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How To Find Work After Retirement: Job Search Strategies For Retirees

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Donna Rosato, Job Search Strategies
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With Donna Rosato, Senior Writer at TIME MONEY on Career Strategies, Retirement Planning

Job Market Tough for Seniors, But There Are Strategies to Improve Chances

Donna Rosato is a columnist and senior writer at Time.com Money magazine who covers retirement planning and job seeking strategies for seniors, among other topics.  She joins Steve today to talk about jobs and how some people near or post-retirement age are succeeding in the job market, as revealed in part by a recent AARP Public Policy Institute study.  For older workers who have been out of work for 6+ months, the statistics on seniors getting hired are not encouraging.  Rosato nevertheless believes there are strategies which if adopted can help many of these folks land jobs and get back into the workforce with a second career with more flexible hours.  Though the job market has steadily improved over the past few years, it’s still significantly more difficult for older workers to find new work, whether because of simple ageism or other factors weighing against them, including their own dated presumptions and approach to their job search and self-marketing.  For these reasons and more, older workers need to refresh the strategies they’re using to find and interview for jobs.

Setting Off In A New Direction

The first strategy is part mindset, part action, part leap-of-faith.  In a nutshell, it’s trying out a new occupation and leaving behind the experiences and skill sets gained from previous jobs.  Almost 2/3rds of re-employed older workers found work in a new field.  While some were certainly driven mainly by financial concerns, many others sought and found work that was more personally meaningful, more flexible, and less stressful than prior careers.  It’s all about embracing change and being willing to try your hand at new things and also, to be blunt, being willing to settle for less money.

Getting In Front Of Decision Makers Is Key

Another strategy Rosato brings up is being more aggressive in approaching employers directly.  Though the internet is a bountiful resource for job seekers, most of the time it’s not enough to merely apply online or by email.  About half of those surveyed in the AARP study who landed new jobs did so by contacting employers directly in person.  This speaks to the importance of the tried-and-true methods of hitting the pavement, knocking on doors, talking with employees with the aim of getting face time with a manager, and generally being a squeaky wheel.

Networking In Retirement: From Professional Contacts To Social Media

Steve segues from here into a discussion of the role of networking and different approaches that might be used to network.  Rosato notes that half of the older workers in the AARP report who found work said that they reached out to their network while searching for jobs.  Only a third said they reached out to family and friends.  The difference between the two “circles”—and the reason the former was more successful than the latter—may have to do with the fact that older workers tend to have more valuable contacts (currently employed contacts) from their earlier careers.  Being able to reach out to professional colleagues who still work in the field in which you’d like to find a job can make a huge difference.  Asking your neighbor or in-laws, usually not so much.

Circling back to the online world for a moment, Rosato cites the AARP study to the effect that half of older workers believe that online job boards are a very useful resource for job leads in specific industries.  While social media has become an important tool for many career seekers (and headhunters), the study showed relatively little participation in social media job networking by older workers, with only 13% saying that Facebook and LinkedIn had helped them get a job.  Rosato suggests that one reason for this may be a lack of know-how on getting the most out of these tools. She recommends updating your resume and directly contacting people in LinkedIn, for example, instead of simply creating a profile and hoping someone in a position to hire you will find it.

The Holy Grail: Meaningful Work With Flexible Hours

Rosato notes that many people want to work beyond retirement age, whether for the income or simply to do something different and meaningful with their time, but generally don’t want something that’s below their skill sets, is inflexible schedule-wise, or is unfulfilling.  What they tend to want is often hard to find: jobs that offer some higher sense of purpose and flexible part-time hours, so they can strike a good balance between working and being retired.

Phased Retirement: A Gradual Exit From Your Career

Steve asks about the possibility of shifting from full-time to part-time for already employed older workers.  Rosato describes this “phased retirement” as a gradual process of cutting back hours, responsibility, and pay.  While only 10% of companies have a formal program of “phased retirement,” many workers have struck deals like this on an informal basis.  It can be appealing to both sides since employers understand the value their retiring employee still bring to the table and are happy to tap that value while scaling back compensation.

Steve mentions his surprise at reading about “interim executive level positions” where companies hire someone to temporarily replace middle-or-upper- executives.  Rosato explains that opportunities like these really do exist, often when companies are between executive hiring searches or need people with specific expertise to take over short-term projects.  She mentions a couple of resources for those that might be interested in a short stint in the high-prestige, fast-paced executive world: The Riley Guide and retiredbrains.com.

Older And Bolder: Keeping A Sense Of Fun & Adventure Alive

Steve and Donna finish their conversation by talking about another website coolworks.com, specifically their “Older and Bolder” section, which adds some adventure to employment listings by publishing info about seasonal and temporary jobs for seniors in national parks, lodges, ranches, and other outdoor destinations.  Donna says she’s talked with a number of people who’ve taken these kinds of gigs and have loved it.  It works well for couples, she adds, making for a bit of travel and adventure.  It’s also a great way to get your brain engaged by teaching visitors about the park or history of the place.  While these jobs don’t pay much, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having fun in retirement.


Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital.  Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions.  Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.  The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.

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Steve Pomeranz: Donna Rosato is a senior writer at Money where she writes about financial challenges facing retirees and strategies for career advancement.  This is part two, where Donna and I discuss Money Magazine’s responses to reader’s questions.  Hey, Donna.  Welcome back for part two.

Donna Rosato: I am really glad to be talking with you again, Steve.

Steve Pomeranz: Let’s get started.  Question number one: I’m in my 50’s; I got laid off a few months ago; what’s the secret to landing a new job when you’ve been out of work a long time?

Donna Rosato: That’s a real issue for folks who are older.  In the past year, we’ve seen this terrific rebound in the job market.  The national unemployment rate is down lower than … I think it’s 5.3% now.  That’s the lowest since 2008.  For people who are older, the long-term unemployed who are out of work for six months or longer, the unemployment rate is 30%.  For folks who are over 55, it’s 45% of those folks are still looking for work.  It’s a serious problem.  I think there is age discrimination out there, but there is this new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute that was based on interviewing folks who were older and landed new jobs.  We found some surprising strategies that older workers are using to get back into the workforce.

Steve Pomeranz: That’s great.  Let’s hear some of them.

Donna Rosato: One of the things we found is that it’s a good thing for you to try out a new occupation.  Almost two-thirds of the re-employed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation.  That was true for women even more so than men.  Of course, the traditional advice is that, “Hey, you should stick with what you know.” We found that for folks that the change was really a time to do something that was more personally rewarding and interesting, and I think a lot of people, when you’re in your 50’s looking for that second career, are looking for something less stressful and maybe fewer hours.  I think that’s where some of the change comes from.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, but I think that the point that you’re making as well, is to embrace change and not to resist it, right?

Donna Rosato: That’s right.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be afraid to try a new venture.  That was a strategy that worked for a lot of folks.

Steve Pomeranz: All right. What was another strategy that people were using, those who were able to successfully get re-employed?

Donna Rosato: You have to be aggressive.  I think this is probably true of all workers but especially older re-employed workers, almost half of them, when they landed a new job, had contact with employers directly about the job.  That was because …You know…if you apply for a job online, you don’t know what happens to things and it’s …

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.  It’s a black hole, right?  You really want to get out there and beat the bushes and get scuffs on your shoes, so to speak, and really start talking to everybody and contacting the jobs or the bosses directly.  What about networking?  Everybody tells you you’ve got to go out and network.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  What’s the thinking on that?

Donna Rosato: It was very interesting.  Half of the people who landed a new job reached out to their network for leads but only a third of them used personal contacts, like friends and family.  Here’s where the older worker has an advantage.  You want to reach out directly to people who are in the field of where you want to be.  I think older workers have those more valuable contacts.  It may be a waste of time to be talking to your neighbor, your friends about what you want to do when you’ve got very good contacts.  You’ve been working for a long time; use those folks.  Use professional contacts to find out about opportunities; rely less on friends and family.

Steve Pomeranz: What about the use of social media?  There’s a lot of hype about LinkedIn, you must be on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Were they very effective in getting new jobs?

Donna Rosato: This was a really interesting part of the report of the study.  About half of the people who got re-employed definitely found online job boards a good source of job leads and that’s because the job boards are really specific to the industry, not just general.  Only 13% said online social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook were effective in helping them get a job.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.  That was 13%.  Not a very high number.

Donna Rosato: No, and that’s surprising.  Everybody says, “Use LinkedIn.” I think one of the reasons may be is that people may not know how to use LinkedIn.  You have to constantly update your online resume.  You need to directly reach out to people.  People aren’t just going to find you on LinkedIn.  You have to really know how to use it.

Steve Pomeranz: Good point.  Here’s another question.  I want to find part-time work to bring in extra income when I retire next year, but I don’t want to be a greeter at Walmart.  How do I find a job that’s meaningful but still flexible enough for me to enjoy my retirement life?

Donna Rosato: It’s a really interesting question because I think you know that most people say they don’t want to stop working completely when they retire.  Some people want to work beyond retirement age, but a lot of people say their ideal retirement is working, but they want to do a job that is fulfilling but also flexible.  That is a little harder to find.  If you want something that is flexible, it may not be the thing that might be the most valued by an employer.  Most employers want you to have your nose to the grindstone.

Steve Pomeranz: Of course.

Donna Rosato: I think some people just want to bring in some income.  Some people want to just do something different.  Most people don’t want to go from a professional career to something that’s sort of mindless and boring.

Steve Pomeranz: What about the idea of, with your current employer, downshifting to part-time?  Is that realistic?

Donna Rosato: I’ve found a couple of pieces on—there’s a traditional name for it—called phased retirement, where you stay with your employer and you sort of ease into it, cutting back your hours, maybe giving up some duties like managing people, and just focusing on the core of what you do.  Very few employers have formal programs.  I think about 10%.  When I’ve interviewed people, I’ve found lots of people who were able to do this on an informal basis with their employer.  When you downshift, you give up money.  You’re not going to be able to work fewer hours and get the same pay, so you really have to run the numbers and see if that makes sense. You’re a known quantity to your employer.  You can still add value.  It can be a win-win for them if they have to pay you less.

Steve Pomeranz: One of the answers to this question surprised me, and I’ll just read part of it: “Fill in at a high level for mid-and-higher level executives.  Another option is to temp as an interim executive.” I didn’t even realize that that was an available profession and that there would be executive head hunters out there looking to fill those kinds of temporary positions for executives.

Donna Rosato: It really is out there and it makes a lot of sense.  Companies may be in between in hiring.  They may only want someone while they’re transitioning to something new or for specific projects with specific expertise.  It’s a great opportunity if you really like that prestige and the pace of executive life.  You want to do things project by project, so you sign up for six months, three months, maybe a year.  You’ve got that but there’s an end date to it.  I think you should look … There are places, for example, there’s a group called The Riley Guide that lists firms that are specializing in placing interim executives.  I also encourage people to look at retiredbrains.com which does focus on workers with lots of experience, and not always executive level, but professional workers looking for project-based type work.

Steve Pomeranz: That’s great information.  To hear this again, don’t forget to join the conversation at stevepomeranz.com where we will post this segment with Donna Rosato.  Donna Rosato is with Money magazine and writes about the financial challenges facing retirees and strategies for career advancement.  We’re running out of time here, but one that I did notice that I liked was to seek adventure, check out coolworks.com‘s older and bolder section.  It’s aimed at retirees looking for seasonal or temporary jobs at national parks, lodges, ranches, and other outdoor destinations.  Real quick, tell us about that.

Donna Rosato: I talked to a number of people who are doing that.  If you really want to do something different and fun, this is a really really interesting, just really out of the box thing for you to do.  A lot of couples do that together.  They get to do some traveling.  You get to use your brain because, usually, you are giving information about the park or the history of the place.  It’s really fun.

Steve Pomeranz: The bottom line is don’t give up.  Think bigger.  Expand your world.  Embrace change.  Have some fun in this next part of your life.  You may find it very rewarding.

As I said before, my guest, Donna Rosato, senior writer at Money.  She writes about financial challenges facing retirees, strategies for career advancement. Once again, Donna, that was a lot of fun.  Thanks so much.  We’ll have you back.

Donna Rosato: Thanks so much, Steve.

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