Older workers and the road to (un)retirement
Despite layoffs and lost savings, some in the senior workforce find their jobs prospects are not all that gloomy.
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HoneyBaked Ham, for example, markets to older workers who want to become franchisees or who are looking for part-time positions. More than one-third of its franchisees are retirement age. CVS has been recruiting mature workers for its pharmacies since the early 1990s. Those age 50 and over now make up 18 percent of its staff.
"The challenge is looking where everyone else isn't looking," DeLong says. "Although small companies still create the majority of new jobs, some large firms that have announced big layoffs are still hiring. Don't assume there are no jobs there."
In government ranks, for example, roughly half of America's 1.6 million federal workers will be eligible to retire in 2010, DeLong notes.
In another encouraging sign, a record 202 employers have applied this year for the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 award. The program recognizes innovative organizations that offer policies and practices that appeal to workers 50-plus. Those include flexible work options, training opportunities, competitive health and retirement benefits, and age-neutral performance systems. Winners will be announced in September. Cornell University finished first last year.
"There may be many more good-guy companies," says Jan Cannon, a career adviser in the Boston area. "At the same time, many employers are willing to keep older employees but are not necessarily willing to hire them."
She hears frequent complaints from older applicants who say they get called for interviews but don't get called back. She offers a suggestion: "If people have been laid off, they may have a lot of anger. I encourage them not to go on interviews right away."
Older job seekers face other challenges as well.
"A typical human resources person who does the first screening of applicants tends to be a 25- to 30-year-old female," Mr. Burnard says. "Most of them would have discomfort in interviewing someone old enough to be their father."
Job seekers have responsibilities too, of course. "Older workers make the mistake of thinking their long experience entitles them to a job," DeLong says. "Some don't have up-to-date technical skills, or they expect to be paid more than the market is willing to pay."
Burnard also sees a need to "enlighten" businesses about the advantages of "senior-friendly" hiring: "We don't expect employers to staff exclusively with older workers, but let's not overlook them. There's tremendous value there. And they are good mentors for younger staff."
Companies can benefit from having a range of employees, Pascale says, "Sometimes you can get very stagnant in your hiring. That doesn't bode well for anyone. You tend to lack creativity after that. It's nice to get fresh ideas no matter what age your employees are." •