Aging out of a job is apparently becoming passe’, as more Americans continue to work beyond retirement age. Whether embarking on a new career or sticking with long-held positions, seasoned workers should follow certain strategies to achieve success, career experts advise.
As previously reported, more Americans age 50 and older indicate that they delaying retirement longer than they expected. Some say that they have no plans to retire at all, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs survey. Their reasons vary, from financial setbacks to job satisfaction to a desire to pad their savings.
“People also stay at their jobs because working is good for your health. Mental engagement and social engagement keeps the brain sharper,” said Kerry Hannon, a career transition expert and author of “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+.” She noted a recent study by the French government that links postponing retirement to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
But career experts stress that workers hoping to put off retirement should actively refresh their skill sets and reflect on what matters most to them.
Hit “Refresh” on Skill Sets
“I think the key point is to really think about the specific job responsibilities that do keep you energized and engaged, because they are going to provide the fuel for the long-term, says Nancy Collamer, career coach, speaker and author of “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement.”
She said every worker can benefit by periodically reflecting on their strengths and talents, which in turn, makes it easier to focus on the most satisfying parts of their job — and improve them.
And one key skill that many older workers miss, or even intentionally avoid, is tech skills.
“The fact of the matter is, and something that is nonnegotiable today is that you need to have tech skills and if you’re not up-to-date, then you’re making a big mistake,” said Hannon. “If you’re not comfortable with technology, take some classes at a community college, ask your nephew, or niece, or kids or whatever you need to do for help, but get fluent in it.”
Tom Long, vice president of marketing, communications & development at The WorkPlace, which offers workforce development services in Connecticut, said that workers who have been on the job scene for the long haul and even for the long-term unemployed can benefit from signing up for a refresher course on basic computer skills at local libraries that sponsor training programs.
Update Online and Offline Networks
“I think people forget about LinkedIn (see related How to Make LinkedIn Work for You), especially people who are over 50 who have the tendency to [dismiss] social media,” said Hannon who added that mature workers are less likely to tout their skills than young job-seekers. By building a strong LinkedIn profiles, seasoned workers shows that they are comfortable with technology, she said.
“Another thing I don’t think people recognize is that if they went to college, there are alumni networks [both online and offline], said Jane Finkle, career consultant and founder of Career Visions. “[Alumni networks] aren’t just for young people, and they can find people in different fields, and often the networks are online, so they can access it through the alumni association or the career office and actually find people in different fields that they can talk to.”
Mature workers should also take a strategic approach to networking offline as well. The difficulty for some is that they may find it a challenge to approach people for work connections, Long said. “Mature workers have years of experience, and they should use it, and always ask for a reference at the end of the conversation,” he said. “Then it’s important to follow up, and call them so they don’t forget.”
Reflect on the Right Type of Volunteer Work
“I tell people who want to stay in the workforce and [for those who] are having trouble getting back to work to volunteer. Do not sit around and hand out resumes blankly,” said Hannon.
Some volunteer work can be more valuable than others, say career experts. People who are proficient in marketing and sales, for example, might be best suited for fundraising efforts or accounting tasks in nonprofits, Hannon said. “Not only do you keep your resume alive that way, you can take ownership of a profit,” she said. “You might get a job at that non-profit, and you don’t know who you’re going to meet.”
Added Finkle: “I think that employers are going to look for some demonstration for skill or experience. If they are going to volunteer they need to identify an area that they’re interested in and would want to transition so that they can show that they have experience and have been exposed to the area.”
Consider New Work Paths
Seasoned workers are committed to giving back to society, and from this, new career tracks for seniors and beyond are starting to emerge, say the experts.
They note that seniors are shifting to encore careers, “which are careers that combine purpose, passion and a paycheck,” said Collamer.
Another booming area for seasoned workers is entrepreneurship, specifically in the support services area, as more people shift away from working full time to contract and freelance work. As entrepreneurship grows as a work trend for older workers, more will need to get acquainted with the appropriate skills. That includes everything from hands-on tasks like bookkeeping to skills like consulting and teaching, Collamer said.
In working with clients and in compiling information for her book, Hannon noted that many seniors, even with years of experience, have an edge of insecurity about their skill sets.
“They are qualified for jobs, but they need the boost of confidence.”
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