Because everyone should dig their job

Attention Baby Boomers: How to get back in the workforce

By Nick Reddin

Question:
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?
 
Answer:
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, fairly seamlessly.
 
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 abilities.
 
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.
 
Traditionalist               (1922-1945)    75 million
Baby Boomers            (1946-1964)    80 million
Generation X              (1965-1979)    46 million
Generation Y              (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 difficulties.
 
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 one.
 
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 needs.
 
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.