Retirement may be looming on the horizon, but millions of baby boomers aren’t ready to put up their feet just yet. Sixty-six percent of the more than 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964 either are working or plan to work past normal retirement age, according to the 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey.
Some of those workaholic boomers may just love their jobs. But many are heading into their golden years on rickety financial footing. The resources Americans have relied on to fund retirement in the past – a combination of personal savings, pensions, and Social Security – aren’t enough money to live on for many people. For them, working in retirement isn’t just a way to stave off boredom; it’s also a way to stay afloat, especially as lifespans lengthen and health care costs rise.
“Amid retirement savings shortfalls, American workers are attempting to prop up our system’s three-legged stool by adding a fourth leg: working during retirement,” Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, said.
Baby boomers may want to remain in the workforce, but they face an uphill battle. Long-term unemployment is worse among those over age 55, and when older workers do find new jobs after a layoff, they tend to pay less than their old one, according to data from AARP. Even those who switch jobs voluntarily may face age discrimination. Roughly 64% of older workers say they’ve seen age-related bias in the workplace, a separate AARP survey found.
To land a coveted job offer, older job searchers need to be savvy. The goal is to leverage your years of experience while also showing you’re in touch with current workplace trends. You may also need to open yourself up to new opportunities in different fields or look beyond traditional full-time jobs to more flexible employment opportunities. If you’re a boomer looking for your next job, keep these tips in mind.
1. Think beyond 9-to-5
For those who aren’t quite prepared to fully retire but are ready to leave the daily 9-to-5 grind behind, flexible work may be the answer. Now more than ever companies are looking for people who are open to part-time, remote, freelance, and consulting work, which provide an opportunity for boomers who are looking to ease their transition out of full-time employment.
“Flexible jobs are a great fit for boomers because as they get older, many still want to participate in the workforce, either for personal or financial reasons, but they want to do so in a way that better fits their lives and needs,” Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at FlexJobs, said. “Flexible jobs allow boomers to find work that fits their lives best, whether that’s in the form of being able to work from home, or have a flexible schedule, or transition into a part-time role.”
Older workers who are plotting a gradual transition into full retirement might need to adjust their expectations as far as salary, though. Just over a quarter of boomers say they’d be willing to work for less than their current hourly wage in retirement, but over half of retired but still working boomers say they’re earning much less than they previously did.
2. Stay on top of industry trends
The world has probably changed a lot since you last looked for a job. Make sure your job search is forward-looking, not focused on the past. Awareness of where things are heading in your industry will help you target your job search, since you’ll have a better idea of which companies are growing and where your skills and experience might be the best fit. Being able to speak fluently about current industry trends and challenges also proves to skittish hiring managers you’re not a dinosaur.
“Do your research on trending news, current happenings in the space, and the common language for your intended industry,” Deoné Sulgatti, the founder of Tengia, a job search platform that connects older job seekers with employers, said. “Demonstrating … that you know the leading companies in the space, as well as the newest, most innovative strategies, will ensure your potential employer views you as the experienced asset you are.”
3. Learn the latest skills
Older workers’ knowledge and experience is an asset when it comes to job hunting, but it may not be enough to get a job offer. You also need to show your skills have stayed fresh. If you’ve let professional development fall by the wayside, now is the time to enroll in some classes or earn a professional certification so employers see you’re not working with the equivalent of an abacus in a world of supercomputers.
“[Boomers] need to show employers that they haven’t been resting on their laurels,” Reynolds said. “Updating their skills to the most current being used in their fields right now is a great way to showcase that they have both the experience and the ability to learn new things that is vital to staying fresh as a professional.”
4. Take initiative
You may have decades of experience and industry accolades under your belt, but all the gold stars in the world won’t necessarily make the perfect job land in your lap. If you want a new job, you need to actively court employers, even if you’re a seasoned pro. These days, that means having a fleshed out LinkedIn profile with a professional photo, so recruiters and employers can find you. Your resume needs a refresh and old positions should be trimmed so you don’t look too long in the tooth. Finally, don’t be embarrassed to reach out to your network, since personal connections can land you a job.
“Most people don’t really use their network to get a job,” Kerry Hannon, author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+, wrote for Forbes. “Don’t be reticent about digging way back into your network even to colleagues you worked with three decades ago, or high school classmates, even parents of your kid’s friends. What’s the point of not taking advantage of all the years you have spent in the world – and all those whose lives have intersected with yours who might be in a position to help you?”
5. Look sharp
Appearances matters when you’re searching for a job, whether you’re fresh out of college or a seasoned professional. Older job seekers may need to make an extra effort to make sure they’re putting their best face forward.
“It’s an unfortunate part of the job search, but ageism due to appearance does happen,” Reynolds said. While rushing out to get a facelift in order to land a job is overkill, a few simple style tweaks can help combat age-related bias. If you haven’t bought a new interview suit since the ‘90s, now is the time for a wardrobe update. A new haircut can also work wonders, even if you decide not to dye your hair to cover up the gray. The point isn’t to fool someone into thinking you’re 35 again (no one will buy it), but to show you’re not stuck in the past.