Here are some surprising facts that affect "mature" workers: • According to the New York Times, the jobless rate for people older than 45 was 6.8 percent in fall 2009, several points lower than the overall jobless rate. • More and more companies say they want older workers because of their proven skills and work ethic, says the AARP and gov.com.
So is the job picture brightening for workers age 45 and up? There are plenty of "mature workers" out there who want to get paid for what they do.
Unlike their parents, baby boomers don't find full-time retirement that appealing. In fact, the AARP says, eight in 10 want to work as long as possible. While many are avid volunteers, the lure of the paycheck is still very important. Some retired and found they were bored. Others realized their finances were going to run out because they're living longer. Still others were laid off, outplaced or whatever term is appropriate these days, and they decided to find a new career.
Where the jobs are
Research shows these industries are open to hiring mature workers: education (K-12, career education and specialty education), government, medical, consulting, hospitality and environmental services. For many people, that means a career change.
Rosemary Schrader, a licensed insurance agent with AAA in downtown St. Petersburg, did just that. After years in travel and sales, including a stint with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Schrader decided on the insurance industry.
"I was looking for a business that pays well, allows me to help people, that will always be needed and that not everyone will go into," Schrader said. "Insurance also allows me to work for as many years as I choose. I had to learn a whole new business, study and pass tests. I got my basic customer service license and began to network, then I joined a women's insurance organization and learned of possible jobs."
Schrader, who says she's over 50, said she enjoys the mix of people she works with. "The 20- and 30-year-olds have strong, up-to-date tech skills and the older employees have more life and business experience and know more people," she said. "We all work well together."
Tips to reenter job scene
If you've been out of work for a while you'll notice that things are different. Four generations — 20-somethings through people in their 60s or 70s — are now working together. That means different work styles, different methods of communication and sometimes different values. Employers expect technological skills that many mature workers never heard of in their old jobs. Many businesses are also placing increased demands on employees as they cut staff and resources. Here are some tips to help you as you go back to work:
You may need to adjust your expectations. For example, available jobs may pay less than your previous job especially if you were a high-level professional.
You are no longer the "youngest and the brightest." Your age and experience will not automatically translate into respect. You will probably have to prove yourself all over again. Don't let this be a blow to your ego. See it as an opportunity.
You must work with a very diverse group that includes people of various ages, backgrounds and value systems. Think teamwork.
Be patient. If your co-workers survived a downsizing at your workplace they may still be shell-shocked or feel stressed and overworked. Understand and be cooperative.
Upgrade technological skills. Ask if there are in-house classes or paid training to help. If not, take classes on your own.
Marie Stempinski is the founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in marketing, public relations and business and current trends consulting. She also leads workshops. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.