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5 Tips to Help Retirees Get Back into the Workforce

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you belong to one of America’s most celebrated generations. You are a baby-boomer, and chances are, you’re either retired or thinking about retirement in the near future. Retirement isn’t what it used to be, however. Many baby boomers are not content with spending their golden years relaxing on the front porch with a glass of lemonade and a good book. Some may even have trouble affording such a lifestyle. In 2006, 11% of retired baby boomers said they were actively seeking employment. A year later, an identical survey found that this number had increased to 35%.

Choosing to Go Back to Work
The authors of this study, who belong to an organization called Retired Worker, attribute this drastic shift to changes in perceptions and expectations, both among retired workers and throughout society as a whole. Older workers are increasingly accepted and appreciated in the workplace, which has allowed many to go back to work on a part-time or full-time basis.

So why are retired workers flocking back to the office? According to the Retired Worker study, no single factor is solely responsible. For example, fewer then 20% of retirees return to work for financial reasons. More often, older workers desire extra income to pay for non-essentials such as travel. In other cases, retirees are working because they enjoy their jobs, want to keep busy, or need that coveted health insurance.

Getting Started
The initial obstacle of the job search is figuring out where and how to look for employment. Several major websites help low-income senior workers to find employers that are looking for older staff. The AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, pairs employers with retired individuals who are searching for work. Resources such as these can help you identify potential positions designed for older, more experienced personnel.

Not all jobs available to retirees are specifically identified as such. Older workers can apply for any advertised position, just like their younger counterparts. The challenge for older workers, however, involves overcoming the perception that senior employees are not a solid investment. Many employers are reluctant to consider older applicants who aren’t necessarily looking for a long-term career. Therefore, retirees may have to put in a little extra work to get noticed.

Available Career Options
Many jobs available to older workers are either part-time or freelance. For example, retired accountants often find work during busy times of year, such as tax season. Many schools hire retired teachers as substitutes or assistants, or to help with summer programs. However, this does not mean that you have to work part-time in your former occupation. Many older workers find new full-time positions, and some even work in fields unrelated to their previous careers.

If you’re a retired baby boomer trying to return to the workforce, consider these five ‘helpful hints’ before taking the plunge:

1. Head Back to School
The best thing you can do to increase your job-hunting chances is to prepare yourself for the job you want. Updating your qualifications may be as simple as taking a few courses at a local college or university, or studying for a particular license.

If you previously worked in the business field, you might take a course on modern management practices, or train to work as a consultant through a specific management-consulting program. By building on your experience with education, you not only enhance your personal skill-set, but you can demonstrate to potential employers that you are willing and eager to adapt to a particular field.

2. Keep Up with Technology
Many companies argue that they don’t hire older applicants due to their unfamiliarity with modern technology and computing. Despite this stereotype, statistics indicate that retired workers are more computer literate than most people think. Over 80% of working retirees have Internet access, and nearly 9 out of 10 own personal computers.

Although some employers are beginning to realize that people over 50 can be just as tech-savvy as younger workers, it’s the responsibility of the job applicant to demonstrate their mastery. By taking computer courses or corresponding regularly with potential employers through e-mail, you can overcome the myth that older workers are less computer-savvy.

3. Update that Dusty Resume
Senior workers can bring an entirely different set of skills to the workplace, such as a solid work ethic, a wealth of experience, and a strong sense of independence. These qualities need to shine through in your resume, which should not be a photocopy of a twenty-year-old document.

Take a look at resume templates online, or attend a resume-building class. If you are out of practice, get help from someone who knows how a resume should look. Your previous experience should come across as an asset, but make sure that you express flexibility and a willingness to adapt to a new working environment.

4. Pay Attention to Details
Unfortunately, older job applicants can be at a disadvantage in the hiring process. However, a thorough attention to detail can make up for the age gap and impress potential employers.

Try buying a new suit or a casual business outfit for your interviews. Be confident, but not cocky. Polite gestures, such as sending a thank-you note after an interview, can make a world of difference. According to the Wall Street Journal, nine out of ten senior executives consider a well-written thank you note an influential part of the hiring decision.

5. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Finding the right job can take months no matter what your age, so be patient. When talking to employers, be honest and positive, and don’t be discouraged if you fail to get the first job that catches your eye.

Opportunities for older workers are increasing as employers begin to appreciate the value of their experience and work ethic. Like so many other aspects of our society, the baby boomer generation is changing the way we think about seniors in the workplace. Now is a better time than ever for retired individuals to head back to work.

Publish date: June 2, 2008