I f you’re fifty years old, we consider you a pup! Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Cher are over 60. Charlie Rose and Jane Fonda are in their 70s. And Betty White, at 90, is having the time of her life.
The average American today is living 29 years longer than he or she did a century ago—but those years are being tacked on to middle age, not old age. Middle-aged people today are in better health and are planning to work longer than ever before. Many have whole new careers in front of them.
What’s more, at present, those over 50 have a lower unemployment rate than those in their 20s! If an older person wants to work, what can he or she do?
- Decide how many more years you want to work. If it’s only five years, you can try to stay in your current field. But if you want to work for 20 more years—as many do—develop a plan that you find exciting.
- Think about how you want to live during those years.
- Marie, a 55-year-old human resources executive realized that 10 or 15 years from now she did not want to end up in a big city. She decided to search in the area where she would eventually want to retire and landed a job there.
- Steve had done what others wanted all his life, and now he thought it was time to do what he wanted. He just didn’t know what that was. At age 61, it took him six months of planning to start his own consulting business. He’s having more fun than he ever thought possible. And he has flexible hours so he can spend time with his grandchildren and run marathons in Bermuda!
- Gerry, at age 55, decided to move from his banking job into private banking, a field where age is a plus. He became a certified financial planner, and is now targeting 14 companies, trying to decide which would be best for him.
- Pay attention to image—get new clothes, if need be.
- Appear energetic—talk about going skiing or hang-gliding (just kidding).
- Be willing to pitch in—don’t see anything as beneath you.
- Exploit your age and experience! “I hope you want a mature person; someone who’s been around the block …” Many companies that are overrun with kids want a few gray heads around to call on the big corporate clients and help the company to avoid the big mistakes.
- Don’t confuse age prejudice with salary prejudice. If people don’t want you because you cost too much, then don’t moan about being too old. Address the salary issue and intensify your search to find someone who is willing to pay you what you are worth.
- Look into organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees. These need people who can hit the ground running.
- Learn new skills now. Don’t think, “I’ll learn after they hire me.” Take courses. Join associations. Consider consulting or part-time work to learn more.
- Don’t use your age as an excuse. Maybe the problem is something else. Try to figure out what it is.
- And don’t give up! Discouragement is the number one job-search killer. Cheers, Kate