Too old to Work, too young to retire?

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Too old to Work, too young to retire is a lament commonly heard amongst the Aging workforce who find themselves in career transition. Each see him or herself in what they perceive to be an in between stage of life, being too old to be considered for many jobs and too young to retire, however, when there’s a lot left in the tank to contribute, what does one do?

If you find yourself in this common situation for the boomer and senior demographic, here are some thoughts to consider in order to move forward fulfilling your dreams and goals, despite the sense of being too old to work and too young to retire.

First, you’re never too old to work. Consider this, Frank Lloyd Wright worked on the Guggenheim well into his 90’s! Your contribution to the world ends when you decide it does, not anyone else. If you are no longer in a position of being physically able to perform the work you once had, it’s time to redefine yourself. Ask, what can I still do? What have I been told I am especially good at doing? Is there a way to pass on my experiences to others? Where and how will my skills have the most impact? Are there organizations’ missions that align with my beliefs, values and skills?   These are great questions to consider, which will ultimately define your next move.

If you wish to return to the workforce, you likely recognize despite, Title VII’s best efforts to protect job candidates from discrimination that, age discrimination continues to exist. So, how can you combat age discrimination? Truth be told it’s much easier to shift perceptions than it is beliefs. If a hiring manager has a belief that persons of a certain age cannot perform a specific job, despite qualifications, there is likely very little that can be done to change that. However, one can more easily influence the perception of age in a number of ways.

Influencing Age Perception can be done before one even meets a prospective employer. For example, it is not necessary (and even detrimental to your consideration) to list all prior employers going back in history 20 years or more. When listing your professional experience on your chronological resume only record the history of your employment going back 15 years. I know some may feel this sells them short in explaining their many skills and experiences. If you believe experiences beyond the 15 years are especially applicable to the job being applied for then consider a functional style resume that down plays your years of experience and upsells your skills and competencies. For help google “functional style resume” for samples and templates.

LinkedIn is also a place to influence perceptions and brand yourself for your career. If you don’t have a profile set up, I would highly recommend that you do so. The networking alone, that is available through LinkedIn is worth creating a profile. Through LinkedIn, not only can employers find you but, you can apply for jobs, network with colleagues, follow industry trends and connect with persons working for the company in which you want to work. This is a good way to find out about the culture from an inside source as well as possibly obtain a “warm introduction” to a hiring manager through your contact.

Yes, despite technology and all its wonderful capabilities, it remains who you know, that is important in a job search. In fact, 75% of job placements are made through personal contacts!

Set up your profile to attract employers. Choose a professionally conservative photo of yourself. Images of you attending a luau, may depict your fun loving, vitality but may not appeal to the culture of the organization. Cultural fit is precisely your focus. View prospective companies’ websites to gain a sense of their culture. Conservative roles and organizations, would warrant conservative appearance and certainly the opposite is true as well.

Beyond visual influence of age perceptions, one must also consider stereotypes that aging workers are not technically savvy, they are too slow to change and adapt to new technology or new ways of doing things. This simply isn’t true, as you know. So, make sure within your profile, during your interviews and within your resume you describe your abilities related to technology, how you have adapted to change and even guided others through change.

This is an especially exciting chapter in life, where you have the opportunity to pause and ask, what do I really want to do, return to work full time, volunteer, work part time, go back to school or even mentor others. Whatever you choose, remember “too old to work and too young to retire” is a belief, if you think this, what will prospective employers think? Shift your thinking and approach and you may be surprised how others do too!

By: Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane serves as a Human Resources Consultant and Vice President/COO of Marc3Solutions,, operating under Conscious Capitalism Principles of Higher Purpose, Conscious Leadership, Conscious Culture and Stakeholder Orientation.

Ryan also serves as the President of CHRA- Chesapeake Human Resource Association, largest local SHRM Chapter for the state of Maryland with 1,060 members.

Ryan is passionate about helping individuals and organizations evolve to reach their highest potential, through HR consulting, career development, professional assessments and high performance leadership solutions.



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