Opinion: Older workers aren’t doomed to low-skilled, low-paying jobs

I can’t stand it when the Walmart greeter trope is touted as the go-to endgame for workers over 50…even if it’s said in jest. This is insulting and adds to the perception that older workers are somehow condemned and devalued.

Ageism is rampant in the workplace and has been for decades, as I wrote in this column: As Trump and Biden exchange aging insults, older workers are suffering. That said, the premise that employers are collectively saying goodbye to baby boomers as a dynamic cohort in the workplace is, to me, delusional, even in times of economic crisis.

Let’s look at some good news first. Older workers are getting jobs. The latest monthly from the AARP Public Policy Institute see
at the latest, employment figures for people aged 55 and over presented it.

The unemployment rate for people aged 55 and over fell from 9.7% in June to 8.8% in July. For men in this age group, it decreased from 8.9% to 8% and for women in the same cohort, it also decreased, from 10.5% to 9.6%. The total labor force participation rate fell slightly from 61.5% in June to 61.4% in July, but increased for those aged 55 and over from 39% to 39, 2%. The number of unemployed people aged 55 and over fell from 3.7 million in June to 3.3 million in July.

And get this:

In July, the average duration of unemployment was 16 weeks for people aged 55 to 64, compared to 22.2 weeks a year ago, and 18.4 weeks for people aged 65 and over, compared to 26.9 weeks in July 2019.

Do they take pay cuts? I wouldn’t be surprised if some are. Anecdotally, that’s what I’ve heard from my readers and virtual event attendees via email. Are these jobs usually offered initially on a contract or part-time basis with no benefits? I imagine it, and it is the future, in my opinion, for younger and older workers.

I am not oblivious to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is causing many older workers who have lost their jobs or been offered early retirement pay. packages
And I don’t mean that employers sit around and say, “Let’s have a plan to hire and retain older workers.” It is not part of an overall program. But for many, it just makes sense. Workers over 50 often have more management, marketing, and financial experience than a typical younger worker, deep industry knowledge, and strong professional and client networks. They are not as likely to change jobs. And age diversity improves organizational performance. Studies
found that the productivity of older and younger workers is higher in firms with mixed work teams.

With the right preparation and perseverance, older workers are hired for a wide range of jobs, from accountants and graphic designers to medical coders, remote nurses and writers.

To all of my 50+ fellow workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, or are on pins and needles your number is next. Take it up a notch, have a little moxie, and show employers how we thrive and stay put in our jobs past 50.

For workers over 50 who are currently on the job, but are understandably worried about the future, there are some things you can do.

Do an MRI skill

How can you refresh or add new skills? It shows employers that you are resilient, curious, and open to learning new ways of doing things and new ideas. You already have many skills in your wheelhouse right now that make you a valuable employee. These include organizational skills, ability to concentrate, self-discipline, communication skills (both verbal and written), time management skills and an ability to work independently .

Technical skills, however, are especially important when working remotely these days, which can mean learning new computer programs and communication tools, such as web conferencing, video chats, and other tools. Free online tutorials are offered by app developers: Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, and Google, as well as Basecamp, Asana, and Trello.

LinkedIn also has free online professional training; then do it Coursera and Udemy online platforms. Consider virtual continuing education classes, a certification program, an in-depth boot camp, workshop, or seminar.

Raise your hand.

If you’re nervous about a future layoff, don’t play it safe and avoid the limelight. Ask for new tasks or volunteer to take on a project that no one else wants. Look around to see if your expertise could fill a need in another department. Don’t get stuck.

“Staying relevant and energetic is the best way to ensure you continue to be employed and productive in a down economy,” the executive coach said. Jeff Munn. “The perspective that an older worker can bring is extremely valuable at this time. But he cautioned: “I worked with an executive who said things like, ‘We solved this problem 10 years ago.’ He thought he already knew the answer, yet he was perplexed when his team thought he wasn’t a good leader.

Munn’s advice: “Be prepared to listen to multiple points of view and be open to navigating a new mission. The most dangerous thing today for an older worker is to be perceived as “on the phone”. If you’re expensive and don’t do much, you won’t last long.

Conversely, you might be logging a lot more hours these days because you fear a layoff and don’t want your productivity to be challenged. “Out of fear, too many older workers might overwork themselves just to keep their jobs when a shift to work more aligned with their fundamental genius, or their skills, interests, values ​​and life experience, would serve them better” , said Maggie Mistalcareer consultant and executive coach.

Mistal’s advice: “You can ask those who know you well in different contexts, ‘What are my best skills, abilities and talents?’ “What impression do I make on you? Ask yourself – ‘Why do people thank me?’ Also check your LinkedIn performance reviews and recommendations.

One of Mistal’s clients in the 50+ cohort realized his core genius was in building relationships with clients. His work for years had involved analysis. “She had a choice — she could work harder to find new ways to analyze data to help her business, or she could do more business development and bring new customers to the organization,” Mistal said. “She chose the business development path, is an exceptional performer and the company benefits by getting a steady flow of client work.”

Apply to be considered for an on-the-job training course

Often employers offer them to less experienced employees, but if it’s an area you’d like to grow or improve in, talk about it. It shows that you are committed to your work.

If you are looking for a job:

Give yourself a faith lift

Pull out your old performance reviews. These will refresh your memory of accomplishments and provide talking points when a recruiter or hiring manager asks you about your previous work challenges and how you solved them.


Who do you know at a company where you are applying for a job? Employers are hiring the old fashioned way. They are looking for people they know, or people they know, who can vouch for you. Do not leave anything to chance. Tell everyone you know you’re on the hunt. Do not be shy. Ask for ideas, help, connections. Attend a virtual work nair is another fairly easy way to connect with recruiters, hiring managers, and career experts.

Polish your online profiles

An employer will do due diligence on you. From Facebook to LinkedIn to Instagram, your online identity highlights your professional talents and your personality. It’s your bulletin board to potential employers and helps them get an idea if you’re going to “respond”. Use a LinkedIn search to find contacts you could send a note to who work for an employer you want to get a referral kick in the door for.

Think about your skills beyond your CV

If you’ve volunteered as a treasurer for your local parent-teacher organization, for example, you’re familiar with financial management and budgeting. If you’ve raised children, you have an understanding of planning. If you cared for an aging parent, you may have served as a CFO, hiring manager, patient advocate, and project manager.


Get out of your head and into the world. Look for work that leverages your skills or even adds new ones. This pro bono work helps explain the gaps in your CV and you never know who you might meet who can lead you to a new opportunity.

Be open to new perspectives

Chances are you’re not going to duplicate your old work. Think creatively about ways to apply your skills in a new approach.

When you land an interview, carefully craft your own questions for your interviewer. For a column
I wrote for Next Avenue, I contacted Laura Huang, professor at Harvard Business School, author of “Edge: turning adversity into advantage. »

In his book, Huang writes about a way to fight prejudice: “We have this impression that older employees are not as curious [as younger ones]. During my research, I’ve asked older candidates to say things in a job interview such as, “I’m really curious about your strategy and how it has changed over time” or ” I’m curious about your vision and the impact it has had on…’

What Huang discovered was that not only are they then rated higher for curiosity, but also higher in technological proficiency and proficiency and more likely to get the job.

And they weren’t hostesses.

Kerry Hannon is the author of “Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start a Business Mid-Life”. She has covered personal finance, retirement, and careers for The New York Times, Forbes, Money, US News & World Report, and USA Today, among other publications. She is the author of a dozen books. His website is kerryhannon.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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