Career Change Ideas for Boomers
Options for a minor pivot and for a major change.
Posted Sep 02, 2019
You’re older but want a new career. Some types of work are particularly Boomer- friendly. In some, your age is a plus.
Options for a minor pivot
Change your specialty to seniors. This is applicable in many fields, for example, counselors and therapists, physicians, and lawyers, e.g., in elder or estate law.
Consultant. Consulting firms exist for everything from administrative assisting to software implementation, process efficiency to executive team building. Your years of experience give you credibility that a younger person can’t have. You might not need to be a self-employed consultant, which requires marketing skills that many former employees lack. Marketing is the consulting firm’s responsibility. Your job is to provide the expertise you’ve acquired over the decades.
Some options for a major career change
Politician. Sure, young, pretty faces like Beto O’Rourke or Kamala Harris have an edge in politics as well as in life, but being older and less conventionally attractive is but one strike against you, witness Bernie Sanders, Barbara Mikulski, and, yes, President Trump. And of course, with government so large and mullti-level, there are opportunities from town school board to water board, city council to state and federal office.
Lobbyist. Many lobbyists, whether for industry or an activist group, find lobbying a rewarding capstone experience. In lobbying, your age is a plus because of your experience, expertise, acquired people skills, and hopefully patience, which is a must when expecting government to change something.
Fundraiser. Most people with the money and wisdom to donate rather than spend are older and more likely to trust an older solicitor.
Image consultant and personal shopper specializing in older people. Relatedly, I had a client in her 60s—Yes, she looked great for her age—who got a job in a cosmetic surgery clinic to handle administrative matters and answer nervous patient questions—Her age was a plus.
Model. While many young people pursue a modeling career, fewer older people do, yet many ads and commercials are aimed at Boomers and even “The Great Generation.”
Sales of senior-oriented products:
- Luxury items. Older people tend to be the ones that have accumulated enough savings to buy items such as luxury cars, boats, or airplanes, architectural services, and commercial real estate: especially big-ticket ones such as skyscrapers, stadiums, hotels and resorts. Plus, aware of their mortality, some older people figure its better to spend their money than, for example, to give it to their kids, fearing that might encourage laziness or even the bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you syndrome.
- Insurance. Understandably, young people don’t think much about insurance. Older people do, more aware of their mortality. Again, older people are likely to feel better about talking about such matters with their age peers than with a Millennial.
- Senior housing. Whether in selling or managing retirement communities, because of the aging Boomer bubble, many of those who have saved enough are flocking to the often quite lovely senior communities that are springing up.
- Durable medical equipment. This would seem to be a psychologically difficult type of sales, because people requiring walkers, wheelchairs, medical beds, and commodes aren't in good shape. I’d imagine that just as hospice nurses must set emotional boundaries if they are to last, so must salespeople of durable medical equipment. When my mom was dying, I got to know both a medical equipment salesman and hospice nurses, and their calmness around death and dying seemed characterological rather than acquired.
- Funeral sales. Often, the funeral salesperson deals with the deceased's aged spouse or Boomer children. Being older may help you relate better to them. This industry has been subject to exposés of salespeople taking advantage of the bereaved in their time of stress. Please, as with all careers, keep ethics primary. You’ll do well enough and sleep better at night.
Work for the Social Security Administration or other agencies or nonprofits aimed at seniors. Government seems to be more open to hiring older workers than are other employers. That plus the plethora of governmental and nonprofit entities aimed at seniors could make this a viable option.
Care manager. Formerly called “geriatric care manager,” these people coordinate the help: Recruit caretakers, do paperwork, pay bills, and periodically visit to ensure all's working. Not surprising, this is work in which age can be a plus.
In looking for new work
If your new career requires someone to hire you rather than being self-employed, these tips should help:
Harvest your connections. One of age’s advantages is that you’ve had a long time to accumulate people who like and respect you. They’re often key to getting hired, especially when you’re older. So query the 10 to 20 people who most like you and are in a position to refer you to potential employers. Ask crisply, not desperately. For example, “After 20 years as a self-employed counselor, I’d enjoy using those skills while working for a government agency or nonprofit that serves older people. Might you know someone I should talk with?” It's unlikely that, at that moment, they will. So when they say no, ask if they might keep their ears open for you and, if you haven't landed something in a month, if they'd mind your circling back. Most will agree and now you've recruited a number of scouts.
No deceptive applications. Don't try to hide your age in your resume/LinkedIn and cover letter. Sure, that might land you an interview but as soon as interviewers see that you’re older than your application implies, they’ll feel deceived and so be unlikely to hire you. A solid resume/LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and especially, having a person refer you for that job, can often enough land you an interview without your having to claw out of the pit you created for yourself with a deceptive application.
Preempt ageism. Sure, as soon as an interviewer, especially a younger one, sees those wrinkles, they may be thinking, “Nope.” Of course, they won’t say that, if only because it’s illegal, but chances are, unless they too are older, they’ll be thinking it. Preempt that objection before it becomes ossified. At the earliest opportunity, sell your age as a strength. Start with something like, “I imagine you’re wondering whether you should consider a gray hair like me. I might mention that: (Cite whichever of these are true for you)
- I’m technologically up to speed, for example, (Insert some software you know is important on that job.)
- My years of experience will be valuable on this job—I have often addressed problems like those likely to come up here. (Give an example.)
- Over the years, I’ve developed quite a network of people I can call on—as customers, suppliers, sources of advice, and to recruit to come work here.
- I’m in good health and can hit the ground running. I’m a good fit for this job because (insert.)
- Because all my kids are grown, I won’t need to take days or even parts of days off for child care.
- Being older, I’ve gained some perspective, which enables me to keep a steady rudder when problems come up.
Honestly, career change is usually hard, and the older you are, the harder it tends to be. But as you hear life’s clock ticking, you may feel it’s worth going for a last hurrah. Perhaps you’ll have saved the best for last. I hope this article helps.
I read this aloud on YouTube.
This is part of a series on suggested careers.