Americans 55 years or older comprise 21% of the U.S. labor force according to the US Department of Labor. Here’s the problem, it is the first time in history that these 55+ year olds have a lot more than ten years remaining in the workforce. Blame the Baby Boomers for not retiring at age 65 to spend twenty years focused on golf, grandchildren and grand buffets. And even if you are in still in your 40s, these are the years when you need to evaluate and investigate secondary career paths so when you hit the decade I consider the most dangerous to your work/life, “The Fantastic Fifties,” you have the widest range of choices.
It is always exciting to meet someone in their 40s, 50s or 60s that love their jobs and the companies they work for love them back. (That is an important part, the company loves you back—but I’ll deal with that later in this post). I meet more people than ever that adore what they do for a living. Whether it is an entrepreneurial pet sitter earning more money than he ever expected; a medical capital equipment sales star turned award-winning vintner; a health information management professional turned online educator or a person who went from automotive executive to ordained minister, people are creating work they can see themselves doing post-65.
I also talk to a lot of people who say, “As soon as I am 62, I’m outta here-retired and never working again.” Those are the people who I know have not found their passion. Sometimes it is a hobby that can be monetized. Others prefer to keep their hobbies separate from work and go back to school to learn a new skill or turn their volunteer work into a paying job. How do you get started on your career exploration? You don’t have to come up with the answer immediately. Just keep the thought in the back of your mind and jot down ideas as they come to you. Focus on your strengths and activities you enjoy-- thinking about your skills that others often compliment you on performing. Over time and maybe with assistance, you will find your vocation, a word with Latin origins that means “to call.”
Not all industries, companies or human resource professionals are prepared for the reality posed by Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). A January 2014 Gallup Report stated, U.S. retiree age has risen steadily from 57 to 61. According to Gallup, “nearly half (49%) of boomers still working say they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.” Companies have not created talent development for mid-life career professionals (hoping they will gracefully retire—no thanks!) As older worker salaries stretch the range of broad bands and other compensation structures, they often find themselves targets of lay-offs because companies are not creative enough to leverage their talent, skills and abilities. So, if you are 40+ at a company that loves you back, enjoy it, use the tuition reimbursement to extend your skills and pack your resume with accolades—trust me, one day you will need it.