Careers in Middle Age? Absolutely! By Suzanne Kinzler
The Good News!
The traditional three-stage life cycle comprised of full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement is rapidly fading, and in its place is a unique workforce model where
professionals from five generations work side-by-side. And, as changes continue, more and more
encore career opportunities will unfold, and age stereotypes and discrimination will increasingly
So here’s is your very own Jobseeker’s Guide for The Second Half of Life!
If you are approaching (or have already reached) retirement age, and you’re not ready to
disconnect from the workforce, you are not alone — thousands of professionals 55 and older are embarking on second-act careers. The phrase “encore career,” made popular by Marc Freeman in his book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, refers to a new stage of work between the middle years and true old age. In fact, more than 80 percent of Americans over age 50 say work will continue to be part of their life throughout what used to be retirement years, according to a 2013 survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Reasons to Keep Working
People are healthier and have a longer life expectancy than previous generations, and they are better educated — all of which increases their likelihood of staying in the labor force. Two primary reasons have been identified for why people are working later in life: financial stability and a sense of well-being.
Changes in Social Security benefits and the steady demise of defined pension plans have created financial incentives to keep working. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66, and it gradually increases to age 67 for people born between 1955 and 1960 because people are living longer (the typical 65-year-old today will live to age 85, with more than one in three people living to age 90), it is financially prudent to delay receiving your retirement benefits until age 70, at which time your monthly benefit amount would have increased by 20 percent or more.
Bridging the health insurance gap between early retirement and eligibility for Medicare at 65, the added cost of Medicare Part B, supplemental insurance, and a prescription drug plan, as well as worry about future healthcare costs (the average 65-year-old couple retiring this year are likely to spend $245,000 on medical care not covered by Medicare) all create a greater need for additional income. And, to further compound the need to keep working, there is an upward trend in Baby Boomers supporting their “adult” children into their late 20s or 30s, as well as becoming primary caretakers of grandchildren or aging parents.
However, there are reasons to go to work that go beyond financial necessity. For Traditionalists (those born in 1945 and before) and Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), work has helped define them for decades. A 2012 report from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work cites the importance of still feeling connected and having a sense of purpose to remain healthy, both physically and mentally. In fact, when AARP examined why older workers stay in the labor force, approximately 70 percent said they do so, in part, because they enjoy working. Many people are re-purposing their corporate skills to support nonprofit groups. Others are taking on part-time jobs to pursue new or longtime interests. And still others are pursuing a passion —while simultaneously filling a market niche — by starting a small business.
Is Age a Concern?
Let’s address the elephant in the room: age discrimination is real. Two out of three workers
between the ages of 45 and 74 say they have seen — or experienced — age discrimination at
work, and surprisingly, job-seekers over age 35 cite age as a top obstacle to getting hired.
No doubt there are employers who can’t look past a candidate’s age. However, there are many traits associated with “old” that are within your control. These include:
- Being inflexible and unable to manage change
• Resistance to new ideas and business approaches
• Being unwilling to accept new challenges
• Ceasing to learn and upgrade knowledge and skills
• Resistance to computers, smart-phones, email, social media, and other technology
• A belief that they deserve special consideration because of their status in life
How you present yourself on paper, during the interview, and on the job, can help sway a
prospective employer’s perceptions about your age.
And the tides seem to be shifting. Adults aged 65 and older are a rapidly expanding segment
the U.S. population, and they are projected to make up approximately 22 percent of the
workforce by 2022. While the number of workers under age 50 will decrease 3 percent by 2022, the number of workers age 50+ will increase 62 percent, providing employers with an
experienced, engaged, motivated, and emotionally stable demographic from which to hire.
An Aon Hewitt Survey revealed some impressive numbers:
So, instead of hanging your head — certain that your age will be a barrier to attaining an encore
career — market your age as a plus. Get up to speed on the latest technology. Fight ageism by
being physically fit, energetic, and positive in attitude. And don’t be a know-it-all with a chip on
your shoulder. Stay at the top of your game through effective brand management.
Discovering Your Ideal Career
The most popular encore career fields are found in education, healthcare, and nonprofit
organizations. A MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey revealed that
the desire to do work that enhances the well-being of others is widespread.
“Fully half of all adults age 50 to 70 (and 58 percent of those 50 to 59) aspire to work in seven
areas that combine the seriousness, income, and other benefits associated with work with the
desire to contribute to the greater good. Indeed, when asked specifically to name the kind of
work they would prefer to do in the future, those surveyed named education and social services
as two of their three top choices. Both finished just behind retail work — an area where much
recruitment of aging Americans is underway. Health care jobs also finish high on the priority
list.” If you always wanted to be your own boss, self-employment is an attractive option for an encore
career, as is freelance or “gig work” (independent contractors, on-call workers, and workers
provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms). Knowledge and resources gained
through years of experience may also put older workers in a position to work for themselves.
According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in older age groups have
higher rates of self-employment than do workers in younger groups.
In her book, What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job, Kerry Hannon offers
the following advice on finding a successful encore career:
- Get your life in order. Get physically and financially fit. Change is stressful. When you’re
physically fit, you have more energy. Lowering debt will allow you to have more choices.
Debt is a dream killer. When you have your finances in order, it gives you options.
• Research. Check out websites to get an idea of what others are doing and what jobs are out
there now. Some examples include: Encore.org, RetiredBrains.com, Workforce50.com, and
aarp.org/workresources. Investigate fields that have a growing demand for workers.
• Have a mental picture of where you want to go. Tape a photograph on your office wall of
what it might look like. Journal about your goals. Stay focused.
• Get things moving by taking small steps. That might mean making a phone call to ask for
advice or reaching out with an email each day to make a lunch date to discuss possibilities.
• Be practical. You may need to upgrade your skills and education, but take one class at a
time. You can add more classes as your direction and motivation become clear.
• Don’t lock yourself into a must-have salary. Chances are you’ll need to take a pay cut, at
least initially. Understand the trade-offs.
Does It Pay To Go Back to School?
If you have determined that upgrading your skills is an essential step toward beginning an encore
career, you will want to choose wisely. Although you have decades of workplace experience,
you have fewer years in which to undertake lengthy (and often costly) additional schooling. Set
your sights on finding a career in a growing field that will continue to add jobs and offers pay
that will justify the cost of your education.
You don’t necessarily have to pursue a college degree to train for a new career. Consider taking
online and in-person classes and workshops to fill the knowledge gap or to earn a certification or
credential. Look at your local community college’s continuing-education offerings as well as
trade groups/industry associations that offer coursework leading to certification.
Your Résumé and Job Search
It’s quite possible you never had a résumé — or the one you do have might not be up to date.
Career document standards and formats have changed significantly, and not adhering to these
changes may raise red flags about your age.
Does the content and format of your résumé shout, “I’m old and wanting to retire,” or “I’m alive,
have a lot to offer, and am ready to take on new challenges.” Whether you hire an expert to write
your résumé (highly recommended) or DIY, following are a few recommendations to
“youthanize” your résumé:
Pay attention to 21st century standards for résumé content and design:
- Avoid using the template that came with your computer — it’s outdated and ineffective.
• Don’t tell your life history. An effective résumé is not an obituary of your career, it is a
marketing brochure that sells your unique brand.
• Focus on the last 10-15 years of your career — and eliminate age-revealing information, such
as serving in the Vietnam War or graduating from college in 1973.
• Use words that portray energy and enthusiasm. Instead of “seasoned professional” (aka “Old
Guy”), substitute “dynamic change agent” who “transformed operations, ignited sales,
pushed through new initiatives…”
• Begin with a strong professional summary that gives the reader an overview of your
experience and all you have to offer.
• Summarize your job responsibilities in two or three sentences and hit hard with bulleted
achievement statements that illustrate how you saved companies time and money and
positively impacted the bottom line.
• Show your reader that you are flexible, manage change, and accept challenges. Highlight
projects you initiated, problems you tackled and resolved, and cross-functional teams you
Show your reader that you embrace technology:
• Include your email address (not your family’s or spouse’s) and don’t use silly account names
such as “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
• Include your cell phone number. Don’t have a cell phone? Get one!
• List your computer skills (at a minimum Microsoft Word, Excel, and/or PowerPoint). Don’t
have any computer skills? Learn some!
• Include the vanity URL to your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one!
Prove that you are committed to continuing learning:
• Include a section for professional training and development — and list things that are current
and relevant to your targeted job: credit and noncredit classes, company-sponsored training,
conferences and workshops, e-learning modules — even industry journals to which you
subscribe, or industry-recognized authors whose books you have read.
• List the professional associations of which you are a member. Don’t belong to any
associations? Join some!
• Include links to articles you have published or to your professional blog. What, you don’t
have any? It is never too late to start writing them.
Prepare for interviews by researching the company prior to the interview. Visit their website and
learn more about their products and services, their customers and clients, and their culture and
the people who work there. Look through their social media accounts (LinkedIn and Facebook)
and see if you are connected to someone who works there — or who has worked there — who
can provide you with some insight on the company.
Anticipate interview questions about your age and future goals and prepare appropriate
responses. Do a practice run by interviewing for jobs or companies for which you may be
overqualified or that are too long of a commute. If you start by interviewing with employers at
the top of your list, you may have too much riding on it to manage your emotions well.
Consider starting on a project basis or as a consultant. This often gives you a leg up on younger
workers who are often unable to accept these kinds of employment positions — and these can
often lead to full-time work. Another way to get your foot in the door is by volunteering with a
charity or nonprofit. This often leads to employment down the road with an employer who
recognizes your knowledge and skills and appreciates your work ethic.
Encore.org provides access to numerous tools and resources for “encore jobseekers,” including
The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of
Life, by Marci Alboher, an executive with the organization.
Coming of Age helps people 50+ explore their future as well as connect and contribute through
opportunities — both paid and unpaid — in their communities and provides training to
Life Planning Network is a community of professionals and organizations from diverse
disciplines dedicated to helping people navigate the second half of life.
The National Older Worker Career Center provides experienced workers using cost-effective,
flexible, innovative, and contemporary staffing options for two government agencies — the
Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Opportunity Knocks is a career site with “jobs that change the world.”
Retirement Jobs features jobs for people over 50 (including volunteer opportunities).
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). The National Council on Aging
(NCOA) manages 27 SCSEP offices under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. SCSEP
helps adults aged 55+ return to or remain active in the workforce by providing job training, job
search services, and on-the-job experience.
Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) program. Another program sponsored by NCOA
allows workers ages 55+ to share their skills and expertise with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA). SEE positions range from clerical to technical and professional
assignments as technicians, writers, engineers, scientists, and accountants working for the
environment. NCOA is one of six national aging organizations administering the SEE program
through a cooperative agreement with the EPA.
The Transition Network is a nonprofit that creates inclusive communities for women 50+ in
personal or professional transitions who are seeking new connections, resources, and
opportunities to grow and contribute.
We are here to help you achieve your encore career goals. Contact us at 201-667-2994 or use our contact form.
Mill and the Resume writing team
Suzanne Katz Kinzler
LinkedIn Success To Do List
LinkedIn currently has more than 277 million users in 200 countries and territories around the world, They host 3 million business pages, 2.1 million groups, and 77% of all published jobs. So it’s easy to understand why LinkedIn is the most popular social networking site for professionals, job seekers, and businesses, and enterpreneurs selling their services. About 48% of recruiters post their jobs exclusively on LinkedIn. After the recent Microsoft purchase, LinkedIn is only expected to grow more as Microsoft is certain to integrate some or all of its Office 365 Cloud products with the platform.
Getting to know how to navigate LinkedIn is very important for professionals in active or passive job searches. The following list has been compiled from the collective expertise of knowledgeable recruiters and resume writer colleagues that have spent years assisting job seekers with their career documents as well as LinkedIn profiles.
- A professional photo
- A customized profile URL
- A keyword injected headline
- A profile summary rich in keywords that sets you apart from the crowd
- A concise career story that is easy to understand
- Profile sections structured so that your career trajectory is easy to read
- Powerful action based statements
- Quantified achievements per job role
- At least 50 skills that connections can endorse you for
- Be a member of at least 2 LinkedIn groups
- Have at least 2-3 recommendations or more
- Showcase certificates and highlight your education
Profile Sections Character Counts and Image Dimensions
With the release of the “new desktop experience” for LinkedIn in early 2017, some of the character limits and graphic sizes have changed. This cheat sheet will provide a quick reference to the current guidelines (as of November 2017).
Character counts on LinkedIn include letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation.
First name: 20-character limit
Last name: 40-character limit
Depending on the device being used (desktop vs. mobile), LinkedIn will show the first two lines of the Summary (and then a prompt to “See More”). The preview is approximately 25-40 words (or 200-250 characters) — again, depending on the device.
Vanity URL (customizing your LinkedIn public profile URL):
30-character limit (5-character minimum)
Cannot use spaces, symbols, or special characters
The customizable part of the URL is not case sensitive (JaneJobseeker, janejobseeker, and Janejobseeker will all point to the same profile).
The URL can be changed up to five times within six months (however, changing your URL frequently is not recommended). If a URL has been used and then changed, that URL will be unavailable for use by anyone for six months.
Website URL (links):
Headline: 100-character limit
Post: 40,000-character limit
Job title: 100-character limit
Position description: 2000-character limit (200-character minimum)
Conversation title: 200-character limit
Body: 2,000-character limit
Comments: 1,000-character limit
Maximum Number of First Degree Connections:
Personal Profile Image:
400 x 400
Maximum File Size: 8MB
Acceptable File Formats: PNG, JPG, GIF
Personal Background Image:
1584 x 396
Maximum File Size: 8 MB
Acceptable File Formats: PNG, JPG, GIF