Once Again… How Do You Find New Work After 55?


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Having made a strong pitch recently for doing a phased retirement (“How Much Longer Will You Work?”), I want to expand that idea to a more creative realm. As Kerry Hannon pointed out, formal phased retirement programs are still rare (though everyone admits they are what’s needed).  So, what are your options if you and your employer part ways before you are ready to say goodbye to the paycheck? Opportunities to make an income these days are truly only limited by a lack of imagination.

Twenty years ago, when my brother-in-law decided to be a stay-at-home dad for their developmentally disabled son, he used his college degree and his savvy in accounting to start a tax prep business. It’s a job he can do from home whenever he has the time. Of course, he is busiest during the first four months of the year, but there are always a few clients who need extensions or help collecting the documentation they will need during a major life event, so he stays as busy as he wants most of the year.

At age sixty-five, my friend Tess retired from her job in HR and moved to a more rural area in California wine country. Being a wine-lover herself, she started working in winery tasting rooms, both because she enjoyed learning more about the wines but also because she still needed to put a few more dollars into her retirement account. Having now invested five years into developing her knowledge and taste buds, she now also works the wine competitions. No, she isn’t a judge––that takes decades of knowledge and skill––but there are other jobs she can do at the competitions, and she keeps learning more about wine.

 Another friend, Mel, retired six years ago from his job as an ER doc. He and his wife, Sharon, a nurse, moved to a small town, and though financially they could both have retired completely, they weren’t interested in doing that. Mel visited the two hospitals in their new town and discovered one of them could use an on-call physician in their trauma center. Both the chief medical officer for the hospital and Mel thought it would be a pretty good fit for someone who was accustomed to a fast-paced environment, so Mel spent the next ten years filling that role. Sharon became a part-time instructor in the nursing program at the nearby junior college. Today, in their seventies, they are still working at those part-time jobs.

The examples are endless. If you are in your 60s, ready to say good-bye to your full-time employer (or have already done so), and still want to do something meaningful with your time while also making an income, start by considering who you are and what you enjoy. What are the skills and knowledge you have accumulated over a lifetime? What hobbies have contributed to that skill base? Is there a kind of role you gravitate to?  Nancy Collamer, in her book, Second Act Careers, offers tremendous advice on figuring out what you might do with your time and your talents.

Nancy suggests you ask yourself some of the following questions to get you started down the right path for you:

  • How many (or how few) hours do you want to work?
  • What do you value most about work at this stage of life?
  • Do you want to do work connected to your professional life – or try something different?
  • How can you best leverage your talents and time moving forward?

I like to add some additional ones:

  • What did you love doing when you were young?
  • What hobbies have you taken up as an adult?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What do you care passionately about?

Once you have a general idea of what you might like to do, you can start to formulate some ideas. If you find that you are not getting anywhere on your own, you may want to engage the help of a retirement coach. Retirement Options certifies retirement coaches and they have a resource page on their website for finding a coach in your area of the country. Coaches can be particularly helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed by the choices or not sure how to get started.  

AARP’s career website might be helpful as well. They have compiled a large array of ideas, tools, and resources for finding the right work for adults over 50.  You will find articles, a list of employers looking for experienced workers and even a job board for locating employers who have openings in your zip code.

There are also companies that specialize in connecting experience with need.  Senior Job Bank.org, Workforce50.com, and FlexJobs.com are just a few of the popular job sites where older workers are finding new employment opportunities.  More and more companies are discovering that older workers bring with them not only a lifetime of knowledge and experience, they also understand what it takes to work as a team, they have developed a level of patience with bureaucracy that younger workers may lack, and they are often free to be more flexible with their time.

The resources mentioned in this article are the tip of the iceberg. A 15-minute online search will open up a world of possibilities for working as a 50-plus employee.  And you will have lots of company. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that 40% of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014 and the labor force participation rate for people ages 65-74 and 75+ is expected to grow faster than any other age group in the labor force over the next decade.   

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