Younger professionals were the group most likely the ones to want to switch jobs but older Americans weren’t that far behind — 40% of professionals between the ags of 55 and 64 said they wanted to change jobs rather than retiring, and 19% of those 65 and older said the same thing, according to a survey of more than 2,200 participants by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix.
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Why? Many survey respondents said they didn’t make enough money or were burned out in their current field, but it could also be taking on a passion they never explored, said Ruth Veloria, executive dean of the school of business at the University of Phoenix.
“They want to fulfill a dream of owning a business or a company,” Veloria said.
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The idea of taking on another job later in life instead of retiring isn’t necessarily new, but the perception of retirement overall has certainly shifted in recent years. Instead of lounging on a beach or spending the rest of their years golfing or volunteering, people are using those retirement years to explore options, even dreams, they never tried when they were younger. (Of course, there are also those who simply cannot afford to retire, because they could not save enough or do not receive enough in government benefits like Social Security). For retirees who want to balance some more freedom but an extra income, they’re turning to the gig economy because of its flexibility — about 11% of current retiree households are in the gig economy, and more expect employment to make up a quarter of their income in the future.
There’s plenty more older Americans should be doing though, and it does not involve coloring their hair or getting Botox, said Kerry Hannon, an AARP jobs expert and author of “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+.”
Instead, older workers looking to stay in the workforce should brush up on their resume and promote skills they already have, such as those in accounting or marketing. “If you have tech skills, there’s no way around that — that’s the top skill in any field,” she said — even navigating the web well or understanding the nuances of social media helps. Many people think they need to reinvent themselves if they want to switch careers, she said.
Soft skills are also valuable, and may include being a self-starter, a good listener and strong communicator, or a creative or analytical thinker. “This is where they can shine, no matter what field they’re in,” Hannon said.
A good communicator can explain how they fit in with the organization, and a good listener will always make a good leader, she added.“What a lot of employers look for if they want you to be a part of the team is if you have social skills.”
These workers should also do thorough research into the career they plan to transition to, and perhaps even take a class or volunteer in the field to see if they’d really like to move forward within that industry. Being physically fit, if even just walking a lot, boosts confidence and keeps a person healthy, too, she added, as does being comfortable with their finances — both of which help when transitioning jobs. “A lot of this stage is being resilient and being flexible,” said Hannon.
Americans at retirement age have shared stories about following their childhood dreams, like working on music full-time and training with a voice coach, or becoming an actress. Today more than 40% of workers between the ages of 58 and 62 have voluntarily switched jobs after age 50, and doing so gave them greater job satisfaction (though their compensation decreased). If someone is thinking of switching jobs — regardless of age — they should think about goals and what they’d like to see themselves doing next, join LinkedIn to network and even try out that job before jumping in completely.
“The truth of the matter is a lot of what you can do is redeploying skills you have. It’s a matter of doing soul-searching,” said Hannon.
Alessandra Malito is a personal finance reporter based in New York. You can follow her on Twitter @malito_ali.