January 8, 2012 — Which category do you fall into:
– Can’t wait to retire, never want to work again
– Have no intention of retiring
– Don’t want to work anymore, but have to for survival
– Want to stay busy, but in a job different from what I did before
In our experience most people fall into one of these categories or somewhere in between. If your profile matches one of the last 2 categories (that is, you intend to work), it is extremely important that you invest some time planning just how you are going to find a job that meets your needs. This article, which springs from a suggestion by Topretirements’ member Dave Ellison, will explore the “how to find work in retirement” part of the story. Part 2 will provide suggestions for the “Best Places to find work in retirement“.
Working in Retirement Vs. an Encore Career
In his book, “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life”, Mark Freedman makes the meaningful distinction between “working in retirement” and an “encore career”. If finances are your major driver you will be “working in retirement”; you need to find a job that will pay enough to meet your needs. If your retirement goal is to do something significant, meaningful, rewarding, or just plain fun – you are looking for an encore career. But, even if money is your major reason for working, it does not necessarily rule out an encore career.
Most Retirees Will Come up Short
You are not alone if a review of your retirement budget finds you coming up short; the majority of baby boomers are going to have do some belt tightening in retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reported that only 14% of those surveyed were very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. Retirement savings are not what they should be either. Indeed the non-profit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that about a quarter of American workers will be forced to live on their social security payments alone, which will average $2,048/month per couple in 2013. The same survey reported that the majority of Americans plan to both delay retirement past age 65, and to continue working after they retire.
What Is Your Plan?
Retirement is a do-over on life – if work is part of your retirement, we recommend you take control. You will have a lot better chance of success finding employment in retirement if you have a plan. Otherwise you run the risk of not finding work, just taking the first thing that comes along, and/or missing the potential that could have been yours. Here are some key elements that might be in your plan:
– Locate where there are more jobs. In the next installment we will focus on where to find the best retirement jobs. In the meantime, stay away from areas with high unemployment and narrow employment options. Look for healthy economies with diverse employers.
– What kind of work would you like to do? If your intention is to capitalize on the working skills you already have, research areas that have concentrations of employers looking for those skills. If part-time work will do the trick for you, think about areas with significant tourist based or seasonal businesses. Those employers typically need seasonal help for work in restaurants, hotels, RV parks, golf courses, amusement parks, tourist attractions, mail order businesses, etc.
– Would a new skill help? Tens of thousands of jobs in this country go unfilled because workers don’t have the skills to do them. Community colleges are doing a great job of trying to help train those workers. So, consider retiring to an area with a good community college. Study their offerings to see what skills are in most demand, then go back to school.
– Target your employer. You can dramatically improve your chances for finding a decent job if you invest the time to figure out who you want to work for. So research the potential employers in your area, and visit them to find out what it’s like to work there. Or, check them out online on sites like glassdoor.com and www.vault.com, where people talk about what it is like to work in different companies. If there is a business you patronize and like, that can be valuable. You not only know something about them, but you also have an in because they know who you are. If you choose who you want to work for your enthusiasm will help sell why you should get the job over someone else.
– How are you going to find that job? It might have been a long while since you last looked for a job. Unfortunately, the Internet hasn’t necessarily made that process easier. Employers are over-run with online applications – you can send out hundreds of applications and chances are no human being will ever see them. The old-fashioned ways are best. Visit your targeted employers in person so they can see they are dealing with a serious person. Referrals from friends and former associates will be much more successful than cold calls – the fact that someone is willing to vouch for you is a big plus. Be wary of ads on craigslist or other job sites, where many would be jobs are actually scams. Look up the company on Yelp.com or TripAdvisor.com to see what customers say about them. Your Linkedin and Facebook pages might be useful, or at least reveal contacts who might be able to help. Look in the classifieds and store windows for help wanted ads. If a company looks busy and prosperous, they probably have a need for some good part-time help.
– Practice makes perfect. If your new job involves an interview have a rehearsal first. The ideal solution is to role play with a friend, hopefully someone who has conducted hiring interviews before. That way you can practice what to say about gaps on your resume, why your experience makes you better than a younger candidate, plus why you are right for this job. And while you are at it, have your friend review your resume – does it clearly target the position you are targeting?
– Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. There are so many potential ways to blow a job interview, all of them avoidable. Learn as much as you can about the company so you sound intelligent and enthusiastic. Don’t talk money and benefits until it’s clear they want you. Be positive about yourself and former bosses. Don’t be unreasonable about your schedule – e.g.; don’t demand an April vacation if you intend to help prepare tax returns!
Finding Your Encore Career
An encore career is a career change made later in life, one where the objective is to find satisfaction and make a difference rather than just making money. That new career might be paid, unpaid, or paid but only a fraction of what you earned before. That choice is up to you. The job finding tips we listed above are all relevant to finding your encore career. This article in the Huffington Post, “More Boomers Aspire to Social Careers” also has some excellent advice.
For many people an encore career means helping others. Perhaps teaching children, mentoring small businesses, working in a library or shelter, helping older people, or taking care of orphaned pets at an animal shelter. The choices are almost infinite, limited just by your interests and the facilities around you. As with any job search, finding the best encore career involves work and planning. Start by listing your interests and goals – that should guide your search. Then talk with as many people and organizations as you can; you will learn so much from each. Visit your nearest community college to find out what potential skills you might acquire to help you get a job that fits your needs.
The Bottom Line
Maybe working in retirement wasn’t what you had in mind after all those years at the office. But if that is what it takes for a happy retirement, our advice is to be pro-active about finding work that meets your needs. And if what you have in mind is an encore career, go for it! We don’t think you will regret that decision. In fact, some recent studies found that having a purpose in life is an important factor in staving off cognitive declines. Finally, we recommend watching the PBS Newshour segment on Vita Needle, where the average age is 74. One of their employees is 100!
For further reading:
Part 2: Best Places for Working in Retirement
5 Ways to Find Second Act Careers
“Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life” (the article might require a subscription but you can find the book at Amazon or your local bookstore)
No Job in Retirement: Opportunity Knocks
Transamerica Retirement Survey
Adventurous Careers (scroll down this Blog category and you will see a number of articles we have written about retirees who are volunteering in their encore careers)
Comments: What kind of jobs have you had in retirement? Are you working in retirement or did you decide to go for an Encore career. Please share your experiences and thoughts in the Comments section below.