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Working After 50

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

I would like to share some thoughts as a result from participating in the AARP conference Work@50+ recently held at the Long Beach Convention Center. The attendance was exceptional  – 1,000 people with at least three quarters of them looking for work.

It’s one thing to read the unemployment figures to be well informed. It’s another to stand on a podium and see 1000 faces of individuals, most seeking employment. The group was diverse and highly engaged; their desire, motivation and intensity were palpable. These one thousand individuals were treated as guests with no conference fee, no parking fee, unlimited coffee and lunch too.

I had the opportunity to speak with keynoter Kerry Hannon, author of “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+ (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). We discussed some assumptions employers have about older workers and ways they can overcome them.

Assumption #1: Older workers are resistant to technology. Being technology savvy is imperative. Older job seekers should place their profile on LinkedIn and indicate any certificates that indicate software proficiency. Job seekers need to have an online presence. Employers expect to see them there.

Assumption #2: Older workers don’t have the stamina to do the job. It’s important to get in shape physically and mentally to exude energy and confidence. A vibrant presence can translate into a job.

Assumption #3: Older workers are stuck in their ways. Here is the opportunity to indicate your flexibility, showing you are constantly learning, growing and can push the envelope to get the job done.

Assumption #4: You are too expensive. Be willing to negotiate. If it comes down to the wire between you and another candidate and you would love the job, consider a lower salary. Negotiating benefits such as vacation time or taking a course can make up for the fewer dollars.

Here are some additional tips: Be financial fit: Create a budget, know your expenses and what you need to earn. Be spiritually fit: Have a place to go beyond yourself. This does not necessarily mean being religious although that counts. Consider mediation, yoga and tai chi among others.

Carleen McKay, an expert on the ever-changing work place, emphasized the importance of work rather than jobs. She stated, “In the 20th century, jobs dominated the work place. Today…the work place (is dominant) and tells us who will work, when we will work, how we will work and even if we will work.” Being employed full time for a single employer may not be the model of the future. It’s timely to consider work that is project based, free-lance, bartered or virtual. She added that today employers are looking at the skills you bring to the work place and are placing less emphasis on degrees and what you did 10 years ago.

A different perspective was offered by a panel of corporate employers who said past accomplishments are important, particularly expressed as numbers, such as a percent increase in sales or the amount saved because of increased efficiency.

Here are a few additional tidbits. A corporate panel indicated cover letters are not read because of the enormous volume and too little time to read them. Resumes are read. Job seekers need to send out 1500 to land just one interview. First impressions count and happen quickly. Vu H. Pham, managing partner of Spectrum Knowledge, Inc. told attendees that it takes 38 milliseconds to make a first impression.

And here’s a final highlight indicating another shift. AARP originally stood for the American Association of Retired Persons. Several years ago the “R” standing for “retirement” dissolved into the official name, AARP. Now the Association relates the “R” and “P” to “Real Possibilities.”

That’s the theme – real possibilities.

Helpful websites:

Here are a few others:,,

Employment for those 50+ can be a challenge. However, with preparation, flexibility, relevant skills and effectively selling yourself — anything is possible. Note, a little grit and resilience helps.

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