to roll with the punches and when to take a stand.
AARP research, “Disrupting Aging in the Workplace: Profiles in Intergenerational Diversity Leadership,” provides a further reason to look at mature applicants. “The relative productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies that utilize mixed-age work teams than in companies that do not,” their 2016 publication finds.
What are ways older workers’ resumes can avoid ending up in the circular file?
A resume for a 50-something could run for many pages, but the last 15 years or so are the most relevant. Concentrate on your highlights: don’t write an all-inclusive white paper.
It almost goes without saying to mine your personal network. Check with friends whose work, industry, or work situation you admire. Determine the roles for which you might be qualified in their organization. Consider non-profits where you’ve been a volunteer or donated over the years, and think about where you could fit in.
Some industries are more conducive to older workers. Again, non-profits are a good fit here. Consider other areas where seniors are a target market, such as medical sales or patient advocates. Many careers benefit from people with maturity and perspective: dietician, accountant, personal trainer, writer or editor, or any type of customer service representative.
Part-time jobs are great for showing your prowess and can grow to full-time work if there’s a match. Tutoring and virtual assistant fall into this category. Other ways to package a job successfully are to offer contract versus direct employment, assuming you have other access to insurance. If you afford to do so without compromising your retirement, you could consider starting a business or buying a franchise in an area you understand.
Some employers fear an older worker may quickly become bored in a job for which they are considered “overqualified.” You may choose to address this head-on with arguments such as, “I’m looking for an encore career in a different but related field” or “I’m more interested in applying my skills in a new area, with a good work-life balance.”
Perhaps your concern is the opposite: a perceived lack of skills. Many women especially find themselves needing supplemental income but feeling as if they’ve been out of the workforce for too long to qualify. In that case check out the senior services in your area, which may be available through city hall, the YMCA, or a community center. Be on the lookout for job-training or resume-writing workshops. You likely have more skills than you think!
If you’re lucky enough to live near one of a number of U.S. sites from Miami to Birmingham to Austin to Chicago, you can participate in an AARP-developed program called BACK TO WORK 50+. This initiative connects workers with information, training, support, work experience, and employer access. Another one to check out is Work Force 50. Both programs work with seniors on skills ranging from designing an effective resume to interpreting an employment contract.
Age Bias is Real
Bottom line, age bias in the workplace is real. Nevertheless, the facts are on our side. We have wisdom, energy, and perspicacity. As with any task, the hardest part is inertia. That’s why it’s important to look inside yourself first to uncover where your enthusiasm lies. Then go for it. MSN
Karen Telleen-Lawton helps seniors help themselves by providing bias-free financial advice. She is a Certified Financial Planner professional, the Principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara, California You can reach her with your questions or comments at [email protected] or visit DecisivePath.com for more info.