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Retire? More Seniors May Get to Dictate Their Futures

Retire or NotIf you’re nearing retirement age, or you’re beyond it and want to continue working, there may be more incentive to keep picking up a paycheck than just propping up a sagging investment portfolio or paying for the rising cost of health care.

That’s good news for the oldest of the Baby Boomers who have begun to dip their toes into the waters of retirement.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of workers aged 65 and over more than doubled over the past three decades, and with the famously restless Boomers now entering the retirement pool, there is every indication that line will continue to trend upward. And employers may need more of them. Many fear losing large portions of their workforces to retirement and some are offering enticements to keep the Boomers around a bit longer.

For instance, a recent survey by staffing and consulting firm Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com found that:

  • 3 of every 5 employers consider a shortage of qualified professionals their primary recruiting challenge, and
  • 47% of the hiring managers surveyed say their companies will likely consider offering Boomers reduced work schedules as an alternative to retirement.

Another survey, by human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates, found that close to half of employers have either implemented or are considering phased retirement programs, since these companies believe it will be harder to replace retirees.

Very timely stuff given that this is National Employ Older Workers Week.

In some industries, younger workers are not filling gaps fast enough (most notably in construction and transportation, according to the BLS). So, employers may have to dangle some attractive enticements to hang onto older workers.

Current senior citizens have many reasons for staying longer in the workplace. “Financial motivation is a big one,” says Connie Komack, a career coach and counselor who has worked with many seniors. She has seen older workers get the ax just months before being eligible to collect their full pensions, and many others who find that their monthly Social Security benefits don’t keep up with inflation.

Ageism Still Exists

And in spite of their ability and willingness to put in more working years, seniors can still find a roadblock standing in their way. “There is ageism going on in the workplace,” Komack concedes. “Even though it’s illegal, it’s there in unspoken ways.” So, programs aimed at keeping older, experienced workers don't necessarily translate into a willingness to hire older workers off the street.

In previous blog posts, we’ve explored the issue of age in the workplace, and how employers might utilize the talents of older workers to help develop the skills of younger generations through cross-generational teams and mentoring programs. While some forward-thinking companies have at least explored this idea, it’s “not necessarily in the psyche of most corporate CEO-type people,” Komack says.

Time will tell. As more and more of the talented Boomers move into new and different roles in their so-called retirement years (with probably the same enthusiasm as when they entered the work force after college), those CEO types may have no choice but to consider it for the future of their companies.

What job search advice would you give Baby Boomers and senior citizens? Please share it with us.

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