Is 50 the new 30?
Employment statistics might make everyone wish they were 50 years old! Recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics peg overall unemployment rate at 4.1%, while the same rate for individuals 55 or older is 3.1%. Given the wonderful “seasoned” crowd that I have the privilege to work with, I know that Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are, on average, better educated and healthier than their parents. That positions them to be active and productive well into their “eldering” years.
At the same time, I know that starting something new at any age can be a little scary. What should you think about if you are considering a return to work at 50 and beyond?
Review your reasons for returning to the workplace
Begin with your personal values and goals. What would you want to get out of the job, beyond the obvious financial reward? Some want to join a company with a compelling mission, others want to contribute their efforts to a worthy cause. The possibility of creating new friendships and expanding your social network is yet another reason to do back to work.
In addition to considering all the benefits you will get from working, be sure to think through the practical aspects of your decision. Would you want to work part-time or full time? Are there certain hours that you would want to preserve for family time (i.e. picking a grandchild up from school at 2 PM)? What about the length of your commute?
Finally, look at the money side of things. What income do you expect to make? Is there a chance that making more money will make you ineligible for certain benefits? For example, if you are younger than full retirement age and make over a certain amount, your Social Security benefits may be reduced.
Define your options
Gone are the days when being a Walmart greeter was your only choice!
There is a growing list of companies actively working to attract “seasoned” workers. As a rule of thumb, look for companies with an older customer base as they may be more likely to be receptive to you. Begin by taking an inventory of your skills. What are you remarkably good at? Think about transferrable skills, experience and worldview that will make you a valued addition to the right team.
Be sure to consider your remote employment options. Many Boomers are comfortable with technology, which means that they can turn any location with an Internet connection and a laptop into a virtual office. Remote arrangements can be attractive if you are looking to minimize your commute, or if a company of your choice is located far from where you live.
Dust off your resume (and LinkedIn profile)
If you are looking for a professional opportunity, you already understand the importance of updating your resume. If your last resume revision was more than 10 years ago, remember that resume formats have moved on. For one, the generic objective along the lines of “To obtain a position where my experience and education will benefit an organization” should be left in the past. The modern resume is all about a focus on results (not tasks or responsibilities) and using the right key words to get you past the automated resume screening software.
Be sure to also update (or start) a LinkedIn profile. This can be an intimidating step, so begin by looking up professional profiles of past colleagues (or even professionals you do not know who are in the right field) as a source of tips and ideas. Remember that having a “perfect” LinkedIn profile is not your goal – building a “good enough” profile with an attractive photo that demonstrates your comfort with technology and interest in work opportunities is more than sufficient.
Back to Work at 50 and Beyond
Virtual job search may be one of the avenues you explore, but be sure to also let your real-life network know you are looking for an opportunity. Be clear on what you want so that you can communicate it to a neighbor or a friend at the gym in just a couple of sentences (vague requests often lead to poor networking results).
Finally, resist the urge to apologize for your age. Some employers still have the perception that older job applicants are just looking for an opportunity to be social and get a paycheck while coasting. Your goal should be to demonstrate that you are not done growing, learning and reaching for new challenges. With a positive attitude and the support of your network, you can reap the benefits of staying sharp, reducing isolation and earning money well into your golden years.
BLS stat reference link: https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm