Sure, the economy's been rough on jobs. But there's a silver lining: The tough times have challenged people to think more deeply and creatively about their careers. It's pushed many workers over age 40 to set out in new directions. Who hasn't thought about diving into a different field or going back to college?
"Use your turn of events as an unexpected opportunity to reinvent your own career," says Kerry Hannon, author of What's Next?, a book about changing your career direction. "You may never have a better chance, or reason, to do so -- to get excited about work once again, to feel revived and passionate about making a difference in the world."
Visit the SecondAct Career Center to find the tools and resources you need to find a new job or start your new business.
The Workplace: What's Happening The good news: People over 40 are less likely than teenagers or Millennial-age workers to be unemployed.
The bad news: Once middle-aged workers lose a job, it's often harder for them to find new positions.
In December 2011, the unemployment rate for people over 45 was 6.3 percent, the lowest in three years. Overall, unemployment for all workers dipped slightly in December to 8.5 percent.
Times remain tough for older job seekers out of work for a while. The number of long-term unemployed -- people who have been out of work and actively looking for more than a year --has reached record highs since the recession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of 4.5 million people unemployed for more than 52 weeks, 18 percent were 55 or older.
With so many middle-aged workers unable to find jobs working for someone else, it comes as no surprise that Baby Boomers Lead the Way With Business Startups. Workers age 50+ are more likely than others to be self-employed or small-business owners. Data from the Kauffman Foundation shows those in the 55 to 64 age group with the highest entrepreneurial activity.
"It's not just the economy going bad that's causing people to start their own businesses, though I'm sure that's feeding into it," says Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures, a boomer think tank based in San Francisco. "It's a bigger phenomenon, a late-blooming creativity that manifests itself in business, social change and the arts. As people live longer and are less deterred by signals that they should stop producing at a certain age, we'll see a new flowering of this creativity."
Latest Trend: Delayed Retirement
Many people are postponing retirement, whether by necessity or choice. [Related: Top 10 Reasons People Postpone Retirement] About 72 percent of people over the age of 60 are delaying retirement because they can't afford it, according to a CareerBuilder survey. More women over age of 60 (76 percent) were delaying retirement vs. men (68 percent). However, staying on the job isn't just about the money. Survey respondents cited these other reasons:
- 71 percent enjoy their job and don't want to leave.
- 50 percent need health insurance and other benefits.
- 24 percent fear retirement will be boring.
- 15 percent enjoy feeling needed.
While many people nearing retirement age continue to work full time, some opt for part-time or temporary bridge jobs, either in fields they've always dreamed of pursuing or as a way to make ends meet. Some hire mentors to explore new business opportunities. Others devote the later part of their to careers to paid work, fellowships or volunteer positions with nonprofit organizations that promote sustainability, education, veteran's rights or social causes. For inspiration, browse our growing gallery of second act profiles and the stories of the 2011 and 2010 Purpose Prize winners.
Midlife Career Change: Where to Start?
Many people want to switch gears but don't know where to begin. So start slowly with some basic questions:
- What am I good at?
- What do I enjoy?
- What specifically can I do for a prospective employer?
- What are the hot jobs?
- Do my skills apply? If not, what do I upgrade?
- Am I willing to relocate?
Job Boards and Career Resources:
Click here to browse SecondAct's Guide to websites for job seekers over 40.
What Are the Hot Jobs?
Workplace writer Michelle V. Rafter looks at the current employment scene in Hot Careers for Job Seekers Over 40 and Top WorkPlace Trends for 2012. The improving economy is expected to bring more opportunities in 2012 as more companies step up hiring.
A good source of current job information: the Bureau of Labor Statistics , which offers a treasure trove of job data through its employment forecasts.
America's aging population is changing the face of the country's work force, and the demographic shift is creating opportunities for mid-career job hunters and career changers.
The labor bureau's biennial report outlines trends in the U.S. population and economy, and forecasts the impact they'll have on a wide range of industries and jobs. Read the details in this post by Michelle Rafter: Where the Jobs Are.
- Thinking about taking a job in another city? Compare living expenses between cities.
- What's the salary range for my occupation? Plug in a couple of pieces of data and mysalary.com shows the range of compensation.
- Have a salary range in mind? Type in the range and city, and cbsalary.com will spit out a list of job openings that fit your criteria.
Job Hunting: Dos and Don'ts
- Register with temp firms. They don't care about age and are just interested in your skills and experience. Getting work through a temp firm helps build your resume for future work assignments.
- Update your resume. The resume you used years ago is no longer appropriate.
- Look for temporary or project assignments. They are more available than full-time jobs, and temporary assignments can often lead to full-time work.
- Contact your alumni association and tap into its job database.
- Volunteer with a charity or nonprofit. There is little or no monetary compensation, but volunteering is excellent experience and a place to hone new skills. It might lead to full-time work with a firm that is looking for a particular skill set.
Pursuing a More Meaningful Career Path
You want a job with purpose, one that leaves you fulfilled and helps society. Perhaps you're ready for an encore career in community service or the nonprofit world. More than 8 million Americans age 44 to 70 have already started down this job path, says a survey by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures.
Yes, you may take a pay cut at a nonprofit, but the trade-off could be a high level of job satisfaction and a front-row seat to view the positive results of your work. "The millions of people now in encore careers constitute a new social phenomenon with promise for individuals and society," says Allan Rivlin, director of the survey.
How to Find Nonprofit or Volunteer Work and Internships
- Encore Careers: Search for jobs in the fields of nonprofit, environmental, health, education, social services and government organizations.
- Idealist.org: This site, a project of Action Without Borders, offers job searches, internships and volunteer opportunities.
- Bridgestar : Here, you can search for positions on boards and other leadership roles at nonprofits.
- Change.org: You'll find advice on how to get a job with a nonprofit organization, and there's a specific section for older workers called "Sector Switchers."
- Peace Corp : Volunteers work overseas in many areas, including education, health, business, and information and communication technology. (The Peace Corps is attracting more 50+ volunteers. In 2009, older volunteers made up 7 percent of the total force vs. 5 percent in 2008.)
Keep reading: 10 Top Sites for Nonprofit Jobs
You don't have to spend a fortune to upgrade or expand skills. Enroll in online classes. Tap into programs at community colleges and universities. Consider low-residency college programs for master's degrees. Check government training programs. The Peace Corps, for example, assigns workers to foreign countries and provides language instruction and other training.
Pointers for Colleges, Financial Aid and Scholarships:
- American Association of Community Colleges : With this community college locator, you can search by state to find colleges. The site provides contact info and stats on each college.
- University of Southern Maine's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute : Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes provide education opportunities to anyone -- especially those 50+. Programs are available on college campuses all over the country.
- FastWeb: Using this scholarship search engine for students of all ages seeking higher education, check the section for "second career students."
- Federal Student Aid: This site is packed with information on all available forms of financial aid and student loans.
Keep reading: 12 Tips for Trading Place in 2012