Categorized | Life

Mature Age Workers

Posted on 06 April 2009

Seniors Shift Careers On the Fly

The future workforce may be powered by the past.

We’ve heard a lot about those 40-somethings and their mid-life career changes. Well, move over mid-lifers. The fastest growing segment of the workforce is between 55 and 64, often referred to as “mature workers.” Is making a career change in your fifties, sixties, or beyond so different than in mid-life?

Factors to Figure
The answer is a resounding yes–and no, says Sally James, executive director of Career Encores, a Los Angeles County employment services program for older workers. At any age, people continually need to upgrade their skills and stay technologically current. At the same time, says James, mature workers must consider such factors as age discrimination and their long-term financial security.

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers cannot fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against anyone 40 and older. (If you think you are the victim of discrimination, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( to learn more about your rights.)

How do I want to spend the rest of my working life?

While James sees far less blatant discrimination today, it still exists. Partly that’s due to the view some employers have of older workers as resistant to change and reluctant to accept new technology. Retirement and employment consultant Helen Dennis cautions, though, against lumping all mature workers together. Since “leading edge” baby boomers, meaning those in their mid-fifties, are less likely to have bought into the mindset of a lifetime job, she finds they are far more open to change.

Tips for Transition
If you are a mature worker who, whether by choice or circumstance, is facing a job change, here are some ways to make the transition a smooth one:

  • Be smart about benefits. Before changing jobs, Jim Barnash, a financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors, advises looking closely at a prospective employer’s benefit package. Under the law, health care insurance is portable but you’ll want to compare features. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of rolling a current retirement plan over to the new employer’s plan versus into a self-directed IRA. And, make sure you have adequate life and disability insurance.
  • Be patient. A study conducted by employment specialists Drake Beam Morin found it took older workers nearly twice as long to secure a new job as young workers following a layoff. One reason, says company spokesperson Shari Fryer, is that priorities often change with age. For some, this shift leads to a major career switch. Many experienced workers have also narrowed their career fields, making them more intent on entering a new job at a higher level. Finding such jobs takes longer.
  • Be trendy. You don’t have to tune into MTV, but you’ll want to be hip to current industry trends. The fastest growing jobs are still expected to be in the technology sector. Other good bets are registered nurse, personal and home health aide, and financial planner. For growth projections for thousands of jobs, consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. []
  • Be informed. Seek out companies that, like McDonald’s and Days Inn, are trying to attract older workers with flexible, part-time jobs with benefits. Oracle and GTE were singled out in Beverly Goldberg’s Age Works: What Corporate America Must Do to Survive the Graying of the Workforce for their innovative technology training programs, and the Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently recognized 11 employers considered friendly to mature workers. Barnash also recommends you examine the viability of any future employer. Information on publicly-held companies is readily available online. If the company is privately held, ask about their growth plans and perceived threats.

Finally, you should always try to be bold. Bette Davis once quipped, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” The vast majority of barriers are self-imposed. Just because you’re of a certain age, says Dennis, doesn’t mean you should stop asking yourself: “How do I want to spend the rest of my working life?”

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