Even before the Great Recession, a rising percent of retirement-age folks were still working. The economy was strong, consumers were spending like crazy and lots of jobs were, in physical terms at least, not taxing for older employees. Today, the percent of people over age 65 who are working or seeking work has reached new highs. But the reasons for the continued trend have changed drastically.
The economy and consumer spending have recovered slowly, and job growth has been anemic. Retirement plans have been deferred, if not destroyed, for millions of Americans. So, it's either back to work, or if you're lucky, keeping a solid job as long as you can. Retirement is still in the cards, perhaps. But for many, it now includes at least part-time work until age 70.
Still, these largely negative factors are driving lots of positive changes that will help older Americans fashion solid work-retirement plans. For the past few years, a foundation-funded initiative called Tapping Mature Talent worked with the U.S. Department of Labor. The effort produced 10 demonstration sites across the country to help develop successful ways to find, train and employ older workers. Even though the project started at the same time as the economic downturn, the sites achieved a 50 percent job placement rate, on average.
During the initiative from 2009 to 2012, people at the locations tried different approaches, and some best practices emerged from these efforts, according to Amy Sherman, an associate vice president at the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provided assistance to the sites. Here are some of the program's most helpful findings:
1. Get credit for what you know. Many older job seekers have rich personal experiences that would make them qualified to succeed at jobs, she says. But often, this knowledge does not translate into the more formal work experiences employers are seeking. Enrolling in a certification program or seeking college credit for such experience can develop the third-party credentials that would lead to a job. CAEL has built a college credit predictor tool that can help translate experience into college-credit equivalents.
2. You are a brand. Aggressive personal promotion has become a standard employment technique. Yet many older people are uncomfortable tooting their own horn, and may not know how to use the social media tools that can be megaphones for job seekers. "It's almost like learning how to be a salesperson for yourself and of branding yourself," Sherman says. "This is really challenging."
3. Career navigators. Today's workplace can be daunting, particularly for someone who's been out of the workforce for only a few years. Specific job skills, particularly involving computers, may need to be relearned. Job-search and interviewing techniques have also been transformed by the Internet, and the explosion of social media sites. Having a "go-to" point person to coordinate job placement services has proven helpful.
4. Offer your services. Unpaid internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door of an industry or employer you like. You get experience, an addition to your résumé and knowledge of how to improve your skills.
5. Reverse job fairs. Instead of having employers in booths and job seekers going from booth to booth, a reverse job fair switches these roles. The job applicants are in the booths and are prescreened by employers, who then come up to speak to them. Employers can decide how best to use their time. Job applicants are more comfortable because they know the person coming to their booth is already interested in speaking with them.
6. Computer and technology training. This is a must-have for nearly all job applicants and is particularly useful for mature job seekers. Not that anyone admits it openly, but there often is an assumption that older people are not good or comfortable with computers. Demonstrating competence in this area may overcome an unstated but underlying bias against older workers.
7. Flextime and part-time jobs. Technology skills can also help older employees who wish to work part-time or have flexible schedules, since telecommuting may be an option for all or part of their schedules. "Although it can be focused on making the workplace more accommodating to the mature worker, it's actually making it better for all workers," Sherman says.
8. Age bias. It's out there, and training programs can provide tools to deal with it. "Whether real or perceived, many job seekers report back that they believe there is age bias," Sherman says. "One of the things we can do is help job seekers respond to questions that they may think reflect some age bias. We can help them frame their answers in a way that gets to the intent of the question without the age-related implications."
9. Workplace readiness. Some of the pilot programs had success on two related fronts. One program provided participants with a certification saying they completed a program that has prepared them for employment, and employers responded that they liked that.
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Earlier on Huff/Post50:
Several larger corporations such as Starbucks, Target and Land's End are able to offer even their part-time employees benefits such as health coverage and paid vacation time (head over to ABC for a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/companies-offering-health-care-benefits-perks-part-time/story?id=14805107#2" target="_hplink">full list</a>).
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and computer know-how, the Internet offers opportunities to bring in some cash from home -- at any hour of the day or night. Take Jose and Jill Ferrer, a retired couple <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-03-2011/more-great-part-time-jobs-for-retirees.1.html" target="_hplink">profiled by AARP</a> for supplementing a freewheeling retirement with their website, Your RV Lifestyle. By highlighting certain products related to RV living, the pair earns $700 a month, AARP reports. "And we know the potential is there to grow our website business further," Jill Ferrer says. Other ideas: <a href="http://www.etsy.com/" target="_hplink">Etsy.com</a> allows the crafty to turn a profit from their hobbies.
Personal care and home health aid topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest growing occupations in America. The time commitment may vary (between 10 and 30 hours per week, according to <a href="http://www.smartmoney.com/retirement/planning/the-new-best-jobs-for-retirees-1295567405980/" target="_hplink">SmartMoney</a>), but the median annual wage is around $20,000 for both occupations, according to the BLS.
Bartending is not just for twentysomethings -- and for social butterflies, this part-time gig offers opportunity to rake in extra cash, not to mention tips, with a minimal initial financial investment (a 40-hour certification course at the <a href="http://www.newyorkbartendingschool.com/courses.html" target="_hplink">New York City Bartending School costs a little less than $600</a>, for example).
Age discrimination is less of a problem in government agencies, <a href="http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/01/30/10-Best-Part-Time-Jobs-for-Retirees.aspx#page1" target="_hplink">reports The Fiscal Times</a>. In fact, agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration actively seek older workers. Visit <a href="http://www.usajobs.gov/" target="_hplink">USAJobs.gov</a> to search for available positions.
If you've got an artistic flair or an interest in theater, makeup artists can make up to $40 an hour, and only work 20 hours a week on average, <a href="http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/06/08/7-part-time-jobs-that-pay-about-22-an-hour/#photo-2" target="_hplink">AOL Jobs reports</a>. <em>Disclaimer: qualifications may include formal training in cosmetology or theater, and a license is required to practice in several states.</em>
What better way to scratch that globetrotting itch? If you're up for an on-the-go lifestyle, flight attendants also earn up <a href="http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/06/08/7-part-time-jobs-that-pay-about-22-an-hour/#photo-6" target="_hplink">to $40 an hour</a>, making it a very well-paid part-time job.
The nonprofit sector can offer more than volunteer opportunities for retirees, and may be particularly appealing to those who "thought they wanted to change the world ... [but] put that on the back burner for 20 or 30 years while they climbed the corporate ladder," as Tamara Erickson, author of "Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation," <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120767069301298203.html" target="_hplink">told <em>The Wall Street Journal</em></a>. To get started, <a href="http://www.idealist.org/" target="_hplink">Idealist.org</a> offers listings for available paid positions in addition to volunteer opportunities: applicants with years of experience under their belts are sure to be met with open arms. Even cooler, <a href="http://www.encore.org/learn/fellowships" target="_hplink">Encore.org</a> offers paid Encore Fellowships to "match skilled, experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations" -- while earning a small stipend for part- or full-time work, midlifers can get their foot in the door to a fulfilling retirement job.
Usher Or Tour Guide
The pay may not be great, but if you're an arts lover, a history buff or a sports enthusiast, the perks certainly are!
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<em>"I studied hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy 3 years ago and now I have my own business, couldn't be happier" -- Huff/Post50 reader Lee Adley </em> It's certainly a challenge, but as our amazing readers -- and the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/going-back-to-college-teresa-pitts_n_1626068.html?utm_hp_ref=fifty&ir=Fifty" target="_hplink"> many men and women featured on our page</a> -- can attest, going back to school and pursuing something totally different can be well worth the investment of time, money and energy.