30 Pieces of Career Advice for People 55 and Over
Workers over 55 are a big part of the American workforce, roughly 20 percent, and that number is growing as the general population ages. Studies show that older workers have lower absentee rates and job turnover than younger workers, not to mention years of experience and skills gained from a long working life.
All of this can actually make older workers more productive. With a growing skills shortage and tightening job market hitting the American economy, companies should ideally be encouraging older workers to pass on their knowledge and keeping them employed for as long as they can before they retire. However, age discrimination in the workplace and in hiring practices remains a serious issue.
So, what can people over 55 do to keep themselves motivated, be effective in the workplace and continue having a positive outlook about work and life in general? We’ve come up with a list of 30 pieces of career advice, including how to face the big question of whether or not to attempt a job or career change.
Still Plan Out Your Goals
If you’re over 55, you’ve likely been working for many years. You may be well-established in your career or are even at a supervisory or managerial level. This might be a good time to take stock of your professional life.
Have you achieved your career goals? Have you been able to balance work and personal life? Are you thinking of changing jobs or careers?
The factors that make work enjoyable and fulfilling for younger people still apply for older workers: the ability to learn, being challenged, flexibility, meaningful work, social connections, career progression, positive work-life balance and inclusion.
Keep a Flexible, Positive Outlook
Keeping a positive outlook and staying flexible will help you adapt to a changing workplace and new job conditions, such as remote working or virtual meetings.
Being able to “go with the flow” will also make it more likely you can enjoy your job and successfully deal with whatever changes are coming down the road.
Besides being good for your mental health, staying positive brings other benefits such as stress reduction, more energy, better relationships with customers and colleagues, better decision-making, a leadership attitude and the ability to motivate others.
Stay Motivated (Because Retirement Might Still Be a Ways Off)
A number of factors can cause older workers to lose motivation. Wage growth for workers over 55 is only 2.4 percent, compared to the national average of 3 percent, and hourly pay actually begins to decline for workers over 60.
In other words, age discrimination remains a problem in the U.S.
While these figures can be discouraging, it’s also important to focus on keeping a balanced perspective. The reality is that many people over 55 still have 15, 20 or more years of productive working life before retirement.
Some workers are holding jobs into their 80s or 90s.
Stick to a Routine to Avoid Fatigue
If you’re an older worker who’s experiencing stress, fatigue or a lack of motivation in your job, here some ways to turn those feelings around. Get up early and spend some time in a mindfulness practice.
Many people enjoy a quiet walk or yoga in the mornings before the rest of the world wakes up.
Plan out your day in advance so you don’t feel overwhelmed, and reduce projects into easy-to-manage tasks and don’t forget to include breaks.
One key thing to do this late in your career is to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
If you always keep learning, you’ll be up to speed on what best practices and technologies are defining your industry.
These days, there are almost too many educational options to choose from online. MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are free online learning programs available to anyone with an internet connection and a computer. You can sign up for low-cost courses on sites such as Skill Share or Udemy and learn at your own pace.
You can take classes on subjects ranging from leadership, management and marketing to the latest computer programming languages.
Consider Switching to a Part-Time Job
Do you need to stay in a full-time job?
If you’re financially comfortable or don’t have large financial obligations, you might consider changing to part-time employment and make more time in your life for other pursuits.
Your current employer may offer ways for you to reduce your working hours, but other options to look into include job sharing, consulting, or working in temporary or contract positions.
You could stagger contractor or consulting roles so you have time off in between.
Look After Your Physical Health
Your 50s are a crucial decade to start or maintain healthy habits. You should be getting annual health checks and cancer prevention tests, such as mammograms, skin checks or a colonoscopy.
It’s a good idea to start or continue a regular, moderate exercise program. A strength-training program is highly recommended as muscle mass and strength decreases with age.
You should also be seeing an eye doctor regularly to check for age-related issues, such as glaucoma.
You also want to be eating a healthy diet and looking after your heart. Sounds fun, right?
Stay Mentally Healthy and Happy, Too
Research has linked loneliness and social isolation to significantly higher risks of disease and cognitive decline. So, don’t forget to look after your mental health as well.
Socializing with friends and enjoying activities with other people helps you stay connected and boosts your happiness levels.
Social contact can even keep your language skills and memory stronger, which will pay off in keeping you more productive at work as well.
If your company has social functions or your colleagues get together outside of work, this can be a great way to relax and get to know your workmates in a different light.
Show Your Employer How to Become More Age-Friendly
Talk to your manager or employer about creating a workplace that is age-friendly. After all, most workplaces have blended age-teams and a rapidly aging workforce.
You might suggest mentoring or training programs that help to transfer skills from older to younger workers.
You can even help establish a mentorship program for new hires or trainees, or ask your employer about setting up flexible work arrangements, including flex-time, shared jobs, work from home or part-time positions.
Raise Awareness About Supporting Aging Staff With Health Issues
With 10,000 Baby Boomers (people born 1946 to 1964) retiring each year, and a growing skills shortage in the U.S., more companies are finding ways to attract or retain older workers with valuable experience and knowledge.
Some companies, such as St. Luke’s Health System in Idaho, are creating part-time jobs for older workers or transferring them to less demanding roles, such as administration or teaching. “[Companies] need to adopt this blended workforce model, or they’re going to be in trouble,” said Timothy Tolan, CEO of The Tolan Group, a healthcare recruiter.
Sometimes, age discrimination happens due to a complete lack of awareness, so make sure that your manager or employer is aware of the importance of supporting staff with health issues as people age.
Know How to Look for and Handle Ageism
Ageism in the workplace can be subtle, such as a manager giving better assignments to younger workers because they “have more energy.” Or it can be blatant, such as an older worker being passed over for promotion due to age.
Sixty-four percent of American workers have witnessed or been the target of age discrimination in the workplace.
Ways to combat ageism include staying up to date with technology and best practices in your field and staying positive and professional.
If that doesn’t work, make sure to record specific details of incidents of ageism in your workplace, and speak with the company’s Human Resources department or an employment attorney.
Network With Other Workers Over 50
While you may spend your work life in a mixed-age team or workplace, you may want to connect specifically with people your own age.
You might want to let off steam, address issues of age or ageism in your workplace, or just chat about issues in general with people who know what you’re going through at this stage of your life.
Some popular over-50 network groups include Silver Surfers, Over 50s Forum and Stitch.
These groups offer online social networking or the chance to meet up in person, and can be a good way to make new friends.
Have a Strong LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the leading business networking site, and it’s one of the best places to connect with people and find work, no matter what your age.
Write a stellar Summary section in which you highlight your accomplishments and talents, or hire a writing service to make one for you. A professional writer will describe your career in a dynamic, engaging way.
Use a flattering headshot on your profile, and only go back 10 or 15 years in your work history.
And don’t forget to ask for lots of recommendations from colleagues and managers, past and present.
Use LinkedIn Regularly
Once you’ve set up a killer profile on LinkedIn, then you should use it regularly. Stay active on the site by participating in forums and discussion groups, sharing advice, adding connections to your network and posting (or re-posting) useful content.
The more active you are, the faster your network will grow. After all, LinkedIn has 176 million members in the U.S. alone.
You can use the site for generating leads, finding clients or job hunting.
B2B marketers get 80 percent of their social media leads from the site, and 87 percent of recruiters use the site regularly to post jobs.
Keep Your Resume Current
Ideally, you should update your resume every six months. This rule applies even if you aren’t actively seeking a new job.
You may have learned new skills or gotten new qualifications or training, and your resume should include these.
You may have received a promotion at work or added new job requirements to your current role. You may also have won an award from your company or received some other form of recognition. Perhaps your job requires that you engage in volunteer work or carry out mentoring for junior staff.
All of these things should be in an updated resume.
Consider a Job or Career Change
If you’re feeling unhappy in your current job, you’re not alone. More than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. People over 55 often accept “staying the course” in their current job until they retire.
However, even if you’re over 55, it’s not too late to find work that you enjoy and find fulfilling.
Popular reasons for people making a midlife switch include a lower-stress job or work environment, a chance to follow a dream or passion, the challenge of learning new skills or the desire to have a different role.
Face the Fear
While it takes the average person nine weeks to find a new job, it can take workers over 55 an average of 34 weeks. This statistic can be daunting.
One positive note is that there are jobs that didn’t exist even five years ago, roles such as Community Manager, Data Analyst or Virtual Reality Consultant.
Another encouraging factor is that some companies are starting to value, and hire, older workers.
CVS Health established a program called Talent Is Ageless to keep and recruit older workers, and now 19 percent of their employee pool is over 50.
Translate Your Skills to a Similar Job
If you enjoy the work you do, but still want to change jobs, one way to do this is to translate your skills into another career.
A police officer could become a security consultant; an accountant could become a financial advisor; an engineer could take up technical writing; or a business manager could switch to running a non-profit instead of a for-profit.
If you’ve worked in a job that required a high level of physical fitness, such as the military or rescue services, you could translate your fitness into becoming a personal trainer.
Consider an Industry That Has Strong Job Growth
If you’re over 55 and you decide that you want to completely change careers, there are a number of industries that are having strong job growth.
Working as an expert consultant, either staying in your current industry or switching fields, is one option.
Health and aged care is a rapidly growing industry, and there is increasing demand for carers, medical assistants and administrative workers.
Other job choices include working as a teacher or tutor, being a content writer, or working in IT as a support specialist, software developer or networking administrator.
Age-Proof Your Resume
There are some easy steps you can take to age-proof your resume. The most obvious one is to remove critical dates, such as graduations.
Keep your resume to two pages, and only go back to 10 or 15 years when you list jobs like you would on LinkedIn. Use a modern, hip font. Create a Career Summary Section where you highlight your skills and achievements.
Also, don’t use phrases that would date you such as “25-years experience.” Get a more modern gmail address.
If you’ve only worked for one or two companies, list your roles, promotions and job duties without putting dates.
Use a Professional Resume Service
Consider using a professional resume service to draft a new resume and LinkedIn profile for you.
The main advantage of using someone else is that people often find it difficult to “sell themselves” to others and may overlook key attributes that an impartial observer will see clearly.
Another reason is that professional writers can produce an impressive, standout document that better reflects your personality, achievements and skills.
Be Prepared to Handle Age Discrimination in an Interview
If you’re applying for jobs and you’re over 55, you can take steps to deal with potential age-related issues.
We’ve already mentioned how to make your resume age-proof, and the same rules apply in an interview.
Before interviewing, make sure you’re up-to-date on any industry trends. And when you secure an interview, make sure you focus on your expertise and accomplishments.
If you are asked any illegal questions about your age, simply redirect the interviewer to focus on your job skills and experience instead.
Focus on the Stats
The good news is that older workers currently have lower rates of unemployment than the national average: 5.3 percent compared to 6.2 percent overall. The average length of time for an older worker to find a new job fell from 50 weeks to 34 weeks.
In addition, the rates of long-term unemployment for workers over 55 is also dropping: from 45 percent to 29 percent.
In the U.K., which has an equally ageing workforce as the U.S., the unemployment rate for over 50 workers is now almost the same as that for younger workers, and almost a third of workers are over 50.
Turn to Online Resources
Websites such as Careers After 50, Idealist Careers, Work Force 50 and Retirement Jobs are designed specifically for people in their 50s and older and give tips on job training and job search resources just for older workers.
The U.S. government also has a site called Career One Stop, which offers valuable information for older people returning to the workforce, seeking a new career or just looking for a different job.
Find Companies That Are Age-Friendly
If you feel your company is ageist or lacks the flexibility to adapt to the needs of older workers, consider looking for a company that is age-friendly.
The start-up, education, non-profit, government and financial services sectors are often the best workplaces for recognizing ageless skills and talent.
AARP, the over-50 advocacy group, compiles an annual list of the best employers for older workers. The group also offers guides and resources to employers who actively seek to recruit people over 50.
Recruitment sites, such as Monster.com or Indeed.com, write blog posts on or compile lists of age-friendly companies.
Know What Careers Are Best for Older Workers
Let’s turn to AARP again, which compiled a list of fields that are growing rapidly and need more workers in coming years.
Fast-growing fields are ideal for older workers, as companies are often more flexible about transferring previous job skills or training older workers.
These careers include sales managers, sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing industries, computers and information technology, marketing, advertising, promotions, public relations, vehicle operations, health technicians and paramedics, financial specialists, engineers, and business operations specialists and managers.
Consider Using a Career Coach
Do you feel you should be further ahead in your career or you’ve been passed over for a promotion you felt you earned?
Career coaches are experienced in recruiting and human resource issues. They can help you gain confidence and successfully negotiate for a raise or promotion or help you with career planning.
They will also teach you how to make the most of the experience and valuable skills that you’ve acquired in a long career.
Their services are especially valuable if you are considering moving to another company or even a new career.
Use Your Network
You’ve spent many years, professionally and personally, building up a network of contacts, acquaintances and friends. Do you belong to a business breakfast or after-work drinks and networking group?
You may be a few handshakes away from hiring managers at several companies in your field.
Reach out to people in your network and let them know that you’re thinking of moving on from your present job.
Ask your LinkedIn business contacts if anyone can put your resume in front of a decision maker at their company.
Consider Setting Up Your Own Small Business
By this stage in your life, you’ve gained considerable experience, talents and wisdom and may want more control over your working hours or environment.
Your kids may be grown and a mortgage close to or fully paid, so you’re less likely to have large financial obligations.
But if you’re 55, you may still have 15, 20 or 30 years of working life left, so a switch to freelance or consulting work might provide the flexibility you’re looking for.
This is especially true if you have a hobby or side income that you’d like to turn into a part- or full-time business.
Do Your Research
If you’re starting to think seriously about setting up your own small business, you have a lot of resources to help you.
AARP, yet again, offers advice and resources on their website for older people setting up a business for the first time.
You may also be able to find mentorships, guidance or referrals on professional network groups, such as LinkedIn.
Or consider taking a short course on business planning on a learning site, such as Skill Share or Udemy.