Making the most of your remaining productive years.
Posted Aug 28, 2018
Many older people still have plenty juice left and the advantages that only experience can bring. While some employers may not recognize that, your age can be a plus.
Your pecuniary activities
Of course, ageism may be one, two or even three strikes against you in certain fields—programming for a Silicon Valley startup comes to mind. But there are ways that older people can hit a home run or at least avoid striking out:
Sell your age. In many cases, older is better: that wealth of experience, a bigger Rolodex, no need to take days off for child care, and that plenty people in their 60s still have plenty of energy. You need to make that case, whether in your current place of employment or in looking for new work. In cover letters and interviews, tell stories that demonstrate how your experience has enabled you to solve problems that might have stumped a less experienced person.
Lest I appear pollyanish, I do need to say that it is much harder for an older person to transition into a new field. Why? Even if you claim your experience is transferable, it’s tough to convince an employer that a 60+-year old newbie is better than a 35-year old with experience in that field. If you want to make a shift, it's easiest if it's a minor pivot. For example, if you’re a psychotherapist, you might gradually shift your focus to older clients.
Want a bigger change than that? Consider long-standing fields, which have less appeal to Millennials and Gen Z’ers, for example, food manufacture, trucking, construction, and old-line top-of-category companies such as Procter and Gamble, 3M, Clorox, SC Johnson, Caterpillar, Weyerhauser, or Chevron.
If you do want to transition into a totally new field, consider those in which being older is a plus: senior housing, fundraising, durable medical equipment, or items so costly that mainly older people can afford them: boats, planes, luxury condos, etc.
Skilling up. If you’re 60+, you probably don’t have the time and maybe even the learning ability necessary to time-effectively get another degree. Fortunately, today there are many faster, more focused and practical ways to learn: online courses or certificates through LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Udacity, bootcamps and other intensives offered through your field’s professional association, for example, the American Psychological Association, the Project Management Institute, or a vendor, for example, Microsoft or Salesforce.
Your non-pecuniary activities
Smart volunteering. Many older people find volunteer work to be their most rewarding retirement and pre-retirement activity. Mentoring particularly gets kudos. That’s a potent way to make a difference because change is most likely to occur one-on-one. And it can be as psychologically rewarding for the mentor as the mentee. For example, my clients have enjoyed tutoring and being counselors at The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) mentoring young aspiring small business owners. Psychologically oriented people might consider becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA.)
Create. Many people have a desire to create, and in most workplaces, even in an ostensibly creative job, much time is spent on not-creative activities. But if you’re in partial or full retirement, you can make creative activities a larger component of your life. You can write, anything from policy recommendations that you post on a blog to a screenplay that, while unlikely to be made into a Hollywood movie, is an especially enjoyable writing form. Or the visual arts: Even if you can’t draw more than stick figures, there’s photography. Then there are the performing arts, for example, community theatre, magic tricks, open-mic comedy nights, solo singing with an accompanist or in a choir, or joining or starting a chamber group or rock band.
Join up? Many people get more isolated as they age. For some, that’s fine. For example, they might feel uncomfortable with their decline on display. But many people are wise to push themselves a bit to socialize, if only at the local senior center or religious institution, where you’ll have kindred spirits.
As usual, there are no magic pills, certainly none that will stop our inexorable procession along life’s conveyer belt. But perhaps one or more of these ideas will make your remaining productive years more productive, maybe even your best yet.
I read this aloud on YouTube.