Hello, I’m 67 years old. I have not worked since 1999.
Can you give some advice for me and other elderly folks who
would like to get back in the workforce?
Your question could not have come at a better time. With all
the fluctuating conditions in the world of work, more people are
needed. That said, it’s the right people who are needed most.
The right person is someone with the ability and desire to work.
Along with that, they must be able to integrate into the existing
work-environment, including the technology and personalities,
Let’s talk a little bit about the current situation.
Baby Boomers are retiring and leaving the workforce in record
numbers. Those on the inner-edge of the traditional generation,
like you, are leaving even more rapidly. Because of this, employers
have to engage the total workforce in order to fill their positions
and meet their growth and hiring needs with those who don’t
desire to retire yet or cannot afford to do so for a variety of
reasons. So they are staying in jobs longer or searching for new
opportunities that will fit with their lifestyle and work
Let’s take a look at today’s workforce by looking
at the amount of people available to work. Below are population
statistics for the working generations.
(1922-1945) 75 million
(1946-1964) 80 million
(1965-1979) 46 million
(1980-2000) 76 million
For the first time in history there are four generations
working together. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough
Generation X’ers to replace the exiting Baby Boomers and
Traditionalists, most of which have already exited the workforce.
In those numbers lies opportunity.
While that’s good news, there’s also bad news.
We’re on the cusp of this workforce change, and like most
things in life, change takes time to take effect. So while
companies realize the need to reach out to the mature workers,
they’re still working out how to do it. They must decide if
bringing in flex-time, part-time, or full-time workers within their
own walls makes sense.
It’s a bigger challenge than it appears and the larger
the company the more difficult the undertaking. You see, every
generation has its own traits and characteristics that make it
unique, and that uniqueness can translate into potential
For example, if you have a workgroup that’s totally
Generation Y and you throw a Traditionalist in the mix, there will
be a clash of values, experience, wisdom, and just the way they
each do what they do. Companies are learning how to hire to the
culture of their company. More than just hiring a new employee,
they have to find someone to stay long term. Employee retention is
as much about culture fit as it is about fitting skills.
The first step is for you and companies to understand the
difference between the generations in the workplace. The idea is
that if you understand people at a generational level then it will
be easier to deal with them on a daily basis. For example, Boomers
are typically workaholics who like status, while Generation
Y’ers are seen as opportunistic and more concerned about
their personal life than work. Traditionalists on the other hand
were defined by what they did for a living while Generation
X’ers are willing to take a new job in order to move up the
ladder whether it be in the current organization or another
While you cannot broad-brush every person in every generation,
these generalities on the whole hold true. The other interesting
note about generational differences is that they cannot be undone
nor can they be reversed. These traits are almost a part of our
DNA. My grandmother for example has a fit when I use a Ziploc bag
only once or if I throw away a perfectly good bow from a gift. That
“quirk” is generational. She knows what it’s like
not to have food or clothes, to sacrifice for the greater good of
the country. Other American generations don’t.
While other generations may not have had such a harrowing
existence as in the 1930’s or World War II to shape them,
they still have things that happened within their generations that
make them the people they are today. As I said earlier, they cannot
be undone or reversed.
So where does this leave you? It leaves you in a pretty good
spot depending on what you want to do for a living. I realize not
everyone over 50 wants to wear a blue vest or ask people if
they’d like to upsize their order. So with that in mind, you
need to do an honest skills assessment compared with what is needed
in the workplace. A great way to do that is to connect with an
employment services company like Manpower.
There you can identify your strengths and weaknesses and have
the available tools to upskill yourself and become job-ready. If
you already possess the needed skills, a temporary agency is a
great way to find a new job. If they believe you can do the job,
they can go to bat for you with the hiring authority to try and get
you the job. On your own, you don’t have that advocate. You
also need to apply smart. Apply for jobs where the hours match what
you want to work.
If you only want to work a few days a week or a few hours a
day, seek companies where that’s an option. A good option
would be retail, or small businesses that only need a part-time
person, or again working through a temporary employment agency to
get a job that is more on your terms and fits your income
Make sure to put together a good resume that’s to the
point and clearly lays out your skills and abilities, even if they
are new abilities. If you’ve been out of the workforce and
need to explain the date gaps on your resume, I would suggest
keeping it fairly general and doing it in a cover letter. If they
want more detail, that can be explained in an interview.
Job seeking at any age is not easy and will always have
challenges. To land that next job you have to be relentless in the
pursuit while being prepared for the world of work in 2009. To say
it is always changing would be an understatement. Whether we want
to or not, we have to change with it or we’ll lose our
workplace relevancy. If we lose our relevancy, then the chance of
landing a job will be very difficult. I wish you the best of luck
in your pursuit.