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Too old to work, too young to retire

Posted by Elaine Varelas  March 21, 2012 10:00 AM

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Q. I worked in Security Management for nearly 40 years. I am 65. Last year, after working 14 years in the global pharmaceutical industry and 19 in healthcare, I found myself on the "beach" with the tide coming in. I could kill a forest with paper and cyber messages. I am now taking a certificate course in "Business Continuity Planning" (Crisis Management) at Penn State, Grad School. I would like to work more. Any hope or suggestions?

A. There is still hope, and you are not alone. A growing number of people over 65 are continuing to work, or to look for work. Much of the current research on older workers shows that those most likely to remain working fall into two distinct groups in terms of their educational background – these groups are 1) the most educated and 2) the least educated. The Carsey Institute, a public policy research group at the University of New Hampshire reports, “older Americans are staying in the labor force longer. When this change first became apparent, it was unclear whether it would be a temporary halt or a reversal of the…decline in work at older ages.” Recent data reported by Carsey and others, suggests the current economic recession may be the most important reason for those over 65 to remain active in the workforce.

The challenges facing an older worker include the current competitive marketplace, organizations’ inexperience and inflexibility in dealing with non-full-time work, and an age bias. Some might think it feels like discrimination, and that is where an effective job hunter may be able to use age and experience to his or her advantage.

Your resume needs to show your experience, but eliminate extraneous detail from your earliest jobs. Show progression, flexibility, and additional responsibility added to your roles. Make sure you have a current email address, and do not list a fax number. These are telltale clues to hiring managers about your technology currency.

Most importantly, on the resume summary and in all your networking, focus on the skills you want to use on the job – not titles. With a security background your summary might include “exceptional communication skills, consultative approach, ability to anticipate and prevent security issues.” At junior levels, job seekers must highlight their technical skills. At more senior levels, hiring managers are looking for interpersonal and leadership skills – even if the role is not that of a formal “leader”.

There are many web sites available to senior job hunters. Some of these sites list jobs; seniorjobbank,com, workforce50.com, retireeworkforce.com. Other sites offer job search tips, suggestions for resume development, and interviewing answers – aarp.com, for example. Follow the tips of giving a current presentation in terms of attire, and also in terms of use and comfort with technology. Give resume and verbal examples.

Targeting the right opportunities and people with whom to network will be the most effective method of job search success for any age, and especially for those over 65. Don’t wait for a job listing to be posted. Follow your contacts in the security industry into as many different organizations as possible. Target tangential new industries who would appreciate the experience you have. Have you considered higher education – a medical school perhaps? Consider companies who consulted to your former employers. Let people know about your flexibility in terms of availability. You might offer your interest in project work, or developing training or mentoring programs, or management related to special events. Anything you can do to connect on a part time basis may lead to a longer term relationship, and more hours. Find your differentiators, like your continuing education investment, and play them up. Have you added the faculty to your network? Everyone you meet should be considered a new field sales person to support your success.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.

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