How to find a great career in your golden years

Retirement is not what it used to be.

Whether by choice of necessity, many Americans anticipate extending their working years, according to recent research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

A majority of workers said they expect to stop working sometime after age 65 or never retire at all, the research found.

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A separate AARP study found that 37% of working Americans ages 50 to 64 said they intend to work after retiring from their current careers. Of those, 44% plan to enter new fields.

And currently, about 40% of people 55 and older are working or looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It’s not uncommon for older Americans to reboot their careers,” said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster.com. “There are second, third and fourth acts well into their golden years.”

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Historically, the beginning of the year is the most popular time to look for a new job — job application activity jumps 22% in January — and this year, even more job seekers are joining the hunt, thanks to a strong jobs market and record-low unemployment.

Still, for seniors, trying to jump start a new career, the search itself can feel very alienating.

Here are some tips to pave the way:

1. Study the scene

“Start by doing your homework,” said Catherine Collinson, president and CEO of the Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Scope out your job market and possible employment opportunities.”

From there, take note of the skills required in job postings, advised Kerry Hannon, the author of “Never Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life.”

“If you don’t have those, you need to try to find a way to get them.”

2. Beef up skills you lack

There are certain baseline skills, such as Microsoft Office, that are a must, according to Collinson. “Those are tickets to the game,” she said. Others could be more specific to your field.

To that end, consider a continuing education course, online class, certification program or bootcamp to get up to speed on the latest technology that’s relevant to you.

“It’s critical that you are employable,” Hannon added. “You can’t just expect that an employer will throw open the doors.”

On the flip side, training can be expensive and many employers are willing to bring new hires up to speed in some areas so don’t spend more than you can reasonably afford, Collinson said.

3. Highlight skills you have

To land one of today’s most in-demand positions, your interpersonal skills may matter most – and that’s where you can use your age to your advantage.

Increasingly, employers are seeking employees with so-called soft skills, such as communication, organization and attention to detail, according to CareerBuilder.

In fact, 80% of employers said soft skills will be equally or more important than hard skills when hiring candidates.

Further, nearly 60% of employers said they plan to train and hire workers who may not be 100% qualified but have potential, CareerBuilder found.

“What really bodes well for baby boomers is that they are typically really seasoned in terms of relationships,” said Monster’s Salemi. “Their experience brings a depth.”

4. Polish your online presence

From LinkedIn to Instagram, your online persona is a great way to highlight your professional abilities while also demonstrating your ability to stay up to date.

That includes a great headshot and a polished profile, said Collinson. “If a recruiter comes across a profile with a sparkling photo and great experience, your age is not going to matter.”

If a recruiter comes across a profile with a sparkling photo and great experience, your age is not going to matter.
Catherine Collinson

However, social media comes with pitfalls that can trip up even the most seasoned job seeker, she added.

“There are ways to build your personal brand and your skills and experience that can help but there are also ways that you can shoot yourself in the foot and render yourself less employable,” said Collinson.

In other words, “don’t post stupid stuff,” she said, including selfies at the beach, alcohol consumption or other non-professional pastimes.

5. Ward off ageism

“Ageism is alive and well,” Hannon said. To head off discrimination, “you have got to show that you have energy so you give off vibrancy.”

Beyond a professional photo, “you need to have that healthy thing to fight ageism,” she added. Whether that’s from walking your dog or more vigorous exercise, Hannon advises job seekers to stay active and incorporate positive lifestyle changes into their career reboot.

“That goes a long way to helping you get the job.”

6. Network your heart out

“Companies hire the old-fashioned way,” Hannon said.

Even in the era of online resumes and job postings on LinkedIn, “getting through the firewall is not easy, it always helps if you know someone,” Collinson added. “Networking is all important.”

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That can also bode well for those who have been around the block, Hannon added.

Even if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, reach out to ex-colleagues, friends, neighbors and alumni, don’t be bashful about combing the territory, she said.

7. Get busy

As you are polishing your resume, acquiring new skills and tapping your network, consider taking a volunteer position, Collinson advised.

“Doing volunteer work is one more way to put yourself out there, which could lead to employment opportunities,” she said.

From a local nonprofit to a national organization, there are many ways to lend a hand that often come with flexibility and even training.

“It’s a great way to build skills and experience, boost your network and make a difference,” Collinson said.

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