|Since the mid-1990s, the over-55 population has been the fastest growing segment of the work-force. Through 2012, those workers’ participation in the labor market is expected to expand at a 4.1% annual rate, almost four times as fast as growth in the overall labor force, according to recent Bureau of Labor statistics.|
Many in this age group are working because they have to. They may have been downsized, and discover they need a job to make ends meet. Others, though, simply decide they want a job. They covet the social interaction and intellectual stimulation that working provides, even if they’ve grown weary of the 75-hour work weeks and headaches that often come with a full-time career. At this stage of life, the best jobs may be part-time or self-employment.
Good part-time positions aren’t easy to find. Pay is generally low, and much of the work in the retail and service sectors where most of the jobs are tends to be dull and demeaning. But that doesn’t mean the only options are McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. Older workers may land in spots where the work is pleasant and they get to interact with interesting people. Picture a resort boutique, a museum gift shop, or a local bookstore. Proprietors of such businesses are looking for smooth-talking, energetic salespeople, says David Savageau, author of Retirement Places Rated (Wiley Publishing). These are traits employers aren’t likely to find if they hire teenagers, the other labor pool competing for low-paying retail work.
Savageau knows retired executives who have gone into retail sales and love what they’re doing. Most aren’t peddling coats and ties, however. They’re making a job of their passion for cars, for example, working weekends selling Mercedes Benz’s and Range Rovers.
Nor are all service jobs dull and boring. Better opportunities run the gamut from teaching to management and public relations consulting. Among the best part-time opportunities in this sector are teaching jobs in post-secondary schools, according to Best Jobs for the 21st Century, 3rd edition (JIST Publishing). There are 184,000 openings a year for such positions, with many local and community colleges hiring older adults as adjunct professors to teach courses ranging from accounting to religion and philosophy. “You won’t get rich as an adjunct professor, but there should be plenty of intellectual stimulation,” says Savageau.
Another hot spot for service-sector jobs is health care. Five of the top 10 companies on a recent AARP list of “Best Employers for Workers Over 50” were health-care firms. Not only is there great demand for nurses and other trained medical personnel, but these companies also value people with non-medical experience, according to the AARP.
Yet another promising place for retirees to seek part-time work is in business services. This includes management consulting, accounting, advertising, public relations, and computer and data processing services. Employers are looking for experienced pros to handle these jobs, most of which can easily be done on a part-time, consulting basis.
Also, many non-profits are in desperate need of professional help, notes Savageau, and volunteering for such organizations often turns into offers of paid employment. Savageau, who is in his mid-sixties, was a volunteer at the Library of Congress for just six months before he was offered a full-time job that paid $75,000 a year. He took it and remained there for two years.
There’s also the ultimate option for those who want to make their own hours—going into business for yourself. Business and management consulting is a natural for people who have worked in the corporate sector for years. Those with a more artistic bent may consider interior design or professional photography. Yet another good option if you want to be your own boss: selling real estate. Each of these professions has a large percentage of self-employed workers.
Obviously, when it comes to job opportunities, practical issues of salary and health insurance generally come first. But many people who choose to work after they formally retire tend to be attracted to opportunities offering more than a paycheck. “People are looking for more meaning at this point, so it makes sense to figure out what you really want to do,” says Michael Farr, author of Best Jobs for the 21st Century. “It’s not a matter of retiring, but rather figuring out what you want to do next.”